Will Smith Had A Sweet Exchange With The Real-Life Pursuit Of Happyness Guy, And Also Shared A Cool Fact I Didn’t Know

Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Will Smith has turned in a ton of incredible and iconic roles over the years, but what's arguably Smith's best performance of them all was the one he gave in The Pursuit of Happyness. In the 2006 film, Smith portrayed Chris Gardner, a man who contended with homelessness alongside his young son before becoming a finance entrepreneur and motivational speaker. Smith threw it back to the inspiring movie this week with a shoutout to Gardner and revealing a cool tidbit that I didn't catch. 

The actor took to Instagram to wish Chris Gardner a happy birthday and shared the cool behind-the-scenes fact about The Pursuit of Happyness. It makes me want to revisit the emotional and uplifting movie about a real person’s journey. Take a look: 

In Smith’s birthday message, the actor shared that Chris Gardner continues to inspire him and helps people around the world “find their higher selves against all odds” with his story. Along with showing the entrepreneur love on his 69th birthday, he posted an image from The Pursuit of Happyness that shows that the real man himself briefly appeared in a scene.

If you don’t know to look for it, the businessman may just appear to be an extra in a fancy suit who passes by the leading man. Kudos to the producers for crafting that brief cameo for him. It's poetic that the fictionalized (and younger version) of the entrepreneur would cross paths with his real-life counterpart. (Yep, and now, I'm going to cry again.) In response to the social media message, Gardner responded in the comments with these words: 

BIG WILL! My MAN, if I knew that 69 was going to [look] THIS FINE I would’ve done it a LONG time ago! People keep asking me ' When are you and Will gonna do Pursuit of HappYness part 2?' I always tell them that I’m doing THAT S$&T NOW! HA! Ringing the closing bell for trading on NASDAQ today! Just did my FIRST IPO! BACK UP YHE TRUCK! MAD LOVE TO YOU AND THE FAM! ✌🏾💪🏾🙏🏾CG

It’s great to see that Will Smith and Chris Gardner have kept in touch over 15 years after The Pursuit of Happyness hit theaters. Smith was nominated for his second Oscar for playing Gardner, and this scene alone tells you why:

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Will and Jaden Smith on the bus in Pursuit of Happyness

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Directed By: Gabrielle Muccino
Written By: Steven Conrad
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandiwe Newton, Brian Howe, Dan Castellaneta, James Karen, Kurt Fuller
How To Stream: Netflix subscription 

In the past couple years, the actor has gone on to play two other real people as well. In King Richard, he played the father of famous tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and won his first Academy Award in the Best Actor category last year for the portrayal. (Unfortunately, just before accepting the award, he became part of one of the biggest Oscar scandals of all time when he slapped Chris Rock on stage for a joke the comedian made about his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.)

Will Smith also played “Whipped Peter,” who was an escaped American slave who was the subject of famous photographs that came out during the abolitionist movement during the American Civil War in Emancipation, which was the first movie to come out of his after the slap. Looking ahead, it was recently announced that Smith is currently filming the fourth Bad Boys movie

Despite his continued work, many still hold a soft spot for The Pursuit of Happyness. It's a sentimental movie. And it's one that's only made sweeter by the fact that it's leading man and subject are still close -- and providing cool behind-the-scenes tidbits. Those who want to revisit the classic or check it out for the first time can stream the film using a Netflix subscription.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.