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Will Smith vs. Will Smith: Everything we know about Ang Lee’s Gemini Man

What’s better than a sci-fi action-thriller starring Will Smith? Why, a sci-fi action-thriller starring two Will Smiths, of course. In Gemini Man, Smith plays a former hit man who goes toe-to-toe with his deadly younger clone.

Gemini Man isn’t like Looper, though, in which two different actors played younger and older versions of the same character. In Gemini Man, Smith plays both roles, returning to his Fresh Prince days by way of Weta Digital‘s advanced digital de-aging technology. Gemini Man is directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi) and debuts on October 11, 2019. Here’s everything we know about the movie so far.

The trailers

Gemini Man’s two trailers lay out the film’s general premise: In the movie, Will Smith stars as both world-class assassin Henry Brogan and as his clone, Junior, who’s tasked with putting the aging hit man down. How can Junior be expected to kill a foe who knows all of his moves? How can Henry possibly survive against a faster, stronger version of himself? As the trailers show, the answers to those questions don’t come easy.

The first trailer, which comes with a personal on-set introduction from Will Smith himself, explores Gemini Man from Junior’s perspective, striking a somber tone while the clone ponders the nature of his existence.

Gemini Man - Official Trailer

The second trailer ratchets up the action, giving the audience a better idea of what kind of hijinks will ensue with Smith faces off against himself.

Gemini Man - Official Trailer 2 (2019) - Paramount Pictures

While Smith is the face of Gemini Man, Weta Digital’s effects look like they’ll be the real star. Junior looks exactly like Smith did back when he was one half of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It remains to be seen how the finished film will hold up, but in the trailers, the de-aging is flawless.

The cast and crew

Gemini Man posed a unique challenge for Paramount. Not only did the studio need to find an actor who could carry a blockbuster action film, but it needed to be someone who was just as recognizable when they were young as they are now.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Enter Will Smith. Smith became a star when he was still a teenager, and his ’90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, remains a fan-favorite to this day (all of that existing footage of young Will probably helped Weta’s visual effects artists bring the project to life, too). At the same time, Smith can still handle action scenes, and he’s still a major box-office draw in the right vehicle. It’s a perfect fit.

Smith isn’t the only big name in Gemini Man. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Birds of Prey) plays one of Henry’s gun-toting assassin allies, as does Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange). Clive Owen portrays Gemini Man‘s villain, Clayton Varris, the man who created Junior and marked Henry for death.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Meanwhile, Lee is one of the most celebrated directors of the modern era. He’s won two Academy Awards for directing, and has a diverse filmography that includes period dramas (Sense and Sensibility), a superhero flick (Hulk), a cowboy romance (Brokeback Mountain), a martial arts spectacular (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and more. Lee isn’t necessarily known for sci-fi, but he should be able to handle Gemini Man just fine.

You might recognize one of Gemini Man‘s co-writers as well. While Darren Lemke came up with Gemini Man’s premise, the script has been revised by a number of high-profile Hollywood scribes, including David Benioff, who was co-showrunner on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

A film 22 years in the making

Hollywood has been trying to make Gemini Man  for a long time. Disney bought the rights to Gemini Man‘s script all the way back in 1997, and eyed actors like Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, and Sean Connery for the lead role. The studio even conducted a few tests to see how the digital de-aging would work, but decided that the technology wasn’t up to snuff and shelved the film.

In 2016, Gemini Man got a second shot at life when the project moved to Paramount. Ang Lee was hired in 2017, and Smith came on board shortly after. De-aging effects have come a long way since the late ’90s, and have become a major selling point for movies like Captain Marvel and Netflix’s The Irishman.

Still, Gemini Man‘s de-aging isn’t quite like anything else we’ve seen before. While most digital de-aging is achieved through a combination of makeup and post-processing effects, Junior is actually a fully realized CG character like Gollum or Thanos. According to The Los Angeles Times, Smith played the older Henry on set, then went to the motion capture studio to play the younger version. Weta’s artists combined Smith’s performance with their 3D model, and Junior was born.

Gemini Man premieres October 11, 2019.

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Chris Gates
Christopher Gates lives in Los Angeles, CA and writes about movies, TV, video games, and other pop culture curiosities. In…
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