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Will Smith Talks Collateral Beauty

Dec 12, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

In the new holiday film Collateral Beauty (note: this “beauty” is the joy eventually achieved after going through pain or loss), fave actor Will Smith plays Howard, a go-getter businessman who can’t get his life together after a great personal loss. As a form of therapy, he writes letters to Death, Love and Time. He and others meet human personifications of these three things and Howard’s life is changed for the better.

Will as Howard using dominos as therapyWill as Howard using dominos as therapyCourtesy of Warner Bros.

In this recent interview, Will shared that his dad was very sick during production of the film and that Will’s research into the deep themes of time, life and death, helped him and his dad, who has since died, get through a difficult time. Will also shares his favorite holiday films, dealing with having a teen daughter, now that Willow has turned sixteen and much more! Be inspired by what Will says.

Q: Will, what drew you to playing Howard?

  • Will: When I first read the screenplay it spoke to that Christmas flavor that I remember growing up like It’s a Wonderful Life those types of films that are right on the edge of fantasy with that Christmas magic to it. Right on the edge but dealing with things that are deeply and powerfully real and human. I loved that this was a guy who had the world on a string.
  • Everything was perfect then he suffered a loss and had to make his way back to even believing there was a possibility to have joy again. He had to move from thinking he could solve all the issues of life with his mind to accepting that there is a certain amount of bleeding that you have to do to be able to purge and cleanse yourself to be able to experience joy.

Will as Howard with Helen Mirren as DeathWill as Howard with Helen Mirren as DeathCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: We’ve all experienced loss in life. Now that the film is over would you change anything in the way you personally take loss in future?

  • Will: During the time of working on the film, my father was diagnosed with cancer and he was given six weeks during the process so it was a truly beautiful time for he and I because I was in Howard’s mind studying and reading all of the different religious basis to find an answer as to how we recover from this kind of loss and I was sharing that with my father through the experience.

Will as Howard in great painWill as Howard in great painCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What did you read?

  • Will: Everything from the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” to Elizabeth Kubler Ross. I read everything that you could possibly (check out) to deal with the inevitable pain of death and I was able to do that as Howard but also be able to share and work on that with my father. How do you deal with death and loss? It was the perfect life/art confluence and, for me, I hope people can feel the depth and power of what’s going on in the film. I am forever changed from working on “Collateral Beauty”.

Will as Howard with co-worker Whit (Edward Norton)Will as Howard with co-worker Whit (Edward Norton)Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Which of the elements; Time, Love or Death would be the most difficult or most painful to deal with?

  • Will: Nothing tortures me more than love. There is nothing in life that I experience more pain around than love. Even in dealing with my father’s passing, what comes back to me and how I react to that is saying to Jada (his wife), “Jada, you not loving me enough!” It’s like “Listen, if we are gonna die, we need to spend more time together”. It’s the craving for love for me is far beyond the loss of death and beyond the punishment of time.

Will with Kate Winslet and Michael Pena from the castWill with Kate Winslet and Michael Pena from the castCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Will, you’ve done some bad boy roles. Are you transitioning to more emotional roles now?

  • Will: I think as I’m having more life experiences, they enable me to connect to different, more complex, deeper human emotions. My daughter (Willow) just turned sixteen so I watched my sixteen-year-old daughter drive away from the house with her driver’s license so that’s like “My youngest child is sixteen!” so now I’m open to be able to deliver unique and different-textured performances of a father with a sixteen-year-old daughter.
  • I released my first record in 1986 and I was a kid so the things I was doing then had a beautiful, youthful exuberance to them and I try to maintain some piece of that but who I am and how I live on a daily basis is more complex than the “Fresh Prince” so I’m just trying to be brave enough to not cling backwards. I want to be able to courageously go forward to find those new things and deliver those new ideas.

Will as Howard with Time (Jacob Latimore)Will as Howard with Time (Jacob Latimore)Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Will, when will you return to music and what is your favorite holiday song?

  • Will: I always record. I probably have sixty records that I recorded but it’s about  finding that thing that really feels like it’s going to deliver the truth of what I want to say so I just haven’t hit that record. I’ve been in the studio with everybody. I’m just looking for finding that way back in.
  • My favorite holiday song? What’s that record with Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong? (He sings) “I really can’t stay. Baby it’s cold outside”. I love that record. I’ve been begging Jada for years “Baby, that has to be our Christmas card. We’ll just lip-sync that record”. That one really sets me into the Christmas spirit.

Keira Knightley as Love with WillKeira Knightley as Love with WillCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What is the collateral beauty that Howard finally finds?

  • Will: Howard had to let his sorrow go and when he finally had the opportunity to just release and let it all go, the collateral beauty was the joy that he was ultimately seeking in the first place. It was this opportunity to be with this woman in a more profound, more authentic way than he had ever dreamed possible. There’s a certain amount of suffering you have to go through with a person to experience the kind of love that we all crave. The collateral beauty is on the other side.
  • There is a wonderful quote from Khalil Gibran that I love that says “Pain is the knife that hollows us out so that we can hold more joy”. I thought that’s such an interesting idea that you suffer that pain and you are torn open for the purpose of being able to hold more light and joy and positivity.

Q: Howard faces tragedy but his life changes after meeting three people. Can you think of any life-changing moment in your life?

  • Will: I’ve had huge life-changing moments, again, all centered around love. I’m a serious hopeless romantic. I think the greatest experience of love I’ve ever had was when my daughter was born. I remember when Willow was born I sat down with Jada and just looking at the two of them I was just full as I ever have been. That was the maximum amount of love I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was the safest and purest and happiest that I’ve ever been in my life and I think, subconsciously, I chase that (feeling) every day of my life.

Collateral Beauty PosterCollateral Beauty PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

See Collateral Beauty in theaters this Friday, December 16th!


Have Your Say

Are you a Will Smith fan? Do you like life-affirming holiday films? Talk about it with a comment below!