Will Smith On Oscar Buzz Around ‘Seven Pounds’: ‘People Be Saying Stuff!’

'Hopefully it will hit you in the gut emotionally, in the way that it hit me,' actor says of his new drama.

LOS ANGELES — [movieperson id="58720"]Will Smith[/movieperson] has been a career chameleon, from his “Fresh Prince” days all the way to becoming the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. Sometimes, it seems like the superstar will stop at nothing to take over every facet of entertainment — two Oscar nominations (for “Ali” and [movie id="276013"]“The Pursuit of Happyness”[/movie]) have only increased his hunger for gold. Significant Oscar buzz surrounds him once again with the new drama [movie id="365268"]“Seven Pounds.”[/movie]

“You know people be talking! People be saying stuff!” Smith laughed about the golden-statue gossip. “That’s always fun. You prefer to be nominated than not, but for me, I’m still at the space with this movie where I’m hoping people like it.”

Clearly, people do. Smith reunited with “Happyness” director Gabriele Muccino to further his reputation not only as a bankable leading man, but also as a thespian.

In “Pounds,” Smith plays IRS agent Ben Thomas, who suffers a deep depression after killing seven people in a car accident while on his BlackBerry. Naturally, “depression” isn’t usually a word one would associate with Smith’s affable persona. “Yeah, it’s very different for me,” the down-to-earth star admitted, discussing his need for research. “I spent a lot of time just hearing different stories [about depression], and that really helps me to understand a character’s mental space. [I wanted to] just find people who have had similar experiences.”

As a result of his depression, Smith’s character decides to “save” seven people in need, including a terminally ill woman played by [movieperson id="166719"]Rosario Dawson.[/movieperson]

“I had worked with Will before in ‘Men in Black II,’ and we were able to skip over a couple of steps,” Dawson recalled of the shorthand both actors used in making her Smith’s love interest in the flick. “[We could avoid] that natural getting to know you, ‘Hi, how are you?’ [thing]. We were already there. So there was a comfort level that already existed.”

Dawson also hinted that the relationship between their characters is unlike the usual love story. “It was a relationship on high-speed, because these characters don’t really have time to play the game how it’s usually played,” she said of the urgency of their whirlwind romance. “I have six weeks to live, but I might have [fallen in love with Will]. Love in those six weeks is something so gorgeous and beautiful and very unique.”

Although the flick is a heavy hitting drama, Will Smith is convinced that the film will leave audiences walking out of the theater with a positive message in their minds. “I think that it’s a fantastic story — you can sit there and be entertained, but there’s also some wonderful ideas and concepts,” he explained. “Hopefully it will hit you in the gut emotionally, in the way that it hit me.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Seven Pounds.”