Jaden Smith soars in The Karate Kid.
By Krista Smith• Photograph by Art Streiber
Only 11 years old, Jaden Smith possesses genes that have positioned him for stardom. He made his film debut in the Oscar-nominated The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) as the son of the character played by his real-life father, Will Smith. His mother is the actress and singer Jada Pinkett Smith, and his nine-year-old sister, Willow, has appeared in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and I Am Legend. This month Jaden kick-starts another reboot of The Karate Kid, the 80s franchise that made Ralph Macchio a teen heartthrob and went on to spawn a girl’s version, The Next Karate Kid (1994), featuring a then unknown Hilary Swank.
Jaden is the youngest actor to take on the strenuous title role. His character, Dre Parker, relocates with his mother, played by Taraji P. Henson, from Detroit to Beijing, where most of the Sony picture was filmed. His favorite sights? “I was working the whole time,” says Jaden. “I only got to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.” And how was the Chinese food? “I ate burgers.” Bullies at school and a forbidden crush drive Dre to learn how to defend himself, and under the guidance of Mr. Han, a martial-arts master played by Jackie Chan, he becomes a devoted student of kung fu and triumphantly surprises everybody, including himself. “Jackie Chan is amazing,” says Jaden. “On the set, he was teaching everybody. I have been doing karate since I was five, but kung fu is way different.”
In Theaters on JUNE 11th