Netflix is calling upon all people named Will Smith to help promote their new original film, Bright. It may be hard to remember these days, but for the first few years of his career, Will Smith wasn’t even known as Will Smith. When the sitcom-star-turned-blockbuster-movie-star got his start as a rapper in the mid-1980s, he was known as The Fresh Prince. Even when he started being credited under his real name when The Fresh Prince of Bel Air launched in 1990, Smith continued to use the Fresh Prince moniker for his music, until going by Will Smith his “Big Willie Style” album in 1997.
The actor has been all Will Smith, all the time for many years now, and he’s preparing for the launch of Bright, a sci-fi crime film that’s headed to Netflix in December, and reunites Smith with his Suicide Squad director David Ayer. The film is one of the most expensive and high-profile of the new generation of direct-to-Netflix feature films, and the streaming service has come up with a rather unorthodox way to promote the new film.
Related: Watch The Bright Trailer
The Netflix US Twitter account tweeted a video Monday in which Smith asked for other people named Will Smith to help him promote Bright. The conceit of the 45-second video, which appears to have been shot while Smith walks through an airport, is that the actor is on a world tour to promote the film, but because he can’t do it all himself, he needs other Will Smiths to help him. So he asks the Smiths to respond to the tweet, or comment and message Netflix.
IS YOUR NAME WILL SMITH? Please see below for an urgent message. pic.twitter.com/39JPykSYo1
— Netflix US (@netflix) November 13, 2017
It appears to have worked, to some degree; the top reply to the tweet is by a “William Smith” and various others who replied are named Will Smith, William Smith, or some other variation on Smith’s name. Another respondent stated that her mother’s name is “Wilhelmina Smith.” Probably the most famous non-Fresh Prince Will Smith is the former NFL player of that name, but he sadly died in a traffic accident in April 2016.
Whether their name is Will Smith or not, can this stunt get people excited about Bright, which co-stars Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, and Edgar Ramirez? Perhaps, although it’s a bit strange that this stunt is launching more than six weeks before the film debuts on Netflix on December 22.
Blockbuster, star-driven movies debuting on Netflix remains a relatively new and untested phenomenon, so the jury is still out on whether traditional forms of marketing, or all new ones, are the best way to sell such movies.