High-octane action, over-the-top special effects and a bad-to-the-bone superhero are the stuff summer blockbusters are made of. But on July 2, an unlikely hero is coming to a theater near you. Hancock, starring Will Smith, is a fast-paced dramedy about an eccentric bum who just happens to have enough superhuman power to save the world—except he’s so-o-o not interested in acts of bravery because they disrupt his daily flow of boozing and snoozing. This role doesn’t possess the swagger, sex appeal or smarts typical of the parts Smith has chosen in years past for his July Fourth weekend movie smackdown. But Hancock’s director Peter Berg isn’t worried about Smith’s creative risks. “I really was excited about the opportunity to create a new superhero,” says Berg. “And the fact that Will was attached and my friend Michael Mann was involved certainly made it even more appealing. The project lined up like a perfect storm.”

In the movie, Smith’s unconventional crime fighter saves PR exec Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) from a runaway train, and in return, Embrey works on rehabilitating the unpopular hero’s image. As Hancock embarks on a quest to win over the city of Los Angeles, complications ensue. There’s a turf war with another superhero, and he finds himself falling for Embrey’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron).

On-screen, Hancock’s ability to fly makes for some lofty high jinks, but on set, Hollywood’s $4 billion man was down-to-earth. “He’s such a normal guy that I would have to remind myself that I was working on a big action movie,” says Berg. “We would be between takes, everyone would be walking around and drinking coffee, and there’s Will being Will. And then I’d call ‘Action,’ and suddenly, he would be a superhero.”

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.