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Will says 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 says. "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."

Will and Chris toured San Francisco together, revisiting the places Chris was forced to survive in with his son. One place that really touched Will was a subway bathroom in Oakland, California, where Chris and his son sometimes spent the night on the floor. "When I walked into that bathroom, it was like the ghost [of Chris's past] jumped in me," Will says.

Will says filming that scene with his real son 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? And to feel like you're failing like that," Will says. "But then the other side, the yin and the yang, to all things is that you have the power for it to be different."
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FROM: Homeless to Hollywood: Will Smith and the Real Chris Gardner
Published on November 22, 2006

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