Will Smith Thought After Earth Was a Failure, Too

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Will Smith. Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Will Smith is not a fan of After Earth — and yeah, it's probably for all of the reasons you're guessing. In an interview with Esquire, the dad, husband, and actor talked about how he has always been hungry for having No. 1 movies. Although this drive sounds like it could be a good competitive edge, Smith conceded that it has led him to do a handful of poorly executed projects. After Earth, specifically, is his most painful failure thus far, he said, adding:

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. What I learned from that failure is how you win. I got reinvigorated after the failure of After Earth. I stopped working for a year and a half. I had to dive into why it was so important for me to have number-one movies. And I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was fifteen my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one's ever better than me and I'll have the love that my heart yearns for. And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of After Earth, when I had to accept that it's not a good source of creation.

After Earth, however, did have one perk: It taught Smith what he should really be focusing on.

After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective — viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can't win enough, you can't have enough money, you can't succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.