Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Will
Smith shows that where there's a will there's Chris Gardner, in "The Pursuit of HappYness"

Chris Gardner (left) and Will Smith in discussion on "The Pursuit of Happyness" set in San Francisco, on the day before Halloween in 2005.  Smith plays Gardner, whose real-life story of once-homeless existence in San Francisco to multi-millionaire stockbroker and businessman inspires Gabriele Muccino's film, which made more than $163 million at the box-office in North America.  The film which opened in the U.S. and Canada on December 15, 2006, was released in both countries on DVD on March 27, 2007.  (Photo: Sony Pictures)

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

The road to happiness is paved with good intentions -- or something like that -- so goes the saying.  Columbia Pictures' "The Pursuit Of Happyness" dazzled the box-office in the U.S. and Canada last December and by mid-January was already heading towards the $200 million mark (it settled at just over $163 million.)  Gabriele Muccino's film was headlined by Will Smith, who garnered his second Academy Award nomination as lead actor, playing Chris Gardner in the real life story of Mr. Gardner's rise from homelessness as a single father in San Francisco to become a multi-million dollar stockbroker-businessman.

The film is inspired by Chris Gardner's autobiographical book "The Pursuit Of Happyness", with the word "happiness" deliberately misspelled for reasons explained in both the book and in the film, which was released in North America on DVD and Blu-Ray disc on March 27.  The book is a compelling, powerful, uplifting, miraculous, agonizing journey of an amazing life.  Had Mr. Muccino, producers Todd Black, Will Smith and James Lassiter and the film's writer decided to make the film a "based on" rather than an "inspired by" Mr. Gardner's book, the film would have received an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, instead of the PG-13 rating it got when it was released last year.  Next to the book, the film, which was reviewed by The Popcorn Reel last December on its opening day in the U.S. and Canada, plays like a G-rated children's story.

Will Smith was challenged each day on the set of the film, which was filmed mostly in San Francisco in 2005, not only by the demands of getting the portrayal of Chris Gardner as accurate as possible, but more so by the presence of his own real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, who played Christopher, Mr. Gardner's son.

The book by Chris Gardner (pictured with his son Christopher on the cover), and the DVD of the film starring Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith as Christopher (on the DVD cover.)

The actor was inspired by Gardner's story, which couldn't possibly be scripted if one tried.  At the gala premiere bash for the film, held by Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, the real-life Chris Gardner was thrilled with the film.  When he first saw it, Gardner had tears in his eyes, noted Smith at the end of a screening earlier in the year.

Asked if Gardner himself would have liked to have played the lead role in his own story, he said, "What?  You mean go through that again??  No, man, I've already been through it once!  I don't want to go through that again!  No way!", laughed Gardner.

Will Smith re-lived the Chris Gardner experience and it was a journey that took him to highs and lows, and fortunately, audiences around the world traveled with him, and will have a chance to do it again on DVD and Blu-Ray disc.

Related: "Pursuit" Benefit Gala for Glide Memorial Church Photo Gallery

            Red Carpet Glide

Originally published on April 1, 2007


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