Will Smith: Film helped me to connect with dying dad
Veteran actor Will Smith says shooting Collateral Beauty helped him emotionally
Will Smith, now 30 years in the movie business, is explaining the change in his career direction.
"As an actor, your life experiences are your tools. It is difficult to act something you don't understand.
"So, as I am getting older and having more life experiences, I am able to hone my craft and... deliver more authentic experiences on camera. I am excited about being able to bravely go into new territory versus trying to stay in the sequel zone," said the 48-year-old.
We are at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City talking about Collateral Beauty, his new movie in which he plays a hotshot marketing executive suddenly laid low by the loss of a child and the break-up of his marriage.
Faced with the loss of the company that is built on his reputation, his partners, played by Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Pena, take the drastic step of hiring actors to help him deal with the bizarre behaviour he has been displaying. Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren are also in the ensemble cast. Collateral Beauty opens in cinemas tomorrow.
How did you all get along on the set?
It was so beautiful.
It is really hard to put together that level of a cast. It is like a superhero movie.
Helen Mirren always says this was a non-trailer movie, as in nobody went to their trailer and everybody stayed on the set the whole time.
Everybody's families were around. Ed Norton just had a new baby, so it was a really beautiful union.
And because of the number of cast members, nobody really had hard days. You would work half a day and then hang around for the other person's scene. It was a beautiful bonding experience.
Did you learn anything new about life from this movie?
I discovered that I am a hopeless romantic. There is nothing more important to me than love.
Working through this project, I realised that romance is not love. My whole life, I thought of romance as love, but it is really not.
What I am finding is that it is the pain, suffering, struggle, and all of the things that you have to overcome alongside a person, while trying to get to love. It is all of that filth and difficulty that actually creates the love down the line.
Did you learn anything about death?
My father was diagnosed with cancer during my initial preparation for this movie. Having to face his impending death while working on the struggles of my character, it became a way that my father and I were able to connect wide open.
Because in my mind, it was character preparation, and I wasn't scared to ask any questions. We were able to talk about the difficulty, the pain, the fear, and all of those elements around the idea of death.
It became this really magical transition. He has just passed on. As an actor, a son and a human being, it made me so much deeper. He called me via FaceTime the night he passed.
He said, 'Hey man, I think it's tonight.'
And I said, 'Really?'
And he said yeah.
And we kind of just looked at each other for about 20 minutes.
It was so beautiful, and it was like we were finished. We had all the things we talked about and wanted to talk about. It was this wonderful confluence of art and life.
What would you have as your epitaph?
Wow, that is interesting. I think "don't forget to laugh". When you get to the end, it is all going to be funny. You get bogged down, and it becomes so serious that you forget to laugh.
My father and I spent 80 per cent of the time laughing. Death has a way of burning away all the bad things, so you realise what is really important. At the end of the day, loving and laughing are what make this whole ride that we have to take together; they... make it bearable.
How do you deal with pain?
My grandmother was always the person that I would go to, to get straightened out emotionally. She was the most devout Christian I have ever met.
My wife Jada (Pinkett) is my greatest emotional confidant. She just gets it, she gets me, she has a beautiful combination of strength and sensitivity.
Do you have a charmed life?
Yeah, that is pretty wrong.
I have had some pretty difficult losses and deaths of different sorts in my life.
My divorce from my first wife was pretty devastating. I was pretty young then.
But I have just been always able to gravitate towards the light. My grandmother used to say that I had the happy gene. My career has been charmed, but my life hasn't been any less difficult than anyone else's.