July 15, 2004 06:00 AM

Mr. Fourth of July is back with another summer spectacle – this time hunting down a killer machine in I, Robot – but for the real-life Will Smith, all the drama can stay onscreen. At 35, the actor has settled into family life with wife Jada Pinkett Smith and kids Jaden, 6, Willow, 3, and (from a previous marriage) Trey, 11. Smith, who says he’s “tickled pink” these days and pulls in a $20 million-plus paycheck, recently talked about what really stirs his emotions, his new album and how he manages to look so good while spending zip.

So why’d you want to do I, Robot? Unlike you, your character, Detective Del Spooner, seems really dark.
To have a movie where your hero cries about a little girl being killed by a robot … I loved the challenge of being able to make a movie with that kind of texture and depth and be able to put it out in July.

Is it okay for guys to cry?
Oh, God, I cry all the time. I sit up in the movie theater … I escape. I go with whatever the emotion of the film is. It is not difficult for me to go where the filmmakers are trying to take me.

What’s a movie that made you cry?
I was really surprised that people didn’t connect to (Denzel Washington’s) John Q. I was gone (crying) the whole movie (as) a father with a son that has had a difficult relationship, divorce and all of that.

How is the family? I hear they came to the set.
All the time. It was tough because my daughter thinks that there are really robots. She’s 3.

You live a pretty glamorous life. What are you cheap about? We all have something …
I don’t like paying for clothes. I just can’t do it. A $600 T-shirt? No. Four-hundred-dollar shoes? Are you crazy?

Don’t people give you that stuff?
Very rarely do I pay for anything I have on. I just can’t. I’ll try to work stuff out like if I wear it to a premiere I’ll make sure it gets in a magazine, but you gotta give me that sh– for free.

What if they send you stuff that is really ugly?
They do! Clothes are ridiculously expensive, and I am kind of out of touch with fashion.

How’s your music coming?
I have an album coming for Christmas. I haven’t compiled it yet. I have about 40 songs so far. The technology of making music today is ridiculous. I just programmed the music, laid the vocals, mixed the record and burned a CD on my laptop in my hotel room. I am like “Wow!”

What are you listening to these days?
I love Kanye West. That dude is ridiculous. I spent a little time with him about a month ago and he just has that creative fire that is hard to maintain. That has been difficult for me to maintain. … He says whatever he wants.

Would you rule out another Men in Black movie?
It just has to be right. I feel like I, Robot really raises the bar for me for that genre. There has to be those other levels – not that you can’t have fun.

So what’s your dream project?
For probably about 20 years I have dreamed about doing an album maybe titled The World According to Hip-Hop that would be an exploration of world music through the eyes of hip-hop producers.

Sounds like it could be a reality show. Do you watch any of that television when you’re at home?
We don’t watch a lot of TV.

What do you do then?
Just lots of sex. (Laughs)

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