After Earth
Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith starred in the 2013 flop "After Earth." Will Smith now reveals the film's poor performance forced him to rethink his career approach. Reuters

Will Smith is making a return to theaters after a year-and-a-half break with the release of the film “Focus” Feb. 27. With the actor back in the limelight, he revealed he’s a new man after the “painful failure” that was the 2013 movie “After Earth.”

Speaking to an Esquire reporter, the 46-year-old actor was reminded of some advice Daphne Reid gave him as her character Aunt Viv on Smith’s smash hit situation-comedy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Smith said the counsel, “Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart,” helped him get through the fallout of “After Earth.”

According to Variety, the 2013 film, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, made $27 million during its opening weekend and went on to gross only $243 million worldwide. With a reported budget of $130 million, the movie was the actor’s second-biggest flop of all time.

The biggest flop for Smith came in 1999 with the release of “Wild Wild West.” The comedy/western also opened at $27 million in its first weekend, while grossing only $222 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Still, Smith said the sting of “After Earth” hurt worse.

“‘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,” Smith said.

The actor later went on to say he heard the news about the poor performance of “After Earth” about 20 minutes before learning his father had cancer. That’s when Smith said he decided to approach his career with a new attitude.

Previously, the actor said he’d sought out roles that would make him No. 1, such as in “Hitch,” “I Am Legend” and “I, Robot.” His hope was to force people to love him through his work. However, after the failure of his role opposite his son, Jaden Smith, he re-evaluated that career approach.

“And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole,” Smith told Esquire. “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.”

Since adopting that new philosophy, Smith hasn’t had any leading roles. He has made small appearances in both “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” and “Winter’s Tale.” Although he’s cast as a lead in the film “Suicide Squad” to be released by DC Comics next year, his role in “Focus,” in which he plays a veteran con artist who meets a young and attractive amateur (Margot Robbie) for whom he develops romantic feelings, will mark Smith’s grand return to the big screen.