Will Smith's son on films, music and famous families
As father-son duo Will and Jaden Smith team up onscreen for a second time in sci-fi adventure After Earth, we hear from the younger partner about the challenges of managing childhood fame
It can’t be all that easy growing up as the offspring of a major Hollywood star, but Jaden Smith seems to have got it down. At eight years old he was being groomed to stand in his megastar father’s shoes, starring alongside Will Smith in 2006 in The Pursuit of Happyness. It was a more mature Jaden – who, like his father, is also a rapper – that took the title role in 2010 remake The Karate Kid alongside Jackie Chan, while Smith Snr sat in the producer’s chair. Now father and son are reunited onscreen once again in After Earth. Set 1,000 years in the future and directed by M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs), the plot – conceived by Smith Snr – deals with a son growing up in the glare of a renowned warrior father. Something the 15 year old can relate to, we’re sure.
What did you like about the story for After Earth? The story is very, very powerful. Kitai lives in his dad’s shadow; I live in my dad’s shadow. When the movie is over, he is like, ‘Hey, dad, look what I did.’ And when I did the last shot in the film, I was like, ‘Hey, dad, look what I did.’ It’s the same story. When you see the movie, you are following Kitai’s story, but you are subliminally following my story as well.
You are very different from kids of your age. Can you actually relate to them? Absolutely, all the time. All I do is skate around with kids in my neighbourhood. I am pretty normal. I love skating.
In what way has the dynamic between you and your dad changed between The Pursuit of Happyness to After Earth? On After Earth it was more collaborative. It was more about what both of us wanted, instead of [mimics his dad], ‘This, this, this.’ For this movie he knew that I could handle certain things so he didn’t have to be there all the time. But on The Karate Kid, not only was I his son, but he was producing so he was there 100 percent of the time. He was always there, always looking at me, saying my lines.
How important to you was your performance in The Pursuit of Happyness? I feel after The Pursuit of Happyness I could call myself an actor, because the performance that I did in that movie was very honest.
What is your favourite among your father’s movies? I Am Legend. I love it. That movie is great. It’s scary, I love things like that, but it’s also very quiet. It’s a very well thought-out movie.
Would you like to work with your sister, Willow? The most I have worked with my sister is musically. I just made a song with her the other day called ‘I Love You.’ The thing with Willow is that she likes making songs but you guys might just never hear them. She might feel as though, ‘No, I don’t want to put this out now’. But, honestly, I feel as though I am musically talented because I just do it every day, every single day, but she is just phenomenal.
Who would you like to work with? I would work with anybody. If you have a good script, I’ll work with anybody. I love Leonardo DiCaprio and I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Chloë Moretz is amazing as well. There are a lot of different people I would work with. I am very open.
What is the best acting tip that you’ve received from your father? It’s probably ‘stay in the scene’. You should always stay in the scene.
Is it sometimes difficult to be the son of such famous parents? You get chased around by paparazzi and get criticised every step you take, even if you are only 14. They make up stories saying you are doing horrible things that you have never done. But I get through it. I like to skate and make music and write poetry. After Earth is released on Thursday June 6.