Will Smith Describes ‘The Most Gut-Wrenching Thing You Could Ever Do’ as an Actor

In his three decades of acting, Will Smith is positive that “the most gut-wrenching thing you could ever do is make a story about somebody’s life and then sit in the theater with him while they’re watching it.” The 52-year-old actor did this two times in his career, and he swears he will never do it again.

Jaden Smith and Will Smith
Jaden Smith and Will Smith | MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP via Getty Images

Will Smith sat in the theater with Chris Gardner to watch ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’

Before Pursuit of Happyness hit the Box Office, Smith went with Chris Gardner, who he portrays in the movie, to see what he thought of it. The 2006 drama starred Smith as a father who takes an unpaid intern position at a stock brokerage firm, hoping that it will give his son a better life. Although the man is homeless and suffers one blow after another, he never gives up hope.

The story is based on actual events from Gardner’s life, who was simultaneously writing the book as the movie was being produced. Smith sat behind the motivational speaker while he screened the rags-to-riches story. The actor believed it was the most challenging thing he had to do. He swears he will never do it again. 

BERLIN – JANUARY 09: (L-R) Jada Pinkett Smith, director Gabriele Muccino, actor Will Smith, son Jaden Smith and Chris Gardner attend The Pursuit of Happyness German Premiere on January 9, 2007 in Berlin, Germany. Will Smith portrays Gardner in the movie. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

“I’m not doing that anymore,” the star told Live About. “Someone trusted you with their life story. It’s their family. It’s their experiences, and it’s not like there’s going to be a second shot at it.”

Smith believes that even if the movie makes millions of dollars and wins an array of awards, it is still a “complete failure” if the person it is about doesn’t like it.

Gardner told the actor ‘I can’t even talk to you right now,’ after the movie screening

The businessman turned motivational speaker scared Will Smith to his core when he left the movie theater because he couldn’t bring himself to talk to the actor. 

“Well, what the hell does that mean?” the Fresh Prince star thought at the time. 

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However, when he followed the man outside, he realized that Gardner loved the movie and was crying. 

“He just thanked me for the service to his family, and he’s forever indebted for bringing his story [to the big screen],” Smith remembers. “And for me, it was a win from that point, so all of this is gravy time now.”

When Will Smith portrayed Muhammed Ali in the 2001 biopic, the actor was terrified

In 2001, Ophrah Winfrey opened the Ali segment of her show by stating that the professional boxer and activist was “the most written about human being who has ever lived.” That might be one of the reasons why Smith was worried about portraying the heavyweight champion in a movie.

“There was so much reverence and so much respect,” Smith told Oprah about making the movie. “It made me nervous to be the dude that messed up the Mohammed Ali story.”

Muhammad Ali and Will Smith
Muhammad Ali accepting his Humanitarian Award from presenter Will Smith | M. Caulfield/WireImage

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However, after Ali screened the movie the actor felt better. 

“He scared me,” Ali told Oprah. “It makes me feel good that someone takes time to make a movie about my life. It’s a humble feeling.”

Luckily, both Gardner and Ali loved the movies that Smith made about their lives. However, the actor swears he will never watch a film with someone he portrayed again.