Will Smith Calls ‘After Earth’ the ‘Most Painful Failure’ of His Career

Will Smith has opened up about “After Earth,” the 2013 sci-fi film in which his son Jaden Smith also starred, calling it the “most painful failure” of his career.

The comment, in an interview with Esquire, came after the reporter referenced a “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” quote from Smith’s TV aunt, who advised his character on an episode, “Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart.”

“That was a valuable lesson for me a few years ago with ‘After Earth,'” Smith said. “That was the most painful failure in my career.”

The Sony/Columbia pic, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, made $27 million on opening weekend and grossed a global $243 million on a reported production budget of $130 million. In comparison, in 2008, “Hancock,” the Smith-starring fantasy drama from Sony/Columbia, raked in $624 million globally and made $62 million on opening weekend. His rom-com “Hitch” made $368 globally and $43 million on opening weekend.

Smith said “Wild Wild West,” a pic that also opened with $27 million, was still a better experience.

“‘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,” the 46-year-old said. Then he contemplated the importance of having films that topped box office charts.

“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.”

Smith said when he received box office numbers the following Monday, he was “devastated for about 24 minutes,” and shortly after, he received a call that his father had cancer. “That put it in perspective — viciously.”

After a 90-minute treadmill session immediately following the news, Smith had an epiphany.

“That Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole,” Smith said. “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.”

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  1. I know Will Smith will never read this, but, his approach to life, and the way he adapts to it is inspiring. I really love almost everything he has done. I love watching intelligent people express themselves. It is truly sad how many of the population are extremely petty and selfish. I would not mind if the will smiths of the world had all the power. I am sure that the world would be a much better place.
    Standing back and looking at what is going on all over the world, it strikes me as extremely depressing that the world has so much, but distributes it so poorly!
    Love is very important, as is respect and honesty. Many have more of it than I do, but many have far less as well. Still, when you need it and actually receive it, it is the best thing in the world. I think Will realizes and understands that.—Good on you Will Smith!!!
    With Love and respect — STEVE

  2. Liam Harddie says:

    I absolutely loved it! It might have been a financial flop, but come on, your RICH Will! I liked it
    I’d give it a solid 8/10

  3. Mike Arnold says:

    Just saw this movie for the first (and second) time yesterday, and hopefully many more times too! As a Sci-Fi movie it is certainly well up there with the best. Very entertaining and well acted. A refreshing change to the current super-hero trend.

  4. Johnnie says:

    One of the few movie’s i’ve enjoyed watching over and over.
    The changes to earth is a little far out there!
    But have to keep the suspense

  5. Bliz says:

    U can just hear the pseudo new age scientology personal growth rhetoric spewing out smith’s hack mouth…after earth failed because of his untalented brat son, not because of will

  6. Feminism is disease says:

    Yeah it was painful for us too Will, I bet the most painful part was realizing your kid sucks

  7. Esther Castillo says:

    Mr. Will Smith I enjoyed ur movie After Earth… Just like I enjoy all ur movies… I think ur just great keep up the good work.. And never ever doubt ur self… Your a great actor.. Take care God bless

  8. Rodney Washington says:

    Don’t beat yourself up will brush it off I’m proud to see you you and your son act together I’m a Syfi fan and I love the movie yes it could have been written a bit better would love to have seen more humans and a better plot I’m about to watch it again for the fifth time I loved it

  9. Den says:

    Everyone in this world goes through what will smith went through Except that he did it as a millionaire

    I am boycotting all will smith films and all Jaden Smith films He was a star at one time but not so much now destroyed his Fanbase when he wanted to boycott the Academy Awards

    Gr eat actors are not necessarily stars. Will Smith’s acting always suckEd. I cringed at his overacting in legend been one of my favorite books

    His feeling of entitlement made a certain rate actor think you should get an Academy award His acting and concussion sucked

  10. DARLEEN says:

    I can’t see how this is possible I loved the movie! I just don’t know why Will Smith would consider this a failure was anything, but a failure I watched this movie over and over and over and over every chance I got every time that movie came on I wanted to see it over and over and over I loved it!

    • jennifereck says:

      I totally. I absolutely loved the movie. I thought Jaden was incredible, and Will was very strong. I loved the suspense, music, cinematography, script, the life lessons — everything really. It may have been a financial “failure” because of his past success, but if I were him, I would be very proud of it, and proud of the father/son experience he created with his son that he’ll cherish for a lifetime. I’ve watched it several times.

    • Janice says:

      I absolutely agree. I loved it. I am watching it for the second time this month.

  11. often says:

    vine vera skin care cost

  12. jel888JL says:

    I’ve watch this movie about twice to three times a year since it came out. I’ve only done that for a few movies: Star Trek (2009), Mulan (yes the Disney flick), and a few others. And why, because they have something deep that touches you despite any other imperfections in acting about father-child relationships. And I also like the unique sci-fi premise of returning to an Earth previously decimated by humans to be reborn to something splendid, though dangerous. And the bird covering Jaden scene, (yes though a sappy touch) shows that all isn’t lost, even Earth (God?) forgave and helped him attain his mission. So I must be one of the rare many (yes, I mean that a little sarcastically) who bought the movie and helped make it do well in DVD sales, which I heard it has.

  13. Ahntara Mller says:

    It’s great that he experienced a cathartic emotional awakening. But really, if he had just insisted on a better script and went with a different director, it might not have been such a stinker. M. Night Shyamalan, really? He hasn’t made a good movie since Sixth Sense. At least one of the Pinketts created as producers should have exercised better judgment.

  14. Klar, warum nicht, komm doch herein!, vernahm ich ihre Stimme.

  15. Tracie Murrell says:

    $243 million worldwide is a flop? Some actors would kill for this! Lol

  16. Marie says:

    I’m sorry for not understanding this but I don’t see what the big fuss is…..? It made a lot more than its budget and a lot of people enjoyed the movie.

  17. jaystonesmusic says:

    after earth exemplified greatness. whatchutalkn bout will

  18. I think wills son was great to
    Don’t down your self. I’ve been praying for you to that will turns his talents. To Give God all the Glory and mr smiths family
    Also. Love u all

  19. I loved it. I love all will smith move is plus fresh prince. Cuz my son jose is another will l love will that this 71 year old (sickly) woman mother been wanting to meet will smith and my son jose to meet him. Any one out there can help me to meet will. Mr will has greatly helped me with my mental disease with his fresh prince. I don’t have cable now so I can’t watch it any more. I need help to meet him

  20. Michael Osborn says:

    Me and my seven year old son watched it in the theaters . He loved it ! I didn’t think it was that bad either .

  21. Hector says:

    Well its better then the scorpion kink lol

  22. I think he’s pretty sharp to get that lesson in 90 minutes!

  23. Jeff says:

    What an egotistical jagoff! He’s only just now learning that ‘lesson’ after a film didn’t well at the box office. Yikes – I think Will needs more than a 90 minutes treadmill session to clear that head of his.

    • Mike says:

      Don’t be such a condescending prick. He’s a human just like any of us and it takes different things for different people to awaken their love in the world. It wasn’t just the box office failure it was hearing his father was diagnosed with cancer that put things in perspective. He learned and it changed him and that’s a good positive thing, don’t debase him just because it took longer than your standards seem to allow for… He’s just a human being like any of us and better late than never. it would appear that you still have some growing up to do as well :p

  24. filmsharks says:

    It was painful for the audience too. Lesson learned… nepotism is never a good idea.

  25. Despite what people say, I liked the movie and the overall concept behind it. When I go to the movies I go to be entertained (not with an agenda) and I was. I think some people dislike a movie out of hand (because of the director, or the actor is being an actor instead of his most common persona, etc..) instead of letting the movie just be and judging it own its merits. I’ve seen some movies that bored me enough to get me to leave the theater early or spent time looking to see how much longer before the movie is over. This was neither of those. Could it have been better, yes. But to be fair most movies (including those raved about) could be. That’s my two cents.

  26. After earth was an excellent and amazing movie myself and my fiance enjoyed thoroughly. Mr. Smith shouldn’t gauge his movies by box office whims, but by the art and impact of the film. Films entertain, bring us joy, and spark ideas. Hancock I thought was trite and horrible, though had a novel if poorly executed concept. “After earth” was a heartwarming story with a consistent and epic sci-fi vision. The chemistry between Will and his son instantly made the movie far better than it would have been otherwise and truly it moved me to tears, and filled my head with all manner of creative fruit. Somebody needs to let Mr. Smith know he can’t let other people decide his success, and certainly shouldn’t listen to the box-office, they have HATED some of the greatest films in the world. Not everyone is rich, not everyone can stomach reading the Odyssey, and likewise many, many, MANY people have no idea what a good movie is, even when it’s right in front of their face, but will shell out money over and over again for something that is a pile of artless, soulless, crap cobbled together by board members and focus groups to take stupid people’s money instead of improving our culture and human condition.

    In short, After Earth was an excellent movie that absolutely succeeded at what a film is supposed to do: be an inspiring and moving piece of art, and nobody should be ashamed of bringing their son along to be a part of something so wonderful as that.

  27. Amie says:

    I enjoyed that movie. The dollar amount earned has nothing to do with how good the movie was. There were other movies people wanted to see more and probably planned on waiting for After Earth to come out on DVD. My husband and I saw it in the theater and never considered it a failure. There are plenty of movies we saw in the theater that were great disappointments and this was not one of them.

  28. Maria says:

    It is a shame that he feels that movie was a failure – I loved it! The relationship between the father and son characters and in particular the climactic moment where his son conquers his fears and transforms himself into a warrior, is one of the best father and son movies ever. I say “Great Job” – I was in tears watching it as I felt that both characters’ efforts to control their emotions made it that much more emotional. Had I not seen this article I would not have known it was considered to be such a failure – but not in this fan’s eyes.

  29. iva says:

    i understand wanting what you worked so hard on might not of been the best you thought should of you are blessed with so many movies that were great and a family who are also blessed with such talent and i feel bad because of all the families who try the best and work so hard and yet they can’t hardly put a roof over their heads or decent clothes on their children so they won’t be teased or to have enough food in the house so that they can get thru the week wondering if they will make it and i am not talking people who are on assistance i am talking the average two job families who cry in silence but yet give their children a kiss and hug and always show the a smile and tell them that they are loved that to me is much important than the failure of a movie

  30. Gabriel says:

    Having always had a great respect for Will Smith. I find his comments regarding “After Earth” to be very sad. I thought the move (including the Smith family performances) to be excellent.

  31. I hope that Will Smith sees this – I thought that After Earth had a few flaws but was overall a very good film. I also thought that Jaden did a wonderful job acting in the film. He had to show a wide range of emotions through the movie. It may have been a box office failure but I do not think that this means it is a bad film. The film was not a failure, the marketing and positioning of the movie was a failure.

  32. Herb says:

    The movie was very disappointing. I went to see a Will Smith movie. I did not. I saw a Jaden Smith movie. If you want to make something to star your kid and boost him off in Hollywood, say so in advance. if you had said “This really isn’t about me, it is about getting my kid started in motion pictures” the sales would have been far worse. The actual movie wasn’t that bad. The effects were OK and the story was alright. It was just the fact of watching a kid for 90 minutes when we came to watch Will Smith.

  33. somerandomguy2332 says:

    Here’s a hint smith. I like your movies and I grew up on your show. But when you decide to partner up with rich socialist globalist to make a film that aims to kill jobs and steal people’s lively hoods in exchange for public transportation and retail jobs…. I’m not watching that trash nor am I going to support the people trying to heard us either.

  34. Tre says:

    A quick google image search proves Jaden Smith owns at least six shirts.

  35. Rycast says:

    Yeah, the only movie of Sham-a-lot’s that I can think of that did fairly well was Signs.

  36. Thor says:

    Most of M. Night Shyamalan movies are nothing but bombs, surprised that Will even would put his son through such an ordeal for a mediocre director

  37. Maybe if his hack son wasn’t in it….

  38. Ray Stone says:

    I liked the movie I guess if your not making millions an millions then you think the movie is a flop

  39. joe says:

    because a movie doesn’t bring in the dollars like you would want,it doesn’t mean it was bad,the movie was actually good,but doesn’t appeal to all audiences ,i actually enjoyed the movie.this is way critics cannot make a good view on a movie if they don’t like every type (action,sci-fi,drama,etc.) how can any critic do this,unless they are an expert on the subject,sci-fi is just that –if you don’t really care to much for it-then don’t rate it—and then what else was playing at the theater that weekend,wil is just upset that the movie did poorly ,it wasn’t a bad movie—sci-fi isn’t for all….

  40. Mark says:

    I liked the movie. Not every story has to be epic.

  41. Chuck Zigman says:

    I didn’t see the movie, but how can Smith feel like it’s a failure if he (presumably) made millions of dollars to be in it? I call that a winner!

  42. D F Bonnett says:

    I didn’t care much for the movie. It seemed to be just a vehicle for his son. I’ve also seen him in a remake of the Karate Kid. While I’m sure he is a fine young man, I don’t think acting is a viable option for his future.

  43. Cathy Rogers says:

    Still a great movie for watching at home and if you had a great experience with your son it was worth a learning moment and memories that last forever.

  44. robertjm says:

    While I wouldn’t say his particular role was stellar since his character was NOT the focus of the flick, I thought Jaden did a decent enough job with what was given him.

  45. pnyc says:

    It wasn’t bad at all. Try watching John Carter for a truly painful scifi experience.

  46. marvin matney says:

    Sorry but it was a pretty awful movie. I know its his son but the kid cant act. The story line had some promise but despite some decent effects it had the feel of a B movie. Just bad.

  47. Bill Strouse says:

    Sorry Will, but the movie was painful to watch, too. Mega CGI and blue screening do not a good movie make. Also, you might want to star someone with more acting chops than your son…….

  48. asher2789 says:

    “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.”

    thank god he met jada or he’d be a mess in relationships for thinking that way. people cheat all the time, and its not because you’re not #1, its because they suck as people.

    • Silver says:

      Is it really untrue? Will Smith could be consider the number one best actor in the world, and to my knowledge Jada have not cheated on him.

  49. szhooper says:

    I thought it was really good! Really different take on SciFi, Will and his son have NOTHING to be ashamed of with the movie.

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