Published December 14, 2007
Will Smith — charismatic, friendly and polite — is also very charitable. His Will Smith Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to local civic organizations in the Baltimore and Philadelphia areas. Last year he was even one of the few clients of Creative Artists Agency to give money to the talent agency’s own tax-free fund ($2,500).
But here’s something you don’t know: After Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett, made "Collateral" with Tom Cruise in 2004, the couple donated $20,000 to Scientology’s literacy campaign, called HELP, The Hollywood Education and Literacy Program, which is the basis for Scientology’s home-schooling system.
The 2005 contribution is listed in the federal filing for The Will Smith Foundation for the previous year. Since that time, Smith’s children have been home-schooled. This week, doing publicity for "I Am Legend," Smith reiterated his plan to start his own private school.
Cruise may be hopeful about bringing Smith’s deep, charitable pockets into Scientology, but it won’t be easy as the "I Am Legend" actor has varied interests that already command his dollars.
For example, in 2005, HELP was not the The Will Smith Foundation's top donation. That honor went to Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia. Smith gave them $140,000. Yesha, founded by Charles Coker, teaches Christian-based martial arts in Florida.
Smith likes Yesha so much he gave them another $125,000 last year. That’s a lot of money for Tae Kwon Do. Among his other charitable donations in 2006, Smith gave $7,500 to a group called Partners for Educating Actors, Composers and Entertainers, or PEACE. No listing could be found for the group on guidestar.org, where all U.S. charities are registered.
Cruise, meanwhile, will not leave Smith alone. He made a "surprise" appearance at Smith’s Walk of Fame installation this week, then flew to New York for the premiere of Smith’s new movie, "I Am Legend."
This is Cruise’s methodology from previous campaigns to anoint new "friends." His PR history is filled with "surprise" visits and stiff hugs for new "pals." He’s the only Hollywood star we ever see do this, and it’s not because he’s so gregarious. In every case some kind of story follows about Cruise and Scientology recruitment.
In this latest scenario, Smith seems somewhat won over after Pinkett already had taken the lead. Smith continues to defend Cruise and Scientology. Smith reiterated on "Access Hollywood" this week a similar idea he presented in a men’s mag this month: that Scientology and the Bible are pretty much the same.
He told "Access": "I was introduced [to] it by Tom and I’m a student of world religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are 98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98 percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."
On at least a basic level, Smith might be thought incorrect in that statement. Neither Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism nor, for that matter, Judaism espouse the idea of space aliens occupying one’s body.
Just for the holiday aspect, Smith added a line — which can be seen on the syndicated show’s Web site, that should get everyone in the mood for rockin’ around the Christmas tree: "How can I condemn someone for what they believe and I believe that God was born from a pregnant virgin?"
Yes, we make fun of the Golden Globes and the Hollywood Foreign Press. But they did get a couple of things right this year. One, especially, was Casey Affleck’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor in "The Assassination of Jesse James."
I’ve been telling you, dear readers, about this performance for months. No one has seen this movie, however. But Casey — who had to wait his turn for stardom after brother Ben and pal Matt Damon — deserves the Oscar for his portrayal of Robert Ford, Jesse James’ killer. He’s also just great in Ben’s "Gone Baby Gone."
So give the Globes a little credit. It must be due to current president, Jorge Camara, who has asked the Writers Guild for a waiver so the Golden Globes can go on.
Another excellent choice from the Globes is Ryan Gosling of "Lars and the Real Girl," a film not to be missed. But the group’s big blunder was in ignoring Sidney Lumet’s "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead." THINKFilm had better get going on this one if they want Academy Award voters to embrace it properly. ...
Patty Duke turned 61 on Friday. Can you believe it? She’s been in the public eye her whole life. Her original TV show was one of the greats. As a birthday gift, Duke picks up an honorary doctorate from the University of North Florida for her work in advancing awareness of mental health issues. Congrats. She’s survived Hollywood where others have perished. ...
Warner M. Group (the M now stands for "miscellaneous," not "music") hit another stock price low of $6.49 on Thursday. Bets are now being taken for the moment WMG sinks below $6.
Ironically, WMG is selling hundreds of thousands of Josh Groban Christmas CDs. But savvy investors have noted this is a fluke, that Groban is really the province of producer David Foster, and that otherwise WMG has vanished from the charts.
What WMG really has become is a catalog company, with greatest hits or box sets from Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin otherwise leading the way. ...
The Police reunion was the top-grossing tour of 2007. The trio made $212 million through Nov. 13, the cut-off date for the year-end tally. That means sold-out dates in South America weren’t even included. More dates already are posted on the group’s Web site for 2008, and a DVD — filmed below the equator — should hit stores this spring. Credit goes to group manager Kathy Schenker and tour producer Arthur Fogel of Live Nation. …
With Broadway back, all the actors are heading over to famed Elaine Kaufman’s watering hole on the Upper East Side when the shows are over. Bob Saget just popped in from "The Drowsy Chaperone," where he’s playing the lead. We reminisced about his very dirty telling of the comics’ joke in the movie "The Aristocrats." He also confirmed that, at least for a minute, 36-year-old Lance Armstrong was dating 21-year-old Ashley Olsen.
"She’s like a daughter to me," Bob said of the twin who used to appear with him on "Full House." ...
Thursday night, movie actor Bill Pullman, currently off Broadway in Edward Albee’s "Peter and Jerry," stopped in with Bobby Zarem and Paris Match writer Dany Jucaud.
A little later, British stars Rufus Sewell and Sinead Cusack, from Tom Stoppard’s "Rock and Roll," also came in. The Stoppard play is the hippest thing on Broadway. Cusack is Mrs. Jeremy Irons in real life. She told me Irons has seen the show "at least seven times" already. ...
Director James Toback made his nightly appearance. …
Also Thursday night, the beautiful Kathryn Altman, widow of legendary director Robert, stopped in with pals, including costume designer Dona Granata. Kathryn, married to Bob for 50 years, is still screening films and making recommendations to Academy friends even though she is not a voter. She’s a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s "There Will Be Blood" and the Lumet film. She’s a woman of taste!