Is Will Smith Really an Outlier?

Lisa Young’s Practice (2007)

If someone were to ask you how Will Smith, out of all the world’s working and aspiring actors, became one of Hollywood’s top-grossing movie stars, you’d probably answer, “total luck.” And, of course, you’d be completely correct — but don’t let him hear you say that! Smith is among the growing number of film-industry rainmakers (including Dustin Hoffman and director Sam Mendes) using an argument from Malcolm Gladwell’s new best seller Outliers to explain their massive success, reports today’s L.A. Times. In the book, Gladwell posits that any skill can be “mastered” if one spends 10,000 hours practicing, attributing the accomplishments of Bill Gates and the Beatles to all the time they spent programming computers and playing eight-hour sets in dingy German rock clubs (respectively).

Smith recently spoke to the L.A. Times about a small film he saw, describing its cast thusly: “I could tell that none of the actors in the film were world-class actors with 10,000 hours of experience.” (Both Hoffman and Mendes have made similar-ish statements in interviews, says the paper.)

There are lots of plausible reasons for Will Smith’s super-fame — charm, likability, the endless durability of this song, etc. — but would anyone ever credit his success to the countless hours he spent mastering his craft? And has he really even put in the requisite 10,000 hours? Just because Seven Pounds seems to go on forever doesn’t mean he spent that long acting in it!

’10,000 Hours’ book a hit with Hollywood [LAT]

Is Will Smith Really an Outlier?