Earlier this month, Will Smith released his autobiography Will that he co-wrote with author Mark Manson. This 432-page memoir has it all. From stories about his childhood in West Philadelphia to his first Grammy award and successful career in Hollywood, Smith does not hold back on the details.
The book is filled with anecdotes and intimate details of his trauma, his insecurities, and his thirst for attention and performance. He mentions the day he made up his mind not to go to college, his complicated relationship with his father “Daddio,” and even the influence his imaginary friend Magicker has had on his life.
Will is written as if it were a movie. As Smith recounts fights, long-lasting friendships, and his various relationships, there is a sense of drama. He sets the scene, describes the mood, and with a sense of finality, he steers you towards the outcome.
For instance, he writes in his introduction, “My father gave me my name, he gave me his name, and he gave me my greatest advantage in life: my ability to weather adversity. He gave me will.”
His storytelling style is a reminder of the kind of creative artist Smith is today.
Here, Silverscreen India picks five revelations and anecdotes from Will that give us an insight into the life of Will Smith:
1. Will Smith felt insecure about not being able to protect his mother from domestic abuse
Throughout his autobiography, Smith talks about his parents’ tumultuous relationship in great detail. His father was known for his anger issues and was physically abusive towards his mother, Caroline. Smith, who often witnessed the abuse, thought of himself as a coward for not being able to stand up for his mother.
“It became encased in a hard sediment, an unshakable feeling that no matter what I have done, and no matter how successful I have become, no matter how much money I’ve made or how many #1 hits I’ve had or how many box office records I’ve broken, there is that subtle and silent feeling always pulsating in the back of my mind: that I am a coward; that I have failed; that I am sorry, Mom, so sorry,” he writes.
When Smith was 13 years old, his mother made the decision to leave his father and moved in with her mother, Gigi.
2. He hit rock-bottom shortly after winning a Grammy award
After bagging a Grammy award in 1989 in the Best Rap Performance category for the song Parents Just Don’t Understand, Smith (known as Fresh Prince) and his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff were on a career-high. However, the hip-hop duo lost most of the money from their record deal by partying in the Bahamas and not focusing on writing their next album. Consequently, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s following album turned out not so good and their tours drew fewer people. At the same time, Smith failed to pay his taxes and with no money left, the IRS took away his cars and other assets. Shortly after this, Smith also went to jail after his friend/bodyguard got into a fight after a performance.
3. He likens himself to Shah Jahan
It is no secret that Will Smith is a huge fan of India and his daughter Willow has talked about her fascination with Hinduism. Throughout the book, Smith references the Taj Mahal. In one particular chapter, he talks about the time he wanted to buy his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, a 256-acre ranch. He wanted to buy it as a token of his love for her and their family. He compares it to the Taj Mahal, which was a representation of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife, Mumtaz.
“I related to Emperor Shah Jahan – I wanted anything I was involved with to stand the test of time. I wanted everything around me to be the grandest and most magnificent that anyone had ever seen,” he writes.
4. His first romantic relationship began when he was 14
Smith was in a long-term relationship with his high school girlfriend Melanie Parker that began when he was 14. During the initial stages of his music career, Parker was a constant presence in his life. However, their relationship deteriorated after he came back from tour to discover that she had cheated on him. Despite reconciling, things only took a turn for the worse and it culminated in Smith burning all her belongings outside their house. Smith admits that he acted out and reveals that his attempts to reach out to Parker since have been futile.
5. Will Smith felt that his son had lost faith in him after the failure of their film After Earth
Jaden Smith, who was only 15 at the time, asked his parents for emancipation shortly after the release of the 2013 film After Earth. Directed by M Night Shyamalan, the movie which starred both Jaden and Will Smith, was critically panned. Following this, Will recounts, Jaden felt betrayed by his father as he had done everything that he was coached to do only to see fans and critics tear him apart for the film’s failure. Speaking of this experience, Will wrote, “But at fifteen years old, when Jaden asked about being an emancipated minor, my heart shattered. He ultimately decided against it, but it sucks when you hurt your kids.”