Will Smith Says Cheating Ex-Girlfriend Inspired Him to Become Famous

Will Smith
 Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

He found the silver lining! Will Smith told Benicio Del Toro during Variety's Actors on Actors conversation that an ex-girlfriend helped inspire his Hollywood career.

"When I was 15, my girlfriend cheated on me," Smith, 47, said in a video preview published on Tuesday, Dec. 1. "And from that moment, in this bizarre psychological twist, I wanted to be the most famous entertainer on Earth."

The incident took place in 1983, and Smith slowly ascended to fame in the late '80s as a rapper. He became a household name in 1990 with the debut of his wildly popular sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The A-list actor then went on to star in blockbuster hits such as Hitch, Independence Day, I Am Legend, and Men In Black.

That initial betrayal, Smith explained, ultimately brought him closer to his dreams. "I believed that your girlfriend couldn't cheat on you," he recalled of his mentality. "It's that really bizarre psychological leap. I'm always looking for that in my characters: What's the bizarre psychological leap they make based on some trauma?"

Indeed, Smith has portrayed characters who've triumphed after some rough life experiences, including his portrayal of Chris Gardner in the 2006 film adaptation of Gardner's memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness. And, of course, Smith found a satisfying end to his own love story.

In 1997, nearly 15 years after he was cheated on by his ex, the actor married his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The couple share two kids, Jaden, 17, and Willow, 15, and Will's son, Trey, 23.

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