Will Smith’s last film, “After Earth,” was a domestic flop when it debuted in May 2013.
The $US130 million sci-fi flick from director M. Night Shyamalan, made just $US60 million domestically.
While the movie, also starring Smith’s son, Jaden, went on to make $US243.8 million worldwide, the Sony and Columbia Pictures film received terrible reviews for Smith’s wasted talent and references to Scientology that seemed a little too strong in a mostly generic, slow-moving, and boring film.
In a new interview with Esquire, Smith acknowledges that “After Earth” “was the most painful failure” in his career.
Smith says “After Earth” hit him harder than the critically-panned 1999 film “Wild Wild West,” because his now 16-year-old son Jaden was in it with him.
The film’s failure led him to go on a hiatus for a year and a half to evaluate the sorts of movies he was putting out and contemplate why it was important for him to have a number-one movie at the box office.
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. What I learned from that failure is how you win. I got reinvigorated after the failure of After Earth. I stopped working for a year and a half. I had to dive into why it was so important for me to have number-one movies. And I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was fifteen my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one’s ever better than me and I’ll have the love that my heart yearns for. And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of After Earth, when I had to accept that it’s not a good source of creation.
Smith adds that the weekend after “After Earth” came out was a difficult time. Not only did he find out how poorly his film performed at theatres, but he also received bad news about his father.
“I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer,” said Smith. “That put it in perspective — viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes.”
“And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”