Movie maker KEVIN SMITH signed Will Smith for a cameo in his new movie Jersey Girl, only after Bruce Willis turned down the part.

Smith wrote Willis a cameo role playing himself in the romantic comedy - but neither he, nor Jersey Girl star Ben Affleck, could tempt the Hollywood hardman.

Smith says, "When I initially wrote the script, the movie was set in 1986 to 1994 and the guy was Bruce Willis.

"I sent it to Bruce Willis' manager and never heard back from him. I asked Ben to intervene because he and Bruce ran from the space rock in ARMAGEDDON, but Bruce didn't call him back either."

Affleck eventually persuaded Smith to sign WILL SMITH to the role instead - and they recruited him with a little help from co-star Jennifer Lopez.

The director adds, "Will read it and liked it but didn't want to play himself in a movie because he thought he might come off as arrogant, so we set Ben and Jen on him - because movie stars do that movie star talk to one another. That worked very well.

"Jennifer knew him because she almost did A STAR IS BORN remake with him a few years ago, and Ben knew him through JERRY BRUCKHEIMER so they pushed him over the fence.

"He showed up and did it for scale and was the sweetest dude you'd ever meet.

"I always thought Affleck was the nicest guy in the business, but Affleck comes across like a Russian mobster compared to Will Smith. So, thank God Bruce Willis passed.

10/03/2004 03:00