“Most painful failure in my career”: Not Karate Kid, $130M Movie That Sank Jaden Smith’s Career Was More Painful for Will Smith Than ‘Wild Wild West’

Remember Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan’s setback with After Earth? Set in a post-apocalyptic backdrop, the movie received a flood of negative reviews from critics with some even calling it the ‘worst movie ever made.’ However, apart from the sci-elements, the movie largely featured a heartwarming father-son relationship where Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith assumed the role of his on-screen son.

A still from After Earth

A still from After Earth

When looked at closely, it appears that After Earth was a considerable shift from Shyamlan’s usual mind-bending thrillers. Straying away from his signature style, the movie was set in a futuristic landscape.

M. Night Shyamalan revealed that Will Smith pitched the idea for his son Jaden Smith

During his interview with Telegraph, M. Night Shyamalan revealed that the idea for the 2013 movie After Earth emerged during a birthday call from Will Smith. He revealed that the Pursuit of Happyness actor was concerned about his son Jaden Smith’s acting career and decided to share his idea with him. Jaden Smith, who previously worked in the underwhelming 2010 remake of The Karate Kid was in the early stages of his acting career.

Jaden Smith at an event

Jaden Smith at an event

During their conversation, Smith presented a concise overview of the story, asking Shyamalan to direct it. And intrigued by the role reversals – where a son is burdened with the responsibility to save his father, the filmmaker agreed to take on the project.
“He called me for my birthday and we talked about his son Jaden’s acting career and then he said, ‘I have this idea. And he pitched me a 45-second version of a story that just clicked with me.I loved the idea of the traditional roles flipping and the boy having to save his father, and I just said, ‘I’ll make the movie. I committed there and then. Will thought I was joking but then he said he had originally intended it as a project just for Jaden but if I directed it he would play the father. ”
However, unfortunately, After Earth failed to match Shyamalan and Smith’s hopes, garnering around $244 million against a $130 million budget. Deterred by the movie’s underwhelming performance, Smith began to employ a shift in his artistic choices, exploring more roles that he found to be challenging. But the failure of the film had a deep impact on the actor.

Will Smith considered After Earth to be the greatest failure of his life

After Earth is not the first Will Smith movie to witness a setback. Prior to this, Smith’s Wild Wild West was also unsuccessful at the box office. However, Smith considers After Earth to be his biggest failure, considering it was his idea to involve his son Jaden Smith in it.
“Wild Wild West was less painful than After Earth because my son was involved in After Earth, and I led him into it. That was excruciating.”

Jaden Smith with his father Will Smith

Smith tried relaunching his son’s career

Furthermore, while talking about how his grandmother used to tell him that one should never let success get into the head and failure into the heart, Will Smith revealed that it was this lesson that helped him through the tough time.
“That was a valuable lesson for me a few years ago with After Earth. That was the most painful failure in my career.”

Apart from this, Smith revealed how painful it was for him to witness the backlash received by his son after the release of the film. During the conversation, he also reflected on Jaden’s ‘public mauling’ and his fallout with his son who even considered emancipation due to the scrutiny. The actor acknowledged how his teenage son might have felt a sense of betrayal and lack of trust in his father’s leadership.

Source: Esquire

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