There are ideas that initially sound brilliant, but that alone is not enough to bring them to the big screen. Will Smith learned this the hard way. After writing, producing, and starring in “After Earth,” he came dangerously close to ruining his relationship with his son, Jaden, by subjecting him to a torrent of criticism at the tender age of 15.
A Post-Apocalyptic Odyssey
The story takes place a thousand years after a cataclysm forced humanity to escape Earth and live aboard the Nova Prime spaceship. One day, Cypher (played by Smith) and his son Kitai (portrayed by Jaden) crash-land on the now unknown and perilous planet of their origin. With his father injured, Kitai must traverse the hostile terrain to retrieve a distress signal.
This film, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, was so poorly received that it received six nominations at the Razzie Awards (which recognize the worst productions of the year), ultimately winning three: Worst Actor for Will Smith, Worst Supporting Actor for Jaden, and Worst Screen Combo for father and son. The situation looked grim, but that was nothing compared to the pressure and regret that the Philadelphia-born actor felt.
The Burden of Regret
These revelations came to light in an extract from the actor’s memoir simply titled “Will,” shared by the magazine People. Smith admitted, “The worst part was that Jaden took the impact. The fans and the press targeted him, saying and publishing things that I refuse to repeat. Jaden had faithfully done everything I had ordered him to do, and I had trained him to endure the worst public attack of his life.”
According to the memoir, “After Earth” was a colossal box office and critical failure. It was only a matter of time, coupled with the constant media pressure, before the bonds of family began to show cracks. Jaden “felt betrayed and deceived” by his own father.
A Father’s Heartbreak
Will Smith also shared one of his darkest moments in his relationship with his son in his memoir. It all stemmed from “After Earth’s” poor performance, which led Jaden to consider emancipation. Smith recounted, “At the age of fifteen, when Jaden asked about the possibility of becoming an emancipated minor, my heart broke. In the end, he decided not to do it, but it’s a shame to feel like you’ve hurt your children.”
The memoir, released in early November, also includes the surprising anecdote of the impromptu casting session that Will Smith had to conduct at Quincy Jones’ house, which ultimately landed him the role that catapulted him to fame in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Now, let’s reflect: Do you think it’s fair for a 15-year-old to be exposed to and face such intense media pressure, no matter how bad the movie is?
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