Will Smith’s ‘Critical Failure’ Movie Led to Jaden Smith Requesting Emancipation at 15 Years Old

Will Smith has established himself as a bankable actor in the movie industry. Although most of his movies have grossed millions of dollars at the box office, some have experienced commercial failure. One such film unfortunately starred Smith and his son Jaden. After the flop, Jaden Smith reportedly asked Will Smith for emancipation at only 15. Read more on the topic.

Smith and Jaden have played father and son twice

Jaden Smith and Will Smith attend the "After Earth" photo call
Jaden Smith and Will Smith attend the “After Earth” photo call | Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Sony Pictures

Hollywood directors sometimes prefer casting real-life father and son duos to capitalize on their real-life chemistry. The trick has worked in movies such as The Heartbreak Kid, in which Ben and Jerry Stiller appeared on screen as father and son.

Interestingly, the duo had appeared in another movie decades before their roles on The Heartbreak Kid as father and son as well. Other father and son duos include Tom and Colin Hanks in The Great Buck Howard and Dan and Eugene Levy, who even won Emmys for their roles on Schitt’s Creek.

Smith and Jaden first appeared on screen together in 2006 in the commercially successful Pursuit of Happyness. The real-life father and son duo played the same roles in the true story film about a homeless medical salesman, Chris Gardner, who became a wildly successful stockbroker. The pair took on the parts with Smith playing Gardner and his son Jaden playing his character’s son, Christopher Gardner Jr.

The pair’s relationship seemed to rub off on audiences and directors. Critics lauded their bond, with one calling their relationship “an inestimable asset to the on-screen character’s relationship. The pair appeared in a movie together seven years later in After Earth.

What is ‘After Earth’ about?

After Earth is a post-apocalyptic movie centering around a human-populated space colony called Nova Prime. In an attempt to gain control of Nova Prime, an alien race attacks using creatures that sense fear. However, Nova Prime’s Ranger Corps fends off the attacks due to a fear suppressing technique invented by Smith’s character called “Ghosting.”

Before the Ursas are defeated, they kill the daughter of the Ranger’s leader, leaving Kitai, Cypher’s son, feeling guilty for her death. His mother convinces Cypher to take his son on the last voyage before retiring. However, their spaceship crash-lands on the uninhabitable Earth after getting caught in an asteroid shower.

With Cypher’s legs broken, it is up to Kitai to find the main beacon to signal for help. However, the ship’s tail section broke off on entry into Earth’s atmosphere, meaning Kitai had to set out to find it. Under Cypher’s instructions using a communicator, Kitai battles several obstacles along the way, including a venomous leech and a thermal shift. Kitai, hellbent on proving himself, finds the tail section and, after an attack by an Ursa, sends a distress signal back to Nova Prime, and they are rescued.

Jaden’s reaction to ‘After Earth’ flopping left Will Smith heartbroken — and Jaden asking for emancipation

After Earth didn’t do as well as everyone hoped, and the criticism proved too much for the main actors involved. People obtained excerpts of Smith’s memoir titled Will, which detailed a moment that left the star heartbroken.

Will Smith noted that the movie “was an abysmal box office and critical failure,” noting that his son, Jaden Smith, took the hit for the flop. The star wrote about the press and fans’ viciousness toward him and his son, saying, “They said and printed things about Jaden that I refuse to repeat.” Smith noted that his son had faithfully abided by every instruction given to him.

However, he reasoned that in coaching his son, he had exposed him to “the worst public mauling he’d ever experienced.” So much so that Jaden, then 15, asked about emancipation. The 53-year-old actor admitted that although Jaden eventually decided against it, Smith’s “heart shattered,” at the request.

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