Will Smith returns to the big screen
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Will Smith returns with his cool, confident attitude in Focus, a film about professional con artist Nicky (Smith) and his protégé Jess (Margot Robbie), who struggle to find love and trust in a world of lies.
Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You, Phillip Morris and Crazy, Stupid, Love), the film follows the two con artists from when they first meet and start training, to years later when they meet again by chance in Buenos Aires.
“We got really interested in exploring that concept in a movie about four years ago. We would call it The Con Artist Love Story,” Requa said at a Q-and-A.
“It evolved into this notion of having the first part of the movie being about a rookie con artist falling in love with a pro, and the second half about them coming back together when she’s not a rookie anymore,” he said.
Focus keeps audiences guessing where it’s headed until near the end, which comes a bit too soon in this 105-minute film. The movie explores the art of the con and humanizes con artists Nicky and Jess.
“This is essentially a movie about two criminals—these fast and charming people who you’ll love even though they’re doing crimes. It’s tricky stuff, but Will and Margot fit the bill,” Requa said.
To make the steals look authentic, Ficarra and Requa recruited Apollo Robbins, an expert in pick-pocketing and sleight-of-hand, to teach the actors how to perform the cons and provide insight into the world of con artists.
“[Robbie] has a ballet background, so that helped her a little bit with the physicality of some of it,” Robbins said in a promo video for the film. “She picked it up so fast.”
When casting the character of Nicky, Ficarra and Requa were attracted to Smith’s likability, which they felt would be a necessary trait for a con artist.
“It’s the idea that the Will Smith we all know is this charismatic, smiling, nice guy. That’s so easy for him to embody in a character, but what if it was all an act?” Ficarra said. “That really appealed to us, the idea of having that quality unfold in the first half of the movie as just something he turned on whenever it was convenient.”
Focus was an opportunity for Smith to have fun in his role of Nicky and not worry about the commercial success of the production, which he wasn’t sure he could do after the failure of After Earth.
“This film really marks a transition in my life and, emotionally, in my career,” Smith said at a Q-and-A, noting that he now cares more about the experience of working on films rather than how popular they are.
“It is a huge relief for me to not care whether or not Focus is number one or number 10 at the box office,” he said. “I no longer measure the quality of myself on whether or not somebody else thinks what I [made] is beautiful.”
For more information, check out the official Focus website at FocusMovie.com