The actor, 50, stars in the upcoming sci-fi thriller Gemini Man playing Henry, an elite assassin, being pursued by his 23-year-old clone named Junior, also played by Smith.
During a presentation of footage from the film on Tuesday in Los Angeles, director Ang Lee explained, “I would like to make it clear that we’re not de-aging. Rather we created a new character, a youthful Will Smith,” he said of the CG character that is based on Smith’s performance using motion capture.
“The biggest problem is Will is a much better actor today than he was 30 years ago,” said Lee.
In fact, Smith said the Oscar-winning director behind Brokeback Mountain would sometimes ask him to tone down his performance when playing the younger version of himself.
“He’s like, ‘I need you to act less good,'” said Smith. “He would show me some of my old performances of things and would say, ‘Look at this, for a reference. That’s not good. I need you to do that.'”
In the film’s new featurette, Lee explains that the technology really needed to advance to what it is today in order for them to being able to make this type of movie.
“The concept of a man being chased by himself is a really compelling idea for a story,” said Lee. “Thanks to the technology, now it’s possible.”
Smith added that he is intrigued by the idea of time travel but isn’t quite sure what age he would transport back to.
“It’s really great to be able to look at youth versus experience and what age would you really go back to if you could,” said Smith. “I’m not going anywhere near my 20s. Maybe my 30s. But it’s so beautiful to be able to explore that.”
Gemini Man is out in theaters Oct. 11.