Actor premieres “Pursuit of Happyness” in Miami Beach

A bare red carpet at the Regal South Beach Cinema is surrounded by eager reporters and photographers. Security guards scope the scene as screaming fans, a dance troupe and curious tourists align the barricades. Just as a black SUV rolls around the corner, a familiar song blares from large speakers. A male voice sings: “Welcome to Miami.” Yes ladies and gentlemen, Will Smith has arrived.

Given Will’s affection for Miami -he wrote a song about the city and filmed “Bad Boys” here-the Academy Award nominated actor naturally took South Beach by storm on Nov.16 at the premiere of his new film “Pursuit of Happyness”.

Based on the true story of Chris Gardener, a millionaire stock broker who once lived on the streets of San Francisco, the film explores the plight of poverty and the audacity of one man’s fighting spirit.

Just hours before the premiere, Will spoke at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in downtown Miami about the message of his latest film.

“I heard somebody say that the greatest poverty is the poverty of ideas,” Smith said. “I didn’t know what that meant until I worked on this film. There were nights that Chris Gardener didn’t have food and yet the idea of who he wanted to be filled his stomach. There were nights that he had to sleep outside and yet that idea acted as shelter for him.”

As a single father, Will’s character not only has to worry about his own survival, but also that of his son, played by Will’s real-life son Jaden. When the two shot a scene in which Chris and his son sleep on the floor of a subway station bathroom, the emotion set in.

“It just washes over you,” Smith said. “I understood what [my character] must have been thinking and feeling and then I was imbued with the essence of Chris Gardener.I was crying.”

The buzz surrounding “Pursuit of Happyness” is loud and clear, with claiming it’s an Oscar “contender.” But Will said he has yet to consider how the film will be received by audiences and the Academy.

“For me, that type of stuff is just a great time,” Smith said, flashing his signature smile. “The [time] between the [award] nominations and the show is the best series of parties that exists on earth.”

Oscar or not, Smith explained that a belief he has in common with his latest character will continue to guide him through his life and multi-faceted career.

“I’ve always felt that where I am, where I’m going, how to get there is completely within my control,” he said.

“There’s no racism that can hold me back, there’s no army that can hold me back. If I decide I want something, I will demand the universe go that direction.”

Nick Maslow can be contacted at