In December he teamed up with his son, Jaden, for his latest critical and commercial hit, "The Pursuit of Happyness," which makes it's way to stores today, reports The Early Show entertainment contributor and People magazine Assistant Managing Editor Jess Cagle.
"The Pursuit of Happyness" has earned close to $300 million dollars worldwide and earned Smith his second Oscar nomination. Some people left the theater in tears but also inspired by its hopeful message.
"I had a lot of ... emotional and artistic experiences on this film," Smith said. "There are ideas at the — the core of this film that are in sync with things that I believe and things that I think and things that I feel."
"The Pursuit of Happyness" was inspired by the true story of Chris Gardener, who Smith plays. Gardener was a single dad forced into homelessness while trying to climb the corporate ladder. There's a pivotal scene where Gardner is forced to spend the night with his son in a subway restroom. For Smith, that put the film into perspective.
"The big thing was actually layin' down on that floor and havin' my real son my lap," he said. "And no acting necessary. The feeling of parental failure that must wash over you — and with Chris Gardner, he actually walked me through, the first time I was in the bathroom I went with Chris. And we stood in that bathroom together for about a half an hour ... I felt like ghosts were jumpin' out of the walls into my body. And when I — when I came out of that bathroom, I understood what it — what it took to, to be Chris Gardner."
The film's title comes from the Bill of Rights promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no matter what your age, gender or race
"You look at the film and there's distinctly no reference to racism," Smith said. "And that was a, a Chris Gardner thing. He said, you know, there probably was racism. But he believed that the acknowledgement of the obstacle, the acknowledgement of the boundary in almost a quantum physics kind of sense, the acknowledgement of the boundary actually creates the boundary. And he had an idea of who he wanted to be. And he was gonna be that person."
Gardener's philosophy has inspired Smith to be the best he can.
"I want the world to be better because I was here," he said. "It's a whole lot easier to make the world worse, you know? The only gift that I've been given is my artistry. And I'm so excited about this project because to be able to take that artistry, and even if it's one moment, if it helps one person stand up for one day that would have been the end ... they see this and it just gives them that one little step forward. To be able to inspire with — with my artistry is just — is actor's nirvana."
Next up for Smith is the big budget thriller "I Am Legend," which co-stars his daughter, Willow.