Both Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been very open about their experience as parents, including when it comes to tough times they’ve experienced while raising their two kids together, Jaden and Willow Smith, and with Will’s son, Trey Smith, from his previous marriage to Sheree Zampino. But that openness doesn’t mean that fans weren’t surprised by the details Will revealed in his memoir.
In Will, the actor shared that his son, Jaden, had asked to be emancipated when he was 15 years old after they made the 2013 movie After Earth. The film was torn apart my critics and didn’t do nearly as well as expected at the box office.
Will shared that he felt responsibility for putting Jaden in a position where he’d receive such harsh criticism, and felt that led to Jaden’s request. Read on to learn more about the experience that Will said “shattered” his heart.
Will and Jaden’s movie was panned.
After Earth, which was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and based on a story by Will, is about a father and son in the far future who crash-land on an evacuated Earth. The film did not go over well with critics or viewers and has a 12 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In 2015, Will called the film “the most painful failure in my career” in an interview with Esquire.
Will felt bad that Jaden was involved.
In his memoir, which was excerpted in People, Will explained that the hardest part of After Earth being criticized was that Jaden had to go through it, too, and that Will was the one responsible for his child being in the movie.
“After Earth was an abysmal box office and critical failure,” Will wrote. “And what was worse was that Jaden took the hit. Fans and the press were absolutely vicious; they said and printed things about Jaden that I refuse to repeat. Jaden had faithfully done everything that I’d instructed him to do, and I had coached him into the worst public mauling he’d ever experienced.”
He said Jaden asked to be emancipated.
Will explained that Jaden asked to be emancipated from him and Jada.
“We never discussed it, but I know he felt betrayed,” Will wrote of the film’s aftermath. “He felt misled, and he lost his trust in my leadership.”
The Oscar winner continued, “At 15 years old, when Jaden asked about being an emancipated minor, my heart shattered. He ultimately decided against it, but it sucks to feel like you’ve hurt your kids.”
Will also opened up in an interview.
In the 2015 interview with Esquire, Will talked about feeling like he had disappointed his son.
Asked if the failure of After Earth was worse than what he experienced with his 1999 movie Wild Wild West, which was also panned, Will said, “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 actor explained that the experience with After Earth changed his perspective on his own life, too. He questioned why he was always after having number one movies and how he was using that to fill a void that could only be filled by love. He also said that after getting the box office numbers, he found out his father had cancer, which “put it in perspective—viciously.”
Jada has also spoken about her son’s emancipation request.
On an episode of Jada’s Red Table Talk in 2018, she was joined by Jaden and talked about him asking to be an emancipated minor.
“At 15 years old, Jaden, and I remember this day specifically—it’s probably one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life—you got to a point where you told me straight up, you were like, ‘Mom, I have to leave here to live my life,'” she said. “I remember thinking to myself, as devastated as I was, I was like, ‘He’s right. The time is now. He’s 15. It’s time for him to leave the house.'”
Jada said that she remembered telling Will when Jaden was a kid that they’d be “lucky” if he wanted to stay with them past 16, because he seemed so mature from a young age.
Jada went on to explain, “Being in this lifestyle, in this world is a bubble and he wanted out. I understood that, because I didn’t have the bubble. I knew what having my freedom outside the bubble what I gained from that. And I knew the sooner I let him go, the faster he was going to come back.”
There were earlier rumors that Jaden wanted to be emancipated.
Just prior to the release of After Earth, The Sun published a quote from Will in which the actor reportedly said that Jaden wanted to be emancipated so he could get his own home.
On an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show not long after, Will and Jaden were interviewed together and Will said that he made a “joke” that was taken out of context.
“See, here’s the thing I need to explain: I’m not going anywhere,” Jaden, then 14, said. “The thing that people don’t get is everything at his house is free. So, I can get anything and everything that I want at his house, so I think I’m going to be there for 20, 30 more years.”
Referring to his dad, he added, “He says as soon as I have a movie that’s bigger than one of his movies, then I have to get my own house.”