Will Smith reveals one of his biggest career regrets

When Smith was offered roles in both The Matrix and Wild Wild West in 1998, his career was on a seemingly unstoppable high. He’d already become a household name thanks to his starring role in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ran from 1990 to 1996. Launching from the small screen to the movies, Smith made Bad Boys in 1995, and the action flick was enough of a hit to spur a still-growing franchise. From there, he appeared in 1996’s Independence Day and 1997’s Men in Black, which respectively grossed $817 million and $589 million worldwide. Two years later, Smith starred in Enemy of the State, an action-thriller that pulled in nearly $251 million globally. Smith said of this era of his career, “That was a crazy time in my life. It was like however I threw the ball, it was going in.”

Unfortunately, this success drove Smith to change the way he judged movie scripts. He stopped picking films that he thought would be artistically satisfying and instead went with those he knew would be big at the box office, with an eye on further boosting his status as the world’s biggest movie star. As he admitted to The Breakfast Club, “It was more important to me to win than to be me.”

Smith believed that Wild Wild West — which has been called “exhausting, utterly without feeling, and pointless” — would be a bigger box office draw than The Matrix, and thus chose it over Lana and Lily Wachowski’s now-iconic sci-fi feat. On the bright side, Smith said that Wild Wild West prompted him to reevaluate his approach to scripts. Now, he thinks about whether a movie has the potential to do good in the world: “It doesn’t have to be deep. If it’s just comedy and people come to get a laugh, it improves lives.”

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