Will Smith shares his parenting philosophy

By Claire Lee

Star of ‘After Earth’ talks about co-starring with his son, Jaden

  • Published : May 7, 2013 - 19:56
  • Updated : May 7, 2013 - 20:56
Working together with his son for a sci-fi movie was a “difficult mental, emotional and spiritual shift” for him, said Hollywood actor and rapper Will Smith in Seoul on Tuesday.

“My most important job was parenting,” said Smith, who visited Seoul with his teenage son, Jaden Smith, to promote their sci-fi thriller “After Earth” ― in which they co-starred as father and son.

“But sometimes parenting conflicts rather aggressively with producing. The greatest challenge for me was overcoming the warrior mindset that I created my career with and to open my heart to the success (of the film) being the growth of my son. It was a difficult shift for me to parent in a place that I consider as my fighting ring.”

This promotional tour marks Will’s third visit to Korea. He was here a year ago ― May 2012 ― to promote “Men in Black 3.”

Throughout the conference, Will and his son Jaden entertained the press with their jocular remarks and humorous asides.

“Working with my dad was awesome because he is like a walking dictionary or big black Yoda (referring to the character in Star Wars),” said Jaden, making the audience laugh.

The film, which Smith describes as a “beautiful father-and-son story” who struggle for survival, features an emotionless commander (Will) and his reckless teenage son (Jaden) who crash land on Earth 1,000 years after a cataclysmic disaster forced humans to flee the planet for good.

Will said the film initially was going to be set in present-day Alaska, featuring the father as a military officer and the son as a troubled teen involved with local gangsters.

“One of the great ideas in the film is that the father, who is the commander, is injured and now he has no choice but to let his child go into the dangers of the world,” said Will.

“That is one of the concepts and one of the beautiful aspects of this film that we wanted to focus on. There comes a point as a parent where you have to let them go. And you have to hope that the lessons that you have instilled and the seeds that you have planted will blossom and flower in the proper moments in their lives.”
American actor and rapper Will Smith (left) and his son Jaden Smith pose during a press conference promoting their film “After Earth” in which they co-starred as the leads, in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

When asked if his father is as cold and strict as the film character in real-life, Jaden said his father is “only acting” in the movie. “Normally he’s just how he is right now,” the 14-year-old said. “He’s really just cool and nice, and forgiving. And he just kind of lets you do what you feel like you need to do if it’s not life or death.”

Meanwhile, Will offered to share his parenting philosophy when he was asked how Jaden is in real life, compared to the young, rebellious film character who, in the questioner’s words, “does not listen to his father.”

“Parenting our children, (my wife and I) expect and demand that they make their own decisions and that they make their own choices and they take responsibility for their lives,” Will said.

“So generally we don’t run into the issues of our children ‘not listening,’ per se, because we are kind of encouraging them to not listen. Jaden is a fairly normal teenager in that he doesn’t necessarily want to do exactly what his parents say. He wants to make his own decisions but he is also very levelheaded. He is very respectful and disciplined. So when I do disagree with him, I trust and respect that if he hurts himself or does something that does not work for him, he’ll make the proper adjustments.”

“After Earth” is the second film that stars Will and Jaden together. The first was their 2006 biographical drama “The Pursuit of Happiness,” based on American philanthropist and motivational speaker Chris Gardner’s nearly one-year struggle with homelessness. The movie won Will Academy and Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for his performance as Gardner.

“I grew up in the family business,” said Will. “So for me, the way I know how to parent is by working in my family business ― which happens to be in the entertainment. I was looking for the opportunity to be able to be with my son everyday, and to work with him and to be able to teach him and learn from him.”

The Smiths, who said they had a “fantastic” time during their visit to YG Entertainment ― where Psy and Big Bang are among its stars ― the night before, were asked to make a Korean-style “pledge” or promise should the film become a hit in Korea.

“You will move out of my house,” Will joked for Jaden, as his son thought about his promise.

“If the movie is a huge, huge, huge success in Korea, I’ll do a record with Psy,” said Will. Jaden said he’d like to make a record with Big Bang’s G-dragon. “After Earth” is in theaters in Korea on May 11.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)