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Will Smith Says He’s ‘a Little Bit Beyond’ Oscars Chatter at ‘Collateral Beauty’ Premiere

Variety logo Variety 12/13/2016 Margaret Sutherlin
© Provided by Variety

There’s always a celebratory mood on the red carpet, but at Monday’s world premiere of “Collateral Beauty,” there was also a bit of year-end reflection.

The feel-good, holiday-tinged movie debuted at New York’s Lincoln Center with much of the star studded cast on hand, including Will Smith, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris andHelen Mirren.

“I think at the end of the year people get meditative about how they want next year to be,” said Norton, who plays one of Smith’s friends and colleagues in the film. “I think this film gets at those reminders of what matters. I don’t think it’s as much a Christmas film as it is about the idea of how to keep your life in balance.”

The film centers on advertising executive Howard (Smith) as he copes with the loss of his young daughter and is visited by three spirits, Death, Love and Time, after writing them letters. The heavy subject matter, and holiday setting, has already garnered some raised eyebrows by at least one industry heavyweight. While calling out Hollywood politics, Samuel L. Jackson referred to “Collateral Beauty” as an “Oscar bait movie” at the Dubai International Film Festival on Thursday.

Smith, who is no stranger to awards season controversy, didn’t seem to mind the awards chatter and counted it more of a distraction. “I am a little bit beyond that at this point in my life. Anytime that anyone likes it, I will take that,” he said.

He added that he loved the script as soon as he read it. “I loved the idea of the guy who experiences a loss, and gets so angry with the universe – and then the [universe] responds. I think you can tell by the quality of the cast that responded [to the film], how well it was written.”

Mirren, who personifies Death in “Collateral Beauty,” said the biggest challenge was making her character “lively” and approachable, because after all, it’s a subject not many want to talk about.

“Death is as much a part of our life as birth is. It’s what brings us into and takes us out of this world. It’s something we have to deal with,” she said. “I want the audience to leave with a sense of joy and courage.”

Similarly, Harris, who plays Madeline a support group counselor in the film, said she was especially moved by her character’s drive to help others. “I think it’s a generous way to live life and that’s very inspiring to me. I say the reminder here [in the film] is that life is beautiful,” she said.

Director David Frankel reiterated Smith’s sentiments on his expectations for the film, stating that that his real hope lies in the public audience. “I hope that people feel a desire to reconnect with their loved ones. I think it’s rare that you get to make a movie that has an opportunity to help people and it’s fun to know that people might reconnect and reach out and hug their kids.”

“Collateral Beauty” is set for a wide release Friday, Dec. 16 and also stars Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Kate Winslet and Jacob Latimore.

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