Summertime is when movie audiences sit back and unwind — get just a bit of a break from the norm, a little somethin’ to break the monotony — and over the last 20 years not many actors have defined summer movie madness better than Will Smith.
Smith has starred in comedies and thrillers, and has been nominated for Academy Awards, but he really made a name for himself in Hollywood as a summer movie star — a role he’s looking to play again this weekend with “Suicide Squad.”
He was once such a big draw for summer blockbusters, in fact, that the Fourth of July for some years got a new nickname in Hollywood: “Big Willie Weekend.”
But Big Willie Weekend hasn’t been a dependable phenomenon for a while now.
Since his first film role in 1992, Smith has been in 25 films, nine of which were summer movies in which he was the star. Of those nine, eight made more than $110 million domestically, according to comScore. Five were released around the Fourth of July alone. Lately it’s been a different story, though. 2013’s “After Earth” brought in a tepid $60.5 million domestically, 2015’s “Focus” was forgotten almost as soon as it was released and though “Concussion” earned Smith a Golden Globe nomination it didn’t do much at the box office. His last real summer hit was 2012’s “Men in Black III,” which was a continuation of a franchise with which Smith and Tommy Lee Jones had been dependably dominating summers for years.
Smith returns to the summer with “Suicide Squad,” a film that is projected to make in its opening weekend nearly as much as Smith’s last three major films combined. And, as the deadly accurate assassin Deadshot, he gets top billing — but it isn’t exactly a “Will Smith” movie.
“Suicide Squad,” a Warner Bros. and DC film, comes with a big and colorful cast, two iconic comic characters in Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s the Joker (which the marketing for the film has heavily focused on), and baked in brand recognition of being based on a comic book.
“Suicide Squad” is looking at a possibly record-breaking August opening, so it appears that Smith is back on target, just like his character in the film.
CNN spoke with Smith at the film’s New York premiere and asked him if this meant there was a new “Big Willie Weekend.”
“We’re going to move it to August,” Smith said. “That’s a good thought!”
(Warner Bros., like CNN, is owned by Time Warner).