Will Smith (52 today) has had some phenomenally successful popcorn blockbusters throughout his career, usually full to the brim with aliens, action and guns, but perhaps his best work is the smaller-scale and much more poignant The Pursuit of Happyness. The Gabriele Muccino-directed biopic was released in 2006 (to the chagrin of spell-checking software everywhere) and continued Smith’s streak of films opening at #1 and earning over $100 million in the US. Smith was joined by his real-life son Jaden who played his on-screen son. An inspirational story with great acting and memorable moments (the interview scene and sleeping in the subway toilet stand out) The Pursuit of Happyness will leave you with a renewed sense of inspiration (or just a good time watching a good film).
But did you know…
1) The story is based on the life of Chris Gardner, who struggled with homelessness while raising his young son, before becoming a successful stockbroker. In 2006 Gardner published his autobiography, ultimately worked as an associate producer on the film, and even has a small cameo at the end of the film. However, the film did fictionalise and exaggerate some moments from the film for the purpose of Hollywood storytelling.
2) In the film, Gardner famously solves a Rubik’s Cube to prove he is fit for a stockbroker’s job. Will Smith actually had to learn speedcubing for the film and was trained by speedcubing champions Tyson Mao, Toby Mao, and Lars Petrus. He even proved he is able to solve a Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes in various interviews on-air.
3) While filming in San Francisco, the production employed over 200 homeless people, hiring them as extras and paying them a full day’s wage at $8.62 an hour. For many, it was the first paycheck they’d received in a while, and in addition to money, they also gained confidence and self-esteem. “Just working for a few hours reminds you that maybe someday you can get your butt out of the TL (Tenderloin), off the street, do something else with your life,” said one extra.