Months before Will Smith stunned the world by slapping comedian Chris Rock while onstage at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, the Oscar-winning actor shared with former late-night talk show host David Letterman that he had visions of his career being ruined. The conversation was reportedly taped nearly two months before the now-infamous incident.
On the new season of Letterman’s Netflix show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” released on Friday, May 20, “The Kind Richard” star explained to the legendary television figure that although he doesn’t usually use drugs recreationally, there was a two-year period where he experimented with the South American hallucinogenic plant ayahuasca. One occasion on which imbibed the psychoactive herbal brew had a dramatic effect, as he recounted to Letterman.
“I drank, and it usually takes about 45 minutes to kick in,” Smith told the legendary talk show host. “And I’m sitting there, and you always feel like, ‘Maybe it won’t kick in this time.’ So I’m drinking and sitting there, and then all of a sudden, it’s like I start seeing all of my money flying away, and my house is flying away, and my career is going away.”
“My whole life is getting destroyed,” he added.
He said latet he could hear his daughter Willow calling out, and at that point he stopped caring about anything else: “Then slowly, I stopped caring about my money, I just wanted to get to Willow. I stopped caring about my house, I stopped caring about my career,” he said.
Earlier in the interview, Letterman reflected on having the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star on his old “Late Show” as watching a “locomotive” enter the studio, “but you’re telling people that’s not exactly who you are.”
“There’s a person that you want to be and a person you want to be viewed as, and then there’s who you really are.” Smith explained, before sharing, “I’ve always thought of myself as a coward,” an admission he made in the first line of his self-titled memoir that was released last year.
The 53-year-old recalled as a child watching his mother being beaten by his father, noting, “And I didn’t do anything.”
“And that just left a traumatic impression of myself as a coward,” he added. However, when the actor found comedy, he learned negativity cannot exist inside of a human body when “you’re laughing,” and he began to use it as a “defense mechanism,”
“Ultimately ‘Will Smith’ became a symbol of joy and fun, and when I showed up, I wanted people to be happy,” he told the host, “because I found that when my household was that way, I felt safe.”
As many saw last March 2022, that very medium would be the source of the actor’s fall from grace. Smith apologized for his behavior several times, including to the Academy and to Rock before accepting a ten-year ban from all Oscars-related events.