Will Smith’s relationship with his father was complicated.
In this week’s issue, People magazine published an exclusive excerpt from the actor’s upcoming memoir, titled “Will,” due out Nov. 9. In it, Smith describes a traumatic childhood experience involving the late patriarch that influenced him for years.
“My father was violent, but he was also at every game, play and recital,” the 53-year-old wrote. “He was an alcoholic, but he was sober at every premiere of all my movies. He listened to every record. He visited every studio. The same intense perfectionism that terrorized his family put food on the table every night of my life.”
According to the outlet, William Carroll Smith Sr., along with the star’s mother, Caroline Bright, raised him and his three siblings in Philadelphia.
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In the book, Smith described how, as a child, he witnessed his father commit a horrific, violent act against his mother.
“When I was nine years old, I saw my father hit my mother in the side of her head so hard that she collapsed,” he wrote. “I saw her spitting blood. That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, defined who I am.”
“With everything I’ve done since — the awards and accolades, the spotlight and attention, the characters and the laughs — there’s a subtle series of apologies to my mom for my inaction that day,” Smith continued. “To let her down in the moment. Because I didn’t stand up to my father. Because you’re a coward. What you need to understand as ‘Will Smith’, the alien-destroying MC, the larger-than-life movie star, is largely a construction – a carefully crafted and honed character – designed to protect myself. To hide myself from the world. To hide the coward.”
According to the outlet, Smith’s parents eventually separated when he was a teenager and eventually divorced in 2000. Although Smith maintained a close relationship with his father, the anger he faced privately over the traumatic childhood incident quickly resurfaced.
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Smith described how he felt that anger as he cared for his father, who was diagnosed with cancer.
“One night, as I carefully drove him from his bedroom to the bathroom, a darkness rose within me,” Smith explained. “The path between the two rooms runs along the top of the stairs. As a child I always told myself that one day I would avenge my mother. That when I was big enough, when I was strong enough, when I was no longer a coward, I would kill him.”
It was then that Smith said he was considering killing the ailing patriarch.
“I stayed at the top of the stairs,” he wrote. “I could push him down and get away with it easily. As the decades of pain, anger, and resentment wore off, I shook my head and drove Daddio to the bathroom.”
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Smith’s father died in 2016. But the father of three said the lessons he learned from their relationship have never been forgotten.
“There is nothing you can receive from the material world that will create inner peace or fulfillment,” he wrote. “In the end it doesn’t matter how good” [people] loved you – you only get ‘the smile’ based on how well you loved them.”