For those of you not familiar, Will Smith, known for his iconic roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I’m Gonna Be Here For A Long Time, is currently starring in a feature film titled After Earth. Though this film has not yet been released, it has already created quite a stir; it was one of the highest-grossing films of 2014, and received generally positive reviews from critics.

Why are these two megastar actors teaming up for a movie? Let’s take a look.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks has been acting for quite some time, but he’s mostly done dramatic roles, with only a few comedies here and there. In 2014, he starred in and produced a movie titled Sully, in which he plays an airline pilot who must overcome a number of severe obstacles to land his plane.

Because of his work in Sully, Hanks has been gaining a lot of credibility as a producer, bringing such acclaimed directors as James Cameron and Stephen Spielberg his talents. He’s even won an Academy Award for Best Picture. It seems that Hanks has finally decided to step out of his comfort zone and do something funny, which he’s been wanting to do for a long time.

Will Smith

While Smith has been acting for much longer than Tom Hanks, he’s decided to shake things up a bit, and do comedic roles more frequently than not. One of the first times we saw him do comedy was in 2006’s I Think I Love You, which he co-wrote and co-produced. This was followed by 2007’s Hitch, in which he played a paranoid mobster who tries to keep his empire together even though everyone around him is conspiring against him. He continued this trend in 2009 with the release of Four Letters, which was followed by a popular Tweet in 2010.

Smith has also done a couple of dramatic roles in his time, most notably in the 2012 film The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was based on the real-life story of a group of gunmen who shot it out with Iranian forces in Iraq in the 80s. Though he played a small role, Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He wasn’t the only one either, with the film also garnering Best Picture and Director nominations. It was a pretty big deal for Smith.

In 2014, Smith starred in and produced a movie titled After Earth, co-starring his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. This was followed by a second film, Focus, in which he plays real-life attorney and civil rights pioneer Harvey Milk. Though his work in these films is quite impressive, perhaps the biggest step for Smith was taking on a smaller role in the Aaron Sorkin-scripted HBO series, The Newsroom. He even got to work with some of the show’s creators, including a couple of its stars, Jeff Daniels and Olivia Munn.

The Biggest Surprise

The biggest surprise for many people was that Will Smith decided to star in and produce After Earth, a sci-fi movie primarily focused on the plight of a post-apocalyptic Earth. To most, this might not seem like the best of ideas, considering that Smith has been banking ever since his breakthrough role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. 

What made this film different was that Smith took on an “offbeat character,” as one critic put it, in order to be able to portray a NASA astronaut, named Will Smith, whose spaceship crashes on an Earth that’s been ravaged by climate change and famine. Smith has stated that he wanted to do something different, and expand his range, which is what led him to After Earth. He wasn’t kidding around either, as this was the first time that he’d played a humanoid robot (HAL 9000), as well as the part of an alien in a movie.

It’s been a while since Smith last played an astronaut, and it seems that he’s finally found a role that he feels comfortable with. He’s taken on a variety of characters in the past, but he’s decided to focus on the lighter side for the time being.

Why Is Will Smith Acting in a Movie with Tom Hanks and Why Is He Doing a Voice Over?

As we mentioned above, Will Smith decided to star in and produce After Earth because he wanted to do something different, and expand his range. This was echoed by the film’s co-star, Kate Winslet, who said that this was the first time that she’d worked with “a comedian who wasn’t [her]self.”

Tom Hanks decided to join forces with Smith because he wanted to do something funny as well, though his main motivation was the Oscar that he’s been nominated for, and continues to seek, for Best Supporting Actor. As with Smith, Hanks has decided to take on a smaller role in the Aaron Sorkin-scripted series, The Newsroom, due to his own aspirations of working with renowned directors. What unites these two megastars, aside from their extraordinary talent, is that they both want to do what they haven’t done before, and which may not be the norm for their fanbases.

Considering that many of Will Smith’s fans are likely to be found among the millions of people who watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it’s no surprise that he decided to star in and produce a movie focused on the subject matter of an apocalyptic future, considering that this was the central theme of this iconic sitcom. What’s fascinating is that, for a guy who is arguably as sophisticated as they come, Will Smith has chosen to play a character who’s essentially a fool; he’s decided to make some outrageous and funny movies in his new incarnation as a filmmaker, which will no doubt delight his already large fan base.