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Now this is a story all about how the Independence Day celebration in a Southern town got canceled last year—but just sit right there—I’ll tell you how Will Smith brought it back this year with flair! (You see what I did there? Y’all see what I did there.)
Rhymes aside, according to People magazine, the Gemini Man actor reportedly paid $100,000 to the city of New Orleans so that they could have an appropriate 4th of July celebration. City officials say Smith decided to pay for the light show after finding out that there were no official plans to do anything special for NOLA residents over the holiday weekend. Fireworks, it seems, are more than appropriate seeing as how in addition to celebrating the anniversary of our nation’s freedom, Smith is also celebrating several film anniversaries of his own.
The “King of July,” who’s historically had a successful string of box office hits around this time of the year also deserves mad props as Independence Day, Men in Black I, Men In Black II, and Hancock all debuted during 4th of July holiday weekends. (I know that’s right! Maybe we should we call him “Big Box Office Willy” instead.)
Smith is currently in the “Big Easy” filming the upcoming “runaway slave thriller” Emancipation, directed by Antoine Fuqua. Production for the film was originally set to take place in Atlanta but was subsequently relocated following the passing of new, restrictive and discriminatory voting laws passed by Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp back in April. Although influential Georgians such as Tyler Perry and Stacey Abrams have urged filmmakers not to pull projects out of the state, Fuqua and Smith decided differently. This move is in stark contrast to director Ryan Coogler, whose decision to keep the production of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Atlanta was based on conversations with “voting rights activists in the state” who were able to articulate what effect pulling production out of Georgia would have on everyday, working-class folks.
In addition to filming Emancipation, Smith is also getting into his literary bag. Back in June, he announced the release date of his upcoming memoir, Will, written in tandem with bestselling author Mark Manson. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Will will “chronicle Smith’s personal and professional journey thus far, from his upbringing in West Philadelphia to finding inner happiness and success in music and on the small and big screen, having starred in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to films such as Hitch, Men in Black, I Am Legend and Ali.”
“It’s been a labor of love,” Smith said in a video posted on social media. “I’ve been working on it for the past two years and it is finally ready.”