This movie shares one of the most powerful life lessons: Never Give Up!
Let’s check out some amazing facts about The Pursuit of Happyness, an absolute masterpiece of a movie!
1. The title is misspelled
Did you wonder whether or not we made a spelling mistake when writing “The Pursuit of Happyness?” After all, “Happiness” is not a word that appears in the English dictionary, isn’t it?
Instead of making the title of the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which would have been the correct spelling, it was written incorrectly on purpose.
The reason is because of a mural that contained this word just outside the daycare facility that Gardner’s son attended.
2. It’s based on a true story
The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the real story of a Milwaukee-born man named Christopher Paul Gardner (born February 9, 1954), who struggled in the early 1980s to make ends meet while raising his toddler son.
Just as Chris Gardner in the movie, played impeccably by Will Smith, the real story of Christopher Gardner is one about overcoming hardship to eventually become successful in life.
This story is a true inspiration and serves as a prime example of how we must overcome difficulties, not be overcome by them.
3. Some parts of the real story were changed
Gardner’s story was written in an autobiography that was published and on which the movie was based. Not all elements in the movie correctly reflect the story in the book though.
Some of the most notable changes were:
- Gardner’s son wasn’t 5 years old as in the movie, but actually still an infant the moment they became homeless.
- He was never married to the mother of his son and the character of his wife in the movie (played by Thandie Newton) was based on his first wife, Sherry Dyson.
- His internship at the brokerage firm wasn’t unpaid as he received a small salary for the duration of the training.
4. It’s real father and son playing the parts
One of the most remarkable facts about The Pursuit of Happyness is that it actually stars father in son in real life as well.
If you wonder how the two main characters were able to pull off such a realistic connection as father and son, this is the answer!
Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith play the roles of Christopher Gardner and his son Christopher Jarrett Medina Gardner?
5. There’s a fun coincidence about Jaden
A fun coincidence regarding Jaden is that his middle name is “Christopher,” the first name of the main character in the movie.
His full name is Jaden Christopher Syre Smith.
6. One conversation changed Gardner’s life forever
Struggling with his meager earnings as a medical salesman, Christopher Gardener had a meeting that changed his life forever. When he saw a neatly dressed man drive up in a red Ferrari, he got curious and asked the man what he was doing for a living.
The man answered that he was a stockbroker, and from then on, Gardner’s mind was made up and he wanted to become a stockbroker as well.
The man’s name was Bob Bridges and he gave Gardner an overview into the world of finance which would eventually allow him to an internship at a major stock brokerage firm.
7. Gardner was born to become a stockbroker
The training program that Gardner followed to become a stockbroker was the “Dean Witter Training Program.”
Even though anybody that passed the final exam of the training program would eventually be offered a full-time job, it’s clear that Gardner had a talent for this profession as well.
He scored an astounding 88% on this test, and was offered a job that would change his life forever!
8. A funny Ferrari anecdote
Gardner would eventually end up becoming just as rich as the man with the Ferrari who planted the idea in his mind to become a stockbroker.
This is emphasized by the fact that he actually bought a Ferrari himself as well after he became a multi-millionaire.
And not just any Ferrari as well!
He actually bought a Ferrari Testarossa that once belonged to nobody else than Michael Jordan. When he drove around Illinois in his black Ferrari, the license plate read “NOT MJ.”
9. How did Chris Gardner become so rich?
The movie ends when Christopher Gardner is offered a full-time job at the company he followed the internship training.
This moment is basically only the start of the major change in Gardner’s life, the moment he can finally provide for his son and live a normal life.
After a 5-year career working as an employee in a brokerage firm, he decided to set up his own brokerage company called “Gardner Rich & Co,” in Chicago, Illinois.
“Rich” in the company name refers to “Marc Rich,” who Gardner considered to be one of the most successful futures traders in history. The man wasn’t associated with the company in any way though.
10. He ended up selling his stake in the company
The company had very humble beginnings. It started in a small apartment in the Presidential Towers in Chicago, with a budget of just $10,000, and on a desk that served as the family’s dinner table in the evening as well.
Gardner wasn’t just a successful trader but also a successful entrepreneur. He was able to build a multi-million dollar company out of these humble beginnings, and sold his stake in the company for millions of dollars in 2006 as well!
With this money, he went international and founded and became CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings, a company that now has offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
11. Chris Gardner is a true philanthropist
Going through a lot of hardship in life makes you a person who understands what it feels like to be at rock bottom.
That’s why Chris Gardner has become a philanthropist who gives back to the community because he has actually been in that position himself.
One of his major accomplishments, apart from sponsoring numerous charities, was to help fund a $50 million project to set up low-cost housing in the area of San Francisco where he once was homeless.
12. This is the moment Gardner decided that his story had potential
Christopher Gardener interviewed with 20/20, a program broadcast on ABC, and received an overwhelmingly positive response nationwide.
This interview happened in January of 2002 and it was this moment that he saw the potential for Hollywood and started writing his autobiography, which would eventually be published on May 23, 2006.
13. Will Smith recommended the director
The director of the movie was Gabriele Muccino, an Italian who had only directed Italian movies at that point.
Will Smith asked him to direct The Pursuit of Happyness after he saw some of his movies, including “L’ultimo bacio” (2001) and “Ricordati di me” (2003).
He clearly did a great job because he also directed another epic drama movie 2 years later starring Will Smith called “Seven Pounds” (2008).
14. There was an Oscar nomination
Will Smith really showed that he is capable of so much more than being the funny guy in action-packed blockbusters. He really portrayed Chris Gardner as if he was in this difficult situation himself.
Because of this, he received an Academy Award nomination for best actor in 2007, along with Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond), Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), and Peter O’Toole (Venus).
He didn’t win though as the Oscar went to Forest Whitacker for his epic role portraying “Idi Amin” in “The Last King of Scotland.”
15. The movie was a huge box-office success
Will Smith is guaranteed to do well at the box office. he has had multiple $100 million-plus movies, and The Pursuit of Happyness wasn’t any different.
The original budget for the movie was about $55 million, and during the opening weekend alone, nearly half of that amount was earned at $27 million.
It went on to gross $162,586,036 in the US and Canada, and a total of $307.1 million worldwide!
16. It was, for the most part, received well by critics
Granted, the performance of Will Smith and his son Jaden lifted the movie to extreme heights. Regardless of this, the movie was sometimes reviewed as being a bit too corny.
One reporter of the LA Times wrote: “Though the subject matter is serious, the film itself is rather slight, and it relies on the actor to give it any energy.”
Apart from a few reviews like this one, the general response had been positive, which is emphasized by a pretty high score of 8/10 on the most popular movie database IMDB after nearly half a million votes have been cast at the moment of writing this post (May 2020).
17. The real Chris Gardner had a short appearance in the movie
At the very end of the movie, the real Chris Gardner walks confidently past Will Smith and Jaden. Notice how Will Smith briefly looks back and smiles at him as he and his son stroll around the streets of San Francisco.
A great moment in an amazing movie!
Check it out around 4:08 in the video below: