don’t mean to toot my own trumpet, but I got by far the best answer out of Will Smith at today’s I Am Legend press conference. And all I had to do was ask about the latest on Empire, his next collaboration with Michael Mann. Granted, I didn’t get much in the way of plot detail, but merely invoking Mann’s name got Big Will boasting Ali-like about the state of his own art. Check it out:

Q: Will, you’ve mentioned Michael Mann a few times. It was recently announced that you might be collaborating with him again on Empire, where it sounds like you might be playing a Rupert Murdoch kind of media mogul or Charles Foster Kane maybe. I’m wondering if you could talk about what that’s going to be. They didn’t give away too many details in Variety.

Will Smith: There’s not a lot of details yet. It’s just something we’ve been considering. It’s an idea. Richard III is the model that we’re working off of in that media world, but it’s just ideas right now. There’s not a lot to talk about right now.

But my cinematic education really reached a critical mass in working with Michael Mann. Something happened, something clicked… and I feel like over the next ten years, I will make the best movies of my career. I feel like an athlete, and I just caught my prime. I’m in the best physical condition of my life; I’m mentally prepared, and love what I do. I feel like this is truly the time for me to make my artistic sprint in my career.

It’s already been six years since Ali, but judging from the quality of his work in The Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend, Will definitely appears to be surging creatively. I still consider Ali his career-best performance, so when he says he’s going "make the best movies of my career" over the next decade, I’m not going to doubt him, especially if Empire becomes a reality.

Which it should. In fact, based on just the thumbnail offered up by Will, I think I’d rather see this than The Winter of Frankie Machine.