Will Smith, Once Bankrupt, Gave Up His 40 Million Bonus to Compensate ‘King Richard’ Co-Stars

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Will Smith didn’t always have money and fame, and whatever he has now he worked hard for. Will started working on rap songs, his first passion, when he was just 12 years old. He never stopped believing in himself, and even rejected an MIT offer to pursue music. Will’s inspirational story didn’t stop with his breakthrough role on Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. Along his journey, he’s known defeat and bankruptcy.

Most recently Will Smith produced and starred in the upcoming King Richard movie. He plays the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. When the movie was taken down from theatres to HBO, Will took it upon himself to hand out his own money to his co-stars, here’s how it went down.

The Movie Was Supposed To Have A Theatrical Release

Krists Luhaers / Unsplash

Krists Luhaers / Unsplash

It all started when WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar chose to launch the movie both in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously.

This meant that the cast and many working for the movie would experience a financial loss in theatrical returns.

Will Was Supposed To Earn $40 Million

PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 03: Will Smith attends Variety's Creative Impact Awards and 10 Directors To Watch Brunch at the Parker Palm Springs on January 3, 2016 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images,)

Jerod Harris / Getty Images

Jerod Harris / Getty Images

​Rather than hold on to his hefty paycheck reported to be as high as $40 million, Will decided instead to personally write checks to the cast which includes the teens Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who play Venus and Serena.

Will’s payment was an additional compensation to the one the studio was already handing out to make up for their strategic release pivot. Will had no reason to add on to it other than his pure generosity.

The Whole Cast Had Nothing But Praise For Will

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: (L-R) Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton attend ELLE's 27th Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration, presented by Ralph Lauren and Lexus, at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on October 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ELLE

Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ELLE

​Will’s costars all speak highly of him. Both Sidney and Singleton described him as a leader and were grateful for the way he brought joy to all of his interactions.

In an interview Singleton has explained: “Being on set with him was an absolute blast…He made sure that everyone felt comfortable and safe and had a great time — it was never a dull moment — ever.” Will just wanted everyone on his team to feel loved, all thanks to his big heart.

Will Was Known For Giving Gifts

Will young co-star Layla Crawford couldn’t hide her excitement over Will’s generosity in an interview: “He gave us Polaroid cameras and different treats all the time. He also gave us iPhone 12 Pro Max gifts in boxes. We ripped them open and everyone started crying. I literally cried my eyes out “

Will Smith is a blessing, I learned so much from working with him.”

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Noticed By The Young And The Old

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Tony Goldwyn attends MPTF NextGen Board hosts 2021 Summer Party hosted by Max Greenfield at Sunset Tower Hotel on September 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Even 61-year-old actor Tony Goldwyn couldn’t believe Will’s level of generosity until he saw it with his own eyes.

“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. I have never worked with anyone as generous as Will. When Warner Brothers decided not to release it, there were a lot of controversies and we just got a call from Will saying, ‘I’m going to make this right.’ I’ve never experienced it, I was floored. I just couldn’t believe it.'”

Will Didn’t Always Have This Kind of Money

MINNEAPOLIS - MARCH 12: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince pose for a portrait at First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 12, 1990.

Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Will Smith did become a millionaire before he was 18 thanks to his career as a rapper. Being so young, he couldn’t handle the money and fame and he actually went broke in 1990. He spent too much money and didn’t pay his taxes so the IRS eventually came knocking. Will was recorded saying “They wanted $2.8 million and I had two dollars and eighty-three cents.”

He was charged with $2.3 million in taxes & penalties and he lost all his fortune and become bankrupt. Having to start from scratch all over again taught him a valuable lesson on character and generosity

Will Smith’s Story Is An Inspiring Lesson

​HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Actor Will Smith attends the Centerpiece Gala Premiere of Columbia Pictures'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

The path to success isn’t linear and even the millionaires of today didn’t always have money. It’s stories like Will’s that inspire us because they show us a real example of someone who experienced complete failure and used it to their advantage.

Will had to climb to fame and success, not once but twice. His experience humbled him and kept him focused on the values that matter. In the end, it wasn’t about how much money he made, but how he made others around him feel. All it takes is will.

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Higher Perspectives Author

Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives