Will Smith isn’t holding back in his bravely inspiring new memoir.
In his deeply personal and vulnerable book “Will” (Penguin Press, 432 pp., out now), the Academy Award-nominated actor details his life both in and out of the spotlight, from his early rap career in Philadelphia to his troubled relationship with his abusive father. With the help of author Mark Manson (“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”), Smith reflects on the pivotal highlights of his impressive career (such as meeting Nelson Mandela and being selected by executive producer Steven Spielberg to star in 1997’s “Men in Black”) without failing to share his lowest moments as a celebrity, father, son and husband.
“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,” Smith writes in the introduction. “He gave me will.”
An ultimately heartwarming read, “Will” provides a humane glimpse of the man behind the actor, producer and musician, as he bares all his insecurities and trauma.
Will Smith contemplated suicide for the first time at 13
Smith says he contemplated killing himself only two times in his life: the first was when his mom left their abusive household.
The actor says he witnessed his abusive father, Willard Carroll Smith Sr., punch and beat his mother Caroline Bright in multiple instances in their Philadelphia home. The last time was when he was 13.
“She’d had enough,” he writes. “She went to work the next morning and didn’t come home. She didn’t go far – just a few blocks to (grandmother) Gigi’s house – but the message was clear: She was done.”
Overwhelmed with guilt and loneliness, Smith admits he considered killing himself but stopped when he thought about his grandmother Gigi, whom he calls his “moral compass.”
“I thought about pills; I knew where a boy had lost his legs on the train tracks; I had seen people cut their wrists in a bathtub on TV. But what kept ringing in my mind was a faint memory of hearing Gigi say that killing yourself was a sin.”
Later in the book, Smith elaborates on his father’s abuse, admitting that he once contemplated murdering him during his cancer battle.
‘A darkness arose within me’:Will Smith writes of abusive dad, wanting to ‘avenge’ his mom
“As a child I’d always told myself that I would one day avenge my mother. That when I was big enough, when I was strong enough, when I was no longer a coward, I would slay him.”
Smith continues: “I paused at the top of the stairs. I could shove him down, and easily get away with it. … As the decades of pain, anger, and resentment coursed then receded, I shook my head and proceeded to wheel Daddio to the bathroom.”
Jaden Smith was almost named Luigi
When Will and Jada’s first child together, Jaden, was born, the “I Am Legend” star wanted his son Trey (with first wife Sheree Zampino) to name the new baby. Why? Because according to their psychologist, having Trey involved in the naming process “would create a sense of ownership and connection” between the blended families.
However, Smith recalls being shocked by the 6-year-old’s firm choice: Luigi.
“Jada and I look to each other in abject horror, both of us thinking the exact same thing: Have you ever met a (expletive) named Luigi?”
Luckily, the Smiths were able to convince Trey to name their dog Luigi instead. The trio then picked one name each for the baby. Will chose Jaden, Jada chose Syre and Trey chose Christopher: Jaden Christopher Syre Smith.
Jada and Tupac Shakur’s friendship elicited ‘raging jealousy’ from Will
It’s well known that Jada grew up with rapper Tupac Shakur, both having attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as teens. However, this “legendary” friendship was difficult for an “insecure” Smith to grasp.
“In the beginning of our relationship, my mind was tortured by their connection. He was ‘PAC! I was me,” he writes. “He triggered the perception of myself as a coward. I hated that I wasn’t what he was in the world, and I suffered a raging jealousy. I wanted Jada to look at me like that.”
Smith admits he felt “a twisted kind of victory” when Jada eventually spent less time with Shakur and more time with him during their relationship. However, he acknowledges this insecurity was the reason he and Shakur were unable to become friends despite being in the same room on multiple occasions.
“The way Jada loved ‘Pac rendered me incapable of being friends with him. I was too immature.”
‘How do you put up with Will?’:Jada Pinkett Smith looks back on marriage for 50th birthday
Will Smith paid his father’s child support
Smith’s parents were separated for nearly 20 years before his mother officially filed for divorce in 1997. It was a surprise to Smith’s father when she finally signed the divorce papers – as was the nearly $140,000 he owed in back child support. It was a sum “Daddio” could not afford.
“I was stuck,” Smith writes. “Daddio didn’t have $140,000, and Mom-Mom was unwilling to make any concession whatsoever. And there was no version of me letting my father go to jail.”
So, in what he calls “an underhanded, Ponzi-style backdoor deal,” Smith transferred the money into his father’s account and paid his debt, making him “the first person in the history of Pennsylvania to pay his own child support.”
However, his mother eventually found out and “was pissed,” writing him a check for $140,000.
Will Smith says losing dispute with ‘Bad Boys’ director Michael Bay catapulted his career
In his early career, Smith describes himself as fairly slim, lanky and uncomfortable with his body until he bulked up for his role as Detective Mike Lowrey in the 1995 film “Bad Boys.” But when director Michael Bay demanded his character chase a car on foot – shirtless – Smith adamantly refused.
“I wasn’t yet secure with my new body. The thought of standing around all day with no shirt on intimidated me,” Smith recalled.
After multiple arguments, the two eventually landed on a compromise: Smith would wear an unbuttoned shirt instead – a decision he says made him into “a (expletive) movie star.”
“Up until this point in my life, I had used comedy to attract women. And now I was being objectified. It was wonderful,” he writes. “All I could think was, OK, Michael Bay, you were right, I was wrong. Thank you.”
If you or someone you know may be struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.
Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they text “HOME” to 741741.