In the film, Smith plays the owner of an ad agency struggling to come to grips with the tragic loss of his daughter. According to the 48-year-old, the role became extremely personal three weeks into filming when his father was diagnosed with cancer.
“Having to face my father’s mortality and impending death while I was preparing for this role gave us a really wonderful interaction during that time,” Smith told USA Today. “We were able to have conversations that I never would have been mature enough or open enough to have, and we confronted death head-on.”
Smith’s father, Willard Smith Sr., would pass in November, but his co-star, Edward Norton, and Collateral Beauty director, David Frankel, applauded his ability to deliver such emotional material.
“To make sure you know how to balance the resources of your emotions in such a way, he did a beautiful job,” said Norton, who plays his best friend Wit in the film.
“He came really prepared. I can’t take any credit for his performance,” added Frankel. “He has this remarkable depth and he wanted to go there, he’s a risk taker. He wanted to see how far he could push it and I think it’s the best performance of his career.”
Collateral Beauty, which also stars Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Micheal Pena, hits theaters December 16.
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