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Will Smith Shares the Hilarious Reason His Father Gave Him No Credit for the Success of ‘Independence Day’

Will Smith tells some difficult stories about his father in his autobiography. One lighter story happened the Monday morning after 'Independence Day' opened. Smith got a phone call from his father razzing him at 3:00 in the morning.

Will Smith writes about his complicated relationship with his father in his new autobiography, Will. Smith refers to Willard Carroll Smith, Sr. as Daddio. Smith witnessed Daddio physically abusing his mother. He also writes about the work ethic Daddio instilled in him, and how they made peace before his death in 2016. Back in 1996, Smith had his biggest hit with Independence Day, but Daddio was not impressed.

Will Smith headshot for National Geographic
Will Smith | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Smith wrote about the Monday morning after the Fourth of July weekend 1996. Daddio was the first voice he heard before he was even awake. 

Will Smith’s father woke him up to razz him about ‘Independence Day’

Independence Day actually opened Tuesday, July 2, 1996 in sneak previews. That was fitting, because in the movie, alien spaceships arrive on July 2. They attack July 3 and July 4 is when the world retaliates, led by Smith’s Capt. Steven Hiller, scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and President Whitmore (Bill Pullman).

“It was 3:00 a.m. when the phone rang,” he wrote. “Those middle-of-the-night calls always suck — somebody’s either in jail, the hospital or worse.”

Smith lived in Los Angeles by that point, having just wrapped The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air after six seasons. Daddio was seeing the box office reports on east coast time.  

“Independence Day had just opened,” he wrote. “It was 6:00 a.m. in Philly, and the film had broken every conceivable box office record; it was world news.”

Daddio’s reaction to the success of ‘Independence Day’

Smith recalled how Daddio built up the phone call. He wrote in all caps.

“MAN, YOU SEE THEM NUMBERS?” Smith wrote that Daddio said on the phone. “I SAID, DID YOU SEE THESE GODDAMN NUMBERS?”

It didn’t phase Daddio that his son was still asleep. He had a lesson to teach.

“Remember I told you!” Daddio continued. “There’s no such thing as luck. That you are the creator of your own destiny. Remember I told you that?”

This was about the work ethic. Independence Day was a success. Where was Daddio going with this?

“Remember I told you? That there was no such thing as luck. Only what you make? Remember I told you that?”

At this point, Smith was just grunting yes as Daddio was talking.

“Remember I told you — there’s no such thing as luck? Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Remember I told you that?”

Finally, Daddio made his point. 

“Well, that’s a buncha bullshit!” Daddio said. “You the luckiest muthaf**** I ever met in my life.”

The ‘Independence Day’ phone call was a healing moment for Will Smith

Independence Day changed a lot of things for Smith. He’s said the last time executives called him The Fresh Prince was prior to that opening weekend. More July 4 blockbusters followed, but that phone call allowed Smith and Daddio to put a lot of trauma behind them. 

“This was one of the greatest laughs Daddio and I ever shared — waves of raucous laughter settling back to giggles and then, with no words, and no warning, erupting again into hysteria,” he wrote. “Years of discord, not justified, but somehow cleansed with every purifying wave. We probably laughed without speaking for ten minutes.”

Smith understood that his success was validation for Daddio, too.


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“Though we never talked about it, Independence Day represented a significant victory for him, a validation,” he wrote. “It put an exclamation point on some story he had been telling himself about himself. Something was finished in his mind.”

Hollywood may have stopped calling Smith The Fresh Prince, but Daddio took on the moniker.

“He started calling himself ‘the Fresh King,’” he wrote.