By Stephen M. Silverman
December 04, 2002 01:00 PM

Will Smith has never been accused of being a mechanical actor, but that label may apply to his next role.

Variety reports that the “Men in Black” star, 34, is set to star in the futuristic sci-fi thriller “I, Robot,” based on an Isaac Asimov short-story collection from the 1940s that is credited for setting the groundwork for such films as “The Terminator” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”

Shooting on “I, Robot” is set to begin in April, with Alex Proyas (“Dark City,” “The Crow”) directing.

Asimov’s source material consisted of nine short stories that all contained the same three laws of robotics, notes Variety. Those laws are, “A robot may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm; a robot must obey orders given to it by a human, except where it would conflict with the first law; and a robot must protect itself, as long as that protection doesn’t violate either the first or second law.”

“Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians and robots who secretly run the world,” reads the review.

“The big idea here is that if the robots have found a way to violate the laws, there is nothing to stop them from taking over, because the human race is so dependent on robots and automation,” 20th Century Fox film president Hutch Parker tells the trade paper.

Smith is likely to play a detective who investigates a robot’s crime. He’s handled tougher enemies before, having already battled aliens in the “Men in Black” franchise and “Independence Day.”