Will Smith, Ellen DeGeneres

Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

As they say, art mimics life. 
Will Smith experienced the phenomenon firsthand when he was cast in Collateral Beauty, a film about a father who is devastated by his young daughter's death. Behind the scenes, the blockbuster star was coping with the loss of his own father, who passed away after a short battle with cancer. 
"You're playing a guy that's experienced a loss and your dad—you just lost your dad," Ellen DeGeneres broached the topic with the actor on her daytime talk show Thursday.
"Yeah. What was really interesting is I got the screenplay right when my father was diagnosed. You know, so I have the screenplay and I'm doing all of this research about a guy who experiences death you know at the time my father was given six weeks," Smith recalled.
Will Smith, Will Smith, Sr.


"But it turned out to be such an amazing thing to have to work through and go through all of this, so I'm studying, you know, all the things with the character who goes deeply into Christianity and Judaism, and Buddhism and everything about God trying to understand.

"My father and I were sharing it during that time so, you know, the performance for me, and the movie for me, and the ideas are so deeply personal," he continued. 

While the loss of a parent can be a tragic time, the star reflected on the month leading up to his death with fondness. 
"My father, he actually he lived for four months beyond that point they gave him six weeks and what happened is everyday became so beautiful beyond the six weeks. You know, and then we were sitting one day and it was at about three months and he was like, 'Man this crap is embarrassing.' I said,'What dad?' He said, 'Man, you tell everyone you're going to die in six weeks and three months later...'"
With strength, laughter and the soul-searching required of his new project, the actor is able to smile today. 
"It was so beautiful to have the opportunity and to share this and to go and not hide from it. We were looking and we were talking and sharing everything, so this film for me is the most personal and beautiful journey," he said. 
"When art and life comes together in that way and when you create something that could potentially can help people get through difficult times. You know, it's fantastic. I hope you all see it, and I hope you love it, and anybody who needs it, I hope it really is able to do for you what it has for my father and I."
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