Will Smith - charismatic, friendly and polite - is also very charitable. His Will Smith Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to local civic organizations in the Baltimore and Philadelphia areas. Last year he was even one of the few clients of Creative Artists Agency to give money to the talent agency's own tax-free fund ($2,500).
But here's something you don't know: After Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett, made "Collateral" with Tom Cruise in 2004, the couple donated $20,000 to Scientology's literacy campaign, called HELP, The Hollywood Education and Literacy Program, which is the basis for Scientology's home-schooling system.
The 2005 contribution is listed in the federal filing for The Will Smith Foundation for the previous year. Since that time, Smith's children have been home-schooled. This week, doing publicity for "I Am Legend," Smith reiterated his plan to start his own private school.
Cruise may be hopeful about bringing Smith's deep, charitable pockets into Scientology, but it won't be easy as the "I Am Legend" actor has varied interests that already command his dollars.
For example, in 2005, HELP was not the The Will Smith Foundation's top donation. That honor went to Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia. Smith gave them $140,000. Yesha, founded by Charles Coker, teaches Christian-based martial arts in Florida.
Smith likes Yesha so much he gave them another $125,000 last year. That's a lot of money for Tae Kwon Do. Among his other charitable donations in 2006, Smith gave $7,500 to a group called Partners for Educating Actors, Composers and Entertainers, or PEACE. No listing could be found for the group on guidestar.org, where all U.S. charities are registered.
Cruise, meanwhile, will not leave Smith alone. He made a "surprise" appearance at Smith's Walk of Fame installation this week, then flew to New York for the premiere of Smith's new movie, "I Am Legend."
This is Cruise's methodology from previous campaigns to anoint new "friends." His PR history is filled with "surprise" visits and stiff hugs for new "pals." He's the only Hollywood star we ever see do this, and it's not because he's so gregarious. In every case some kind of story follows about Cruise and Scientology recruitment.
In this latest scenario, Smith seems somewhat won over after Pinkett already had taken the lead. Smith continues to defend Cruise and Scientology. Smith reiterated on "Access Hollywood" this week a similar idea he presented in a men's mag this month: that Scientology and the Bible are pretty much the same.
He told "Access": "I was introduced [to] it by Tom and I'm a student of world religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are 98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98 percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."
On at least a basic level, Smith might be thought incorrect in that statement. Neither Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism nor, for that matter, Judaism espouse the idea of space aliens occupying one's body.
Just for the holiday aspect, Smith added a line - which can be seen on the syndicated show's Web site, that should get everyone in the mood for rockin' around the Christmas tree: "How can I condemn someone for what they believe and I believe that God was born from a pregnant virgin?"