Casting News | Will Smith Redux


After an extended period of inactivity, Will Smith is now circling his second major project this week. According to his production team at Overbrook, Smith is trying to convince director Ed Zwick to helm his next film, American Can.

The film, co-written by Black Reel Awards nominee written by Adetoro Makinde and John Lee Hancock, of a reluctant hero role that seems tailor-fit for Smith. He will play John Keller, a real guy who returned from Gulf War service looking for a new challenge, and found one after Hurricane Katrina devastated his home city of New Orleans. He found a boat and was moving to safety when he saw a blind elderly woman, stranded and calling for her son. Knowing she would certainly die if he passed by, Keller brought her back to safety in the American Can building. Shortly after, he found many more stranded seniors, and brought each of them back, around 244 in total, to American Can, a building that at least was dry. It was tricky business, but using his resourcefulness and his military training to get food drops to feed his new friends, he kept them alive and eventually found enough boats to lead them all to safety.

Hancock originally intended to direct it, but the project languished while Smith did other things and Hancock went off to direct Saving Mr. Banks at Disney with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, poised to follow that with The Highwaymen, with Liam Neeson and Woody Harrelson being courted to play the Texas Rangers who hunted down Bonnie & Clyde.

We understand that Smith will likely do this film after Focus, in which he’ll play a veteran con man who mentors a young female newcomer to the grifter game for directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. This is the project that Ben Affleck was going to star in, before dropping out to focus on the adaptation of the Dennie Lehane novel Live By Night, which Affleck will direct.

Why do so many studios want to be in the Will Smith business? Money, cash money which Smith’s films generate plenty. MIB3 grossed $624 million worldwide, and he next stars in with son Jaden in the M. Night Shyamalan-directed After Earth. In addition, he a couple of other high-profile films he’s developing through Overbrook including the sequel to the Karate Kid and the upcoming Annie.