On January 28, a red carpet was laid on the wet ground, welcoming Oscar-nominated actor Will Smith, who was to receive the Modern Masters Award at the Arlington Theatre.
The first “celebrity” I talked to was Chris Gardner, the man upon whom Will Smith’s character in “The Pursuit of Happyness” was based. When asked what advice he would give college students striving for success, his answer was simple: “Find out what you want to do, and be bold enough to go do it.” Although this may seem like a trite piece of wisdom, Gardner commands so much authority when he speaks that it is almost impossible not to be moved by him.
Jada Pinkett Smith also graced the red carpet. After being asked what advice she would give to those pursuing film careers after college, she replied, “To keep at it and have your craft down. Whatever it is you want to do, do it well.”
Screenwriters Alfonso Cuar–n and Timothy J. Sexton (co-writers of the Oscar-nominated script for “Children of Men”) were also willing to share their advice to aspiring screenwriters. Their words of wisdom essentially boiled down to “write what you love.”
Tom Cruise was also present at the event to give the Modern Masters Award to his friend and acting peer, but did not walk down the red carpet. Reportedly, he did not want to deal with the media frenzy.
The actual ceremony was a showing of clips from Will Smith’s repertoire of films- ranging from serious dramas such as “Six Degrees of Separation” to comedies like “Bad Boys.” Smith’s broad smile never wavered during an interview with film critic Leonard Maltin, and he discussed his thoughts on almost every film and television show he had been a part of.
Just when his smile seemed to become a bit too plastered, Smith became charmingly more human. A few weeks prior to this event, a reporter asked Smith, “What is your preoccupation with happy endings?” After pondering the question for a few moments, he said he realized that to believe in happy endings is to have power. He added, “I refuse to relinquish my power.”
The night concluded with Cruise’s presentation of the award to Smith, who graciously accepted the honor with the words, “I’m here tonight to renew my dying commitment to make the world better every single day.”