Both Sidney Poitier and Will Smith are tremendously talented African American actors. For those who examine their lives and careers more closely, they will find that the similarities do not end there. In certain aspects, the two show uncanny parallels. Will Smith’s presence in the film industry has some considering him the next Sidney Poitier.
The most prominent area of similarity of the two men is their acting. Sidney Poitier was the first African American movie star. He was very successful at the box office, especially in 1967 when he starred in three top grossing films: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, To Sir, with Love, and In the Heat of Night. Not to be outdone, Will Smith became the only actor in history to star in eight consecutive movies grossing over one hundred million dollars each, four of which earned more than five hundred million each. However, Smith falls short in having been nominating for an Academy Award on two occasions, but failing to win either one. Poitier, on the other hand, was nominated for just as many and won for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Lilies in the Field in 1963 and was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2002. However, with Smith’s already great collection of honors and no reason to believe he will retire, it is possible that he will one day receive not only an Academy Award, but also an Honorary Oscar like Poitier. Poitier and Smith have also had similar failures. Smith shared two Razzie Awards for Wild, Wild West. Poitier directed Ghost Dad, considered widely by critics as one of the worst movies of all time. Smith has proven his capabilities as an actor outreach Poitier, who was often criticized as playing the same overidealized black man in all of his roles. Smith has played police officers, goofy adolescences, homosexual impostors, super heros, matchmakers, and was even asked to play Neo in The Matrix The breadth of Smith’s talent is superior and is the primary reason why he has succeeded that can not be attributed to outside forces., like Poitier All of the accolades show that Will Smith brings to his roles an air of class and professionalism that can be expected of top actors. Sidney Poitier aroused a similar demeanor.
Besides acting, both men have proven talented in the other fields of movie making. Sidney directed nine films from 1972 to 1990, most notably the previously highest grossing film directed by an African American Stir Crazy and the popular dance battle film Fast Forward. Will experienced success as a producer since 2004. Some of his works include Golden Globe nominated The Pursuit of Happyness and the upcoming The Karate Kid. Smith even has a production company called Overbrook Entertainment that has produced some of his movies, such as Seven Pounds, his CW television show All of Us, and even looks to remake several of Sidney Poitier’s directed works, which Smith bought the rights to in 2002. Poitier might have been more successful had he not been the trailblazer his entire career. He was the first African American to do many things. Will Smith has been just the latest in a series. His accomplishments have been bigger than Poitier’s, more money, more awards (other than Oscars), and more possibilities. Had it not been for Poitier, Smith would not have succeeded with such magnitude. Nonetheless, Will Smith has gone above and beyond the role of acting, and is looking to get involved in as many aspects of film as possible. Inspiration for such dedication came from a number of sources, one of which undoubtedly was Sidney Poitier.
Poitier and Smith also have similar milestones in their personal lives. Both actors had two marriages each. Poitier’s first wife, Juanita Hardy, had four daughters with him in fifteen years. Joanna Shimkus has been his second wife since 1976 and has two daughters with him, one of whom is Sydney Tamilia Poitier, who has had recurring roles on television’s Abby and Joan of Arcadia. Will Smith had a breif three year marriage with Sheree Zampino that ended in 1995 and had Williard Smith III. Smith’s second marriage, with Jada Pinkett, will be celebrating its thirteenth year in 2010. The couple has two children: Jaden Christopher Syre (Smith’s costar in The Pursuit of Happyness) and Willow Camille Reign (appeared as Smith’s daughter in I Am Legend). The fact that these men have led such similar lives suggests that they were not just actors of rival magnitude, but also have comparable mentalities. Great minds think alike. Smith and Poitier have experienced almost equivalent social consequences.
Will Smith has accomplished many of the feats that Sidney Poitier has, and even surpassed Poitier in a number of them. When comparing the two, Poitier is always at a disadvantage because his skin color was a handicap back when his career was playing unfolding. To make Will Smith as we know him possible, Sidney Poitier needed to be the pioneer that he is remembered as. The two are at respective ages that could make them father and son, and to certain extents they have experienced similar successes, troubles, and even interests. America’s response to each actor shows that every generation beckons for a strong, capable, and gifted African American actor to not only prove their worth, but pave the way. Only time will tell who will succeed Will Smith as the third in this prestigious line.