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Will Smith Says Press Was ‘Vicious’ to His Son Over ‘After Earth’ Failure: I Led Him Into ‘Public Mauling’

"We never discussed it, but I know he felt betrayed," Will Smith said of bringing son Jaden into "After Earth."

"After Earth"

“After Earth”

Everett Collection

It’s a great time to be Will Smith. The actor is a frontrunner to land an Oscar nomination for his performance in “King Richard,” opening in theaters and streaming on HBO Max beginning November 19, and he has a new memoir titled “Will” that’s generating a ton of buzz and is now available for purchase. One of the more candid moments of the memoir comes when Smith reveals that his son, Jaden, asked to be emancipated from his parents at 15 years old following the critical and box office failure of “After Earth.” The 2013 M. Night Shyamalan film was based on Will’s original idea and was anticipated for reuniting Will and Jaden on screen for the first time since “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which earned Will an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

“‘After Earth’ was an abysmal box office and critical failure,” Will writes in his memoir (via People). “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.”

“We never discussed it, but I know he felt betrayed. He felt misled, and he lost his trust in my leadership,” Smith continues. “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.”

“After Earth” is set in the 31st century and casts Will and Jaden as a military general and his son, respectively. The two crash land on post-apocalyptic Earth and must fight to survive on the now-hostile planet. Critics tore the film apart when it opened in May 2013. “After Earth” boasts an 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the worst-reviewed Will Smith movies to date.

Following the release of “After Earth,” Jaden has yet to return to making a studio-backed Hollywood tentpole. The young actor took a five-year movie hiatus before taking a supporting role in the Sundance favorite “Skate Kitchen.” His most recent film, “Life in a Year,” opened in 2020. Jaden’s most notable screen role is a series regular gig on Netflix’s “The Get Down,” which aired from 2016 to 2017.

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