Why Hollywood won't cast Jaden Smith

While children of Hollywood stars often find it difficult to step out of the shadows cast by their famous parents, Jaden Smith has been doing everything in his power to create his very own shadow. The charismatic fashionisto was homeschooled by his actor parents, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and followed in his father's acting footsteps when the pair co-starred in the 2006 drama The Pursuit of Happyness. That film made a ton of cash for Sony and pleased the majority of movie critics, but things didn't really pan out too well in the long run.

As Jaden grew from a young boy to a young man, his relationship with the entertainment industry began to sour. The early box office promise he'd shown (2010's Karate Kid remake also made a killing) all but vanished with one giant misstep in 2013, and the actor/rapper/philosopher has been distancing himself from the entertainment industry ever since. Here's why it feels like Hollywood won't cast Jaden Smith anymore.

After Earth was a total disaster

The aforementioned giant misstep was the notorious After Earth. The disastrous sci-fi blockbuster starring Will and Jaden Smith as father and son cost $130 million to make but only returned $60 million domestically. This M. Night Shyamalan-directed mega-flop was torn to shreds by reviewers, only managing a rather embarrassing 11 percent Critic Score on Rotten Tomatoes.

"That was the most painful failure in my career," Will said about the much-maligned movie during an interview with Esquire, revealing that it stung much worse than his infamous bomb from 1999, Wild Wild West. "Wild Wild West was less painful than After Earth because my son was involved in After Earth, and I led him into it," he explained. "That was excruciating." Both Will and Jaden were popular at the Razzies the following year; the younger Smith was named worst actor, while his old man came out on top in the worst supporting actor category.

Hollywood execs mocked him

In 2014, hacker group Guardians of Peace stole sensitive information from Sony Pictures and released the private emails of some of Hollywood's most famous executives. Most of the headlines were about Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio (just two of the many high-profile stars that Sony execs had been bashing in private,) but Will Smith's kids also came up in conversation. According to Us Weekly, TriStar executive Tom Rothman emailed former Sony head Amy Pascal a link to an interview that the Smith children did with T magazine, along with the message, "1. Read this, 2. they r home schooled: don't let this family date your movies!!!"

In the aforementioned magazine interview, Jaden said some unconventional stuff that made him a target of ridicule online and behind closed doors. "Your mind has a duality to it, so when one thought goes into your mind, it's not just one thought, it has to bounce off both hemispheres of the brain," he said. "When you're thinking about something happy, you're thinking about something sad. When you think about an apple, you also think about the opposite of an apple." There's nothing wrong with a young person talking philosophy, but unfortunately, Jaden's deep thoughts had become the butt of jokes between Hollywood bigwigs — not a good thing for a budding career.

He has some very, um, unique ideas

If you thought the whole "opposite of an apple" thing made Jaden sound unique, that was just the tip of the iceberg. The confident youngster also bragged about his grasp of time in that now-infamous T magazine interview. "It's proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe," he said. "It's relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds." Jaden was 16 at the time.

He delivered plenty of unconventional interviews over the next few years, each one as original as the last. In 2015, he told GQ that he built his own pyramid from scratch: "The tip is missing, but the whole structural thing is built, and it sits at 12.5 feet tall." The following year, Jaden told musician Pharrell Williams that "nothing is real" during their chat for Interview magazine.

He's conducting a 'scientific test upon humanity'

After the crushing disappointment that was After Earth, Jaden and his sister, Willow Smith, apparently became more interested in the pursuit of scientific knowledge than in making movies.

"Me and Willow are scientists," he told GQ. "So everything for us is a scientific test upon humanity." Jaden said they started a Mystery School, inspired by the selective systems of education employed in ancient Egypt and Greece. "Plato, Pythagoras, all these students had mystery schools. And what they learned in there was sacred. Like, you couldn't say the word 'dodecahedron,' which is just a shape, outside of one of the mystery schools or they would, like, kill you or whatever. Because it was such a sacred shape."

Jaden even compared himself to scientific pioneer Galileo. "People think you're crazy — I feel like it's an honor, actually, for people to think I'm crazy. Because they thought Galileo was crazy, too, you know what I'm saying? I don't think I'm as revolutionary as Galileo, but I don't think I'm not as revolutionary as Galileo."

His acting chops have been roasted

If there's one thing we've learned about Jaden Smith, it's that he clearly thinks very highly of his abilities. He once referred to himself as "the future of music, photography and filmmaking" in a tweet, a claim that angered a number of professionals in those fields. A writer for the New York Post weighed in on Jaden's robust self-esteem: "Whoa, kid — why not worry about walking the dog and taking your SATs before you do all that?"  

It wasn't the first time the press suggested Jaden was all talk and no talent. The bulk of reviews for After Earth suggested his poor acting skills were a major contributor to the sci-fi flick's downfall. "Jaden, though agile and skillful, isn't a charismatic actor; he doesn't put a lot of personality into the part, and he doesn't have a deft way with the dialogue," wrote The New Yorker. Cinemixtape predicted that he simply wasn't good enough for Hollywood: "Jaden would do well to bottle some of his dad's charisma for his next go-round. If he wants a career in film, he'll need to do better than this."

He gets 'no support' in L.A.

In 2017, Jaden revealed that his heart wasn't in Los Angeles anymore (via Teen Vogue). "I'm about to move out of L.A.," he said. "There's a lot of bad things here ... It's hard these days to really create the life you want for yourself because there's nobody really here that's like supporting the youth or the youth's creativity and the things that we want to do and how they want to live life."

A few months later, Jaden moved out of his parents' place and into a $4 million mansion in the quiet, gated community of Hidden Hills, Calif., which reportedly stopped being so quiet after his arrival. "This was a quiet neighborhood, but Jaden and his entourage are turning it into their own personal kingdom," claimed one resident (via the Daily Mail). "He has a sense of entitlement, bravado. He doesn't care if security reprimands him or gives him a warning, he just continues to do whatever he pleases."

His Netflix show was a $190 million flop

Not long after he moved into his own mansion, Jaden received word that Netflix was pulling the plug on The Get Down after just 11 episodes. In the series, he plays graffiti artist Marcus "Dizzee" Kipling. The show was created by Baz Luhrmann at the eye-watering cost of $190 million – about $16 million per episode.  

The Get Down apparently wasn't getting the rave reviews Netflix had hoped, and when Luhrmann decided he couldn't continue to commit, the game was over. Luhrmann took to Facebook to explain: "When I was asked to come to the center of The Get Down to help realize it, I had to defer a film directing commitment for at least two years," he said. "This exclusivity has understandably become a sticking point for Netflix and Sony..."

Jaden was understandably disappointed about The Get Down being sent to the Netflix graveyard. In fact, he lobbied for the show's return on Twitter. Luckily, the young man had another project lined up with Netflix...

His anime debut was a 'train wreck'

While some of Netflix's original shows have earned rave reviews (The Anime Man considered Devilman Crybaby a contender for anime of the year), Smith's next project with the streaming service was not warmly received. Created by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, 2017's Neo Yokio stars Jaden Smith as Kaz Kaan, a vain "Magistocrat" who spends his days socializing and his nights hunting demons. Yes, you read that correctly — the guy from Vampire Weekend made an anime starring Jaden Smith as a rich, arrogant, demon-hunting magician. The six-episode arc takes place in an alternate-reality New York in which magicians are revered for saving the city from a demonic event in the 19th century.

Wacky storylines like this are commonplace in anime. The problem here was reportedly the dialogue. "Kaz is an easy character to hate because he's based entirely on Jaden's Twitter persona," Polygon said. "His philosophical statements are eye-roll inducing and every moment of exaggerated teenage angst results in you muttering 'give me a break' under your breath." This opinion was echoed by Geek.com, which called Neo Yokio a "mesmerizing train wreck" and a "glorious failure."

He's focused on his music, or is he?

Perhaps "focused" isn't exactly the perfect word to use here. Jaden has announced his intention to complete musical projects on several occasions, but he never seems to follow through. In 2016, he revealed to Twitter followers that he wanted to become a K-Pop star. "I'm Serious I Actually Wanna Be A K Pop Star," he said. Jaden called G-Dragon "his inspiration" — the pair met when Jaden was in Korea promoting After Earth – and the Big Bang frontman even offered to collaborate on a track. Everything seemed set, and Jaden even confirmed that he would be dropping a K-pop single within a matter of months. That track never materialized.

In April 2017, Jaden said that he, his sister Willow, and his girlfriend, Odessa Adlon, were starting a rock band. He even posted a preview of a track on Twitter. Nothing ever came of that either. 

It seems like he spends an awful lot of time talking the talk and not enough time walking the walk — and that will only get you so far in Hollywood.

His long-awaited album was 'scatterbrained'

In November 2017, we finally got to hear the album that Jaden had apparently been working on all these years, and it was every bit as chaotic as you'd expect. The 17-track SYRE: A Beautiful Confusion received mixed reviews, but those who didn't like it, well, they really didn't like it. Pitchfork called SYRE a "sophistic, paranoid fantasy that mixes new-age thinking with apocalyptic rhetoric ... It would be generous to call this kind of songcraft scatterbrained." HotNewHipHop agreed, criticizing the lyrics for asking deep questions about life but not having the "diligence or patience to fully engage those questions." 

What Jaden does with his music shouldn't have any bearing on his movie career, right? Well, here's the thing: One of the running themes throughout SYRE is exposing Hollywood for being fake, so in this case, yes, it can. Jaden told Vanity Fair that he wanted SYRE to address the hypocrisy of the Hollywood lifestyle: "Because people like to think, 'Oh, there's certain people in the world that just have it all and they have perfect lives.' But that's just so not true. And this is a big shine on that."

Can he turn it around?

Jaden Smith has been quietly re-establishing himself as an actor over the years. He secured roles in two feature films in 2018, albeit relatively low-key ones. He has a "bit part" in the NYC-set skateboarding flick Skate Kitchen – the first movie to be adapted from an Instagram feed, and he landed a more central role in the teen cancer drama Life in a Year, in which Suicide Squad's Cara Delevingne plays his dying girlfriend. Jaden parted with his signature tinted dreadlocks for the role (he later used them as a fashion accessory on the Met Gala red carpet.) Daddy Will is a producer on Life in a Year, which should give Jaden a chance to show what he can do under far less pressure than their last father-son project, After Earth

For Jaden, however, the future is all about his music. He even brought a gold record of his "Icon" single to the 2018 Met Gala as his date. He plans to embark on a tour of North America to promote his album, release a deluxe a cappella edition of SYRE, and drop its follow up, ERYS, by the end of 2018. So, while he might not have been cut out for a career in Hollywood, don't expect Jaden Smith to go quietly into his pyramid.