The actor says his new film Focus "marks a transition" in his life

By Wade Rouse
Updated February 09, 2015 07:15 PM
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Credit: James Devaney/Wireimage

Will Smith admits he’s under a bright spotlight with his new film – fittingly titled Focus – after his last movie failed at the box office.

“For me, this film really marks a transition in my life and emotionally and in my career,” Smith said Sunday during a press conference for Focus at The Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, California.

“After the failure of After Earth, a thing got broken in my mind. I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I’m still alive. Oh, wow. Actually, I still am me, even though the movie didn’t open number one. Wait. I can still get hired on another movie.’ ”

“I realized that I still was a good person,” Smith, 46, said. “So when I went into Focus, I completely released the concept of goal orientation and got into path orientation. This moment, this second, these people, this interaction … It is a huge relief for me to not care whether or not Focus is number one or number 10 at the box office.”

Smith was joined Sunday by costars Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Adrian Martinez and producer Denise Di Novi to discuss the film, which is about a veteran grifter who takes a young, attractive woman under his wing, but things get complicated when they become romantically involved.

Smith said he no longer sees the pressure of launching a new film like Focus – which hits theaters Feb. 27 – as a complicated business, but more as an art.

“I’ve already gained everything that I could possibly have hoped for, from meeting the people that I met and from the creation of what we did together,” he said. “And it’s just painting. I’m going to paint, and some paintings are going to be fantastic. Others are going to be not so good, but I no longer measure the quality of myself on whether or not somebody else thinks what I painted is beautiful.”

Smith, who has always seemed to exude self-confidence in his life and film roles, said he hasn’t always been so sure of himself, but he learned a powerful lesson from Muhammad Ali.

“[Ali] would say, ‘I’m the greatest. I’m the greatest.’ And when we talked, [he told me] it would be because how much like the greatest he didn’t feel, right? So it was almost a mantra for himself. And that’s sort of a thing that I’ve developed. It’s actually nerve wracking for me sometimes to walk into a new space.”

“My experience is, if I just let myself go, it’s a whole lot easier than letting the voices [say], ‘Oh, my God! You know, Focus may not be as good as Enemy of the State!’ Rather than letting all those things come in, I just like to leap.”

Reporting by SCOTT HUVER