Will Smith is one of the most talented and successful actors of our generation, but even with the huge amount of movie wins under his belt, the 46-year-old actor is not immune to failures.
During an interview with Esquire, Smith recounted the pain he dealt with after his 2013 sci-fi film “After Earth” with his son Jaden Smith flopped at the box office. Smith called it the “most painful failure” of his career, in part because he encouraged his son to be in the film.
The film made $27 million on opening weekend and eventually grossed an unexpected $243 million globally on a reported budget of $130 million. In 2008, the Smith film “Hancock” made $62 million on opening weekend and grossed $624 million globally, while 2007’s “I Am Legend” came out of the gate earning $77 million before grossing $585 million globally.
Oftentimes, success is measured based on accolades and accomplishments, which is never a good source of self fulfillment. Smith reveals how he slowly moved himself out of this toxic belief:
“I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was 15, 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.”
When the numbers from the box office came out the following Monday after “After Earth’s” release, Smith said he was “devastated for about 24 minutes,” before receiving a call that his father had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after.
“That put it in perspective — viciously … 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.”
The reporter for Esquire referenced a fitting quote from Will Smith’s TV aunt from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”:
“Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart.”