Even though a thousand years from now in “After Earth” humans are hunted and killed by hideous aliens, there was joy all around Sony’s environmentally green, not red, carpet at the May 29 Ziegfeld premiere in Gotham.
“I’m a fan of the director,” he said of M. Night Shyamalan, his “Sixth Sense” helmer. “That was a pretty good film and I’m just excited to see this.”
Willis has “Red 2” due in August, “But I’m unemployed now. Until September. Then I’m going to work.”
The movie? “It’s called ‘Death Wish.’”
Did Shyamalan find it tough to start at the top with “Sixth Sense”?
“I wish that’s where I started,” he said with a laugh. “I had two failed movies before that.”
Variety noted that the “After Earth” poster doesn’t bear the filmmaker’s name after a series of B.O. disappointments. Does he see this as a comeback?
“I didn’t know I went anywhere,” he answered, laughing again. “No, it’s a very cool opportunity. What I’ve learned is you have to set expectations correct when it’s an original movie. So I had the perfect opportunity with Will and Jaden, and in my mind I said to the studio, ‘I want the campaign to be ‘Pursuit of Happyness Part 2.’ I want to make sure the two of them are on the poster. I don’t want the public to think of it as a Will movie and I don’t want them to think of it as me doing it with Will.’”
Smith had dreamed up the pic’s premise while his son was filming “Karate Kid” in China.
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“I was talking with Will and I told him what a great actor Jaden was in ‘Karate Kid,’ he had beautiful colors,” Shyamalan said. “And he told me, ‘I have this idea,’ and he pitched this story. I said I’m directing it — and he thought I was kidding. I like a simple story without the razzle-dazzle, really it’s a personal story. This is an emotional father-son story.”
An antagonistic one very unlike the really close relationship this father and son have as the two survive a crash with the dad injured and the son forced to battle aliens and get rescued.
“Actually, my first draft they were hating each other from beginning to end,” Shyamalan revealed. “Then we slowly brought it back and now they have the tension relationship.”
Will Smith made the role sound easy: “I was injured so I prepared by just laying around a lot. I did a lot of eating. Jaden had the hard part.”
“I had four months of training before the movie,” Jaden said. “I gained 20 pounds and grew four inches taller. I did running, swimming, rowing, lifting, all kinds of training hard-core.”
How different was working with his dad on this outing?
“This time was more of a collaboration,” he said.
“By ‘collaboration’ he means he doesn’t do what I say as much as he used to,” Will interjected. “That’s a euphemism for collaboration.”
Post-screening, the crowd ventured downtown to Rooftop at the Standard.