How Will Smith Responded to an ‘Offensive’ Comment Jaden Smith Made About His Acting

Will Smith is highly regarded as a fully capable actor by his peers and fans. This is evident with his box-office success and his three Oscar nominations. However, there was one point when his son, Jaden Smith, criticized his father’s performance. And Smith couldn’t help but be offended by his son’s remarks.

Why the studio thought casting Jaden Smith in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ was a death sentence

Will Smith smiling with Jaden Smith
Will Smith and Jaden Smith | Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

As most know, Jaden Smith starred alongside his father in 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. Both Smith and his son received a large amount of praise for their portrayals, with the film nabbing Smith his second Oscar. However, the studio was initially hesitant to cast his son in the role.

“[Director] Gabriele Muccino had been struggling to cast the perfect actor to play my son,” Smith wrote in his memoir Will (via Insider). “He had nearly 500 kids. Gabriele is an instinctual, intuitive artist – things have to feel right for him.”

Jaden Smith had also expressed interest in the role. Likewise, Muccino was interested in Jaden. But the studio behind the film didn’t allow him to test Smith’s son for the part.

“’I wanted Jaden for this role from the first moment I met him, but the studio forbade me from asking you,’” Smith recalled Muccino telling him. “’The studio felt like it was a death sentence for the film from a marketing standpoint. They felt that people wouldn’t be able to suspend disbelief seeing Jaden and you on camera as father and son.’”

Apart from that, the studio didn’t want to risk the audience seeing Jaden playing Smith’s son as favoritism.

“The studio also felt that it would seem like nepotism, and just put us in the hole from the first announcement,” Smith continued. “At Gabriele’s pleasing, they agreed to allow him to put Jaden and me on camera as a chemistry test.”

Despite the studio’s reluctance, Jaden proved himself as the perfect and only fit for the part.

“But audition after audition, in all of his innocent, 6-year-old glory, he proved himself the right actor for the role,” Smith added.

The offensive comment Jaden Smith made about Will Smith’s acting

While filming 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith learned that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to acting. This lesson was learned the hard way thanks to his son, who noticed a perceived flaw in Smith’s skills. In an interview with IGN, the After Earth actor shared how it was working with Jaden.

“I was struggling with a scene, and seven, eight times Gabriele was coming up and giving me notes. Every time Gabriele would come give me notes and not say anything to Jaden, Jaden took that as him winning,” Smith said. “He would look at me and laugh that I got a note and he didn’t.”

But eventually, Jaden would give Smith his own verbal note about his father’s acting. At first, Smith didn’t take the advice too kindly.

“But with a particularly difficult scene I was struggling and Jaden said to me, ‘You just do the same thing every take, Daddy,’” Smith recalled. “And I was like, you know, I was a little offended by that, right? But what he was saying was that innately he couldn’t understand how I was reading everything exactly the same way every time.”

‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ helped free Will Smith from being a movie star

Will Smith credited his son for helping him get over a mental block he’s had over his acting. By studying what Jaden was doing, it helped Smith further immerse himself in his character.

“So I started watching him [Jaden Smith] and what I realized is in the scene, I’m a producer, I’m Will. I’m a movie star, I’m all of that stuff in the scene, and Jaden is just the character,” Smith told Black Film. “And it’s just a block that I’ve had in my career for a lot of years and this is the first time I’m freeing myself of that.”

Being able to fully inhabit a role was something he’d only been able to do in two prior films.

“It’s to hell with continuity, to hell with whether we make the day, or how much the day cost, and we lose the set and all of that,” he continued. “I’m finding that space where I’m committing to the truth of the character and it’s such a liberating, artistic space. I’ve been there two other times in my career with Ali and with Six Degrees of Separation where [I’m] just completely liberated to live and be free and to create.”

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