In 2001, Will Smith was nominated for his portrayal of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in the film Ali. Now, he's being honored once again with a Best Actor nomination for bringing a real-life tale to the big screen.
In The Pursuit of Happyness, Will plays Chris Gardner, a single parent who insists on raising his son—a role played by Will's son Jaden—while he struggles to make ends meet. Forced to lead a double life, Chris works on Wall Street by day and is homeless by night.
When Will visited The Oprah Show in November 2006, he said he felt especially connected to his character because he's a father himself. "It feels the same way that I felt with Nelson Mandela," Will said. "Like when I met Nelson Mandela and there's this weird thing that washes over you of how small you are. But at the same time, how big you could be."
Before filming began, Will and Chris visited a subway bathroom in Oakland, California, where Chris and his son sometimes spent the night when they were homeless. Will said filming a scene in that bathroom with Jaden was a turning point. "I laid there with my son and just imagined the sense of failure that you would feel as a parent, you know?" Will said. "But then the other side, the yin and the yang, to all things is that you have the power for it to be different."