We caught up with the cast and crew of The Karate Kid at a recent press conference. In attendance were the film’s lead pairing, Jaden Smith (Dre Parker) and Jackie Chan (Mr. Han), the movie’s director, Harald Zwart, and producers/parents Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
As each of the stars were called to the stage, there was a lone voice whooping and cheering each of them: Will Smith. He even did it when his own name was announced.
Will, how much of yourself do you see in Jaden, and how do you hold back your emotions when you see him on screen?
WS: First of all, I don’t choke back the emotion, I ‘boohoo’ every time I see him. But he’s so disciplined and hard-working, it’s hard to not push him for more. There’s no telling what this kid could do. As far as having pieces of me: he’s truly his own thing. He’s got the best of Jada and me. It’s just amazing that you can go to Mexico, drink some tequila and then he shows up nine months later…but seriously he’s just such a fantastic, disciplined young man.
JPS: But he doesn’t really fully realise just how blessed he’s been to have worked with two masters, Jackie and my husband.
WS: Aw, thank you, baby.
Will, has Jaden threatened to kick your ass yet?
WS: Right around this age is when the young lions start trying to bump into you a little bit. They’re just testing you. He hasn’t made the full on attack yet. But he’s leaned his shoulder in a bit, just to see what ‘man meat’ feels like.
Jackie, you give an emotionally powerful performance in the film. Is this the beginning of a ‘new’ career where it’s all about the acting?
JC: Yes, definitely yes. I’ve been asking myself how long I can keep doing action stunts as an action star’s careers is very short. In Asia I can produce and direct but in Hollywood anytime I present a script, I hear: “no, no, no, Rush Hour 3, Rush Hour 4”. I say: “I’m not young anymore. I can’t do this.” I want to do some serious things, but I never thought I’d be able to. Then one day, I was in Japan and I saw Will and he said: “let’s do a movie together” and I said “yer, yer, yer”. In Hollywood everybody says that: Stallone, the Mayor, what’s his name? Schwarzenegger. Everybody says that: “Let’s do a movie together.” And finally, Will called me: “Let’s make The Karate Kid”. So I see the script, and I ask “who’s the master?” and he says “you are”. I’m like: “what?” I forget how old I am. And they really trusted me to act. And now I’ve improved. I can really act. I want to be the Asian Robert De Niro.
Will and Jada, how much potential does Jaden have to become a big star?
WS: Well as far as how big he has gotten, the Karate Kid opened the three day box office with $56M in the US, which was bigger than any of my movies other than Hancock and I Am Legend. For me, I’m wondering if he still even needs to live in our house.
JPS: I told Will that that’s the natural process and what a great start he’s had. He’s got a great foundation. That’s exactly how it should be.
WS: Hey, if one more person calls me the Karate Kid’s dad, then Men in Black 3 is out immediately!
Jaden, how hard was it to do all the kung-fu?
JS: I had a lot of training before, so it was not as hard as I thought it would be. I thought it would be like out on the snow and doing push-ups in the snow. But it wasn’t like that. It just came naturally to me so I could almost have fun when I was filming…almost.
WS: We thought filming would take three months, but it actually got extended an extra month in China. So if you’re telling an eleven year old that thought he was about to go home that we got an extra month, you know, you leave that one to mummy…
Jaden, how did you enjoy China and did you like the food?
JS: I had hamburgers the whole time. I thought it was fun, but no one spoke English so it was a little bit weird.
One of the many themes the film carries is an anti-bullying message, have you ever experienced bullying?
WS: Well, I grew up in West Philadelphia and so I definitely had some experiences with the idea of bullying. [Will starts singing the theme tune to The Prince of Bel Air:] ‘In West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days’. But it was more difficult for Jaden to get his head around it…though his sister bullies him a little bit.
Harald, what were the logistics of shooting in China?
HZ: The Chinese have such a rich film heritage and our Hong Kong camera crew were just amazing, but we were a big, heavy Hollywood production. One day all we were shooting was a close-up of Jaden in the back seat of a car and I counted 20 trailers, and I said: “This is insane. We have to rethink this.”
WS: That was my bad.
Will, when does filming for Men in Black 3 start?
WS: We start filming on Men in Black 3 in a couple of months.