Tom Cruise has been a huge influence to the film industry both through his work and through his actions. He’s even inspired and influenced his own fellow actors in surprising ways.
One of those actors was Will Smith, who thought he’d end up competing with Cruise instead of bonding with him.
In the earlier years of his career, Smith was highly ambitious and determined to be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He observed and studied from other megastar talents at the time who he felt he might have been competing with.
One of those actors was another megastar in Tom Cruise, who he noticed often went the extra mile to promote his movies. To maximize his exposure, Smith wanted to promote his own films more than Cruise did his.
“I started quietly monitoring all of Tom’s global promotional activities,” Smith wrote in his memoir Will (via IndieWire). “When I arrived in a country to promote my movie, I would ask the local movie executives to give me Tom’s promotional schedule. And I vowed to do two hours more than whatever he did in every country.”
But Smith soon discovered outdoing Cruise’s promotional tours was going to be even harder than he thought it would be.
“Unfortunately, Tom Cruise is either a cyborg, or there are six of him,” Smith said. “I was receiving reports of four-and-a-half-hour stretches on red carpets in Paris, London, Tokyo… In Berlin, Tom literally signed every single autograph until there was no one else who wanted one. Tom Cruise’s global promotions were the individual best in Hollywood.”
Will Smith didn’t get Tom Cruise when he first met him
When Smith actually met Cruise for the first time, he admitted that the Mission Impossible actor caught him off guard. As a rising young star, Smith was used to the competitive nature that was often present with his contemporaries. But Cruise was a breath of fresh air for Smith.
“Tom is one of the most open, honest and helpful people I’ve met in Hollywood, or really anywhere,” he once said in an interview with Newsweek. “I mean, how many people in his position would want me to win, want me to be a bigger and better movie star? Few people in this business want me to win like that. I was so used to competition between other artists that I just didn’t get him at first.”
When Cruise told Smith that there was no competition between himself and the actor, Smith was more than surprised at the actor’s advice.
“That blew my mind because that is not how this business works at all,” Smith said.
Cruise’s help differed from other celebrities who offered advice to Smith at the time. If only because Smith and Cruise were close in age.
“Well, Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby reached out and really helped me back in the day, but they were older. Tom is my age, so I really felt there would be some competition between us, but he looks over my scripts and everything,” Smith added.
Tom Cruise helped Will Smith one of Smith’s highest-grossing movies
Cruise not only reassured that there was little competition between himself and Smith, but he’d even helped Smith in one of his most successful films. I Am Legend was a 2007 sci-fi horror flick starring Smith as the lone survivor of a global apocalypse.
It was one of Smith’s biggest movies, earning $585.4 million according to The Numbers. While developing the feature, Smith turned to his longterm friend Cruise for helpful advice on the project.
“When I did I Am Legend, I sent him the script, and he sent me back four hours of notes and changes. He did more work on I Am Legend than I did. Now we’re looking at some projects to work on together because we have that basic understanding of each other,” Smith said at the time.