Will Smith Reveals His ‘Most Painful’ Career Failure

Will and Jaden Smith (Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty)

Will Smith has had his fair share of box-office flops, but one critically derided film stands out above the others.

“‘After Earth.’ That was the most painful failure in my career,” the actor told Esquire in a new interview.

After Earth” starred Smith and his teenage son Jaden Smith as a father and son stranded on Earth more than 1,000 years after events forced humanity to evacuate the planet. The movie was ridiculed by critics, who accused Smith of using the film as a vehicle to promote Scientology teachings on the big-screen. Smith, who co-produced the sci-fi flick with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, was also criticized for casting his own son.

“‘Wild Wild West’ was less painful than ‘After Earth’ because my son was involved in ‘After Earth’ and I led him into it,” Smith explained in the interview. “That was excruciating.”

He continued: “What I learned from that failure is how you win. I got reinvigorated after the failure of ‘After Earth.’ I stopped working for a year and a half. I had to dive into why it was so important for me to have number-one movies. And I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was fifteen my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one’s ever better than me and I’ll have the love that my heart yearns for. And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of ‘After Earth,’ when I had to accept that it’s not a good source of creation.”

In the revealing new interview, Smith also discusses the emotional toll of filmmaking, briefly discussing his new movie “Concussion,” in which he plays a doctor at the forefront of the debate over brain injuries and the NFL. He also reveals the pitfalls of “method acting.”

“With ‘Six Degrees of Separation,’ I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character,” the 46-year-old star said. “My character was in love with Stockard Channing’s character. And I actually fell in love with Stockard Channing. The movie was over and I went home, and I was dying to see Stockard. I was like, “Oh no! What have I done?” That was my last experience with Method acting, where you’re reprogramming your mind. You’re actually playing around with your psychology. You teach yourself to like things and to dislike things. It is a really dangerous place when you get good at it.”

Smith’s new movie “Focus,” co-starring Margot Robbie,” opens on February 27.


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