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The reason Jaden Smith was cast in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’

The true story behind Jaden Smith’s role in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’
Jaden Smith
Photo credit: / DFree

Despite assumptions to the contrary, Jaden Smith’s breakout role in the biographical drama The Pursuit of Happyness was not simply handed to him because of his famous father, Will Smith. The film, which depicts the true story of Chris Gardner’s rise from homelessness to success, featured Will Smith as the lead, with Jaden playing his son, Christopher Gardner Jr.

Overcoming the nepotism stigma

Will Smith recently shed light on the casting process during an interview, revealing that the film’s director, Gabriele Muccino, had a difficult time finding the right child actor for the role. Despite auditioning numerous candidates, Muccino was not satisfied until he saw Jaden read for the part, which moved him to tears.

However, the studio was initially resistant to cast Jaden, fearing accusations of nepotism, especially since Will Smith’s production company was involved. To ensure fairness, Will and his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, stepped back from the casting decisions, allowing Jaden to complete an extensive audition process. Jaden’s undeniable talent shone through, and after nine auditions, he finally received the role.

Will Smith’s initial doubts about the film

Will Smith also admitted to having reservations about the film’s potential success. He was skeptical about its appeal compared to his other blockbuster hits. However, guided by his manager’s instincts, Smith accepted the role, and the film was a box office triumph, earning nearly $164 million in North America and securing an Academy Award nomination for Will Smith.

The Pursuit of Happyness not only showcased the talents of the Smith family but also proved that a compelling story, even one as simple as a man’s quest for a job, can resonate with audiences and achieve cinematic success.

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