The Karate Kid interview with Jaden Smith

Is Jaden Smith a black belt or does he get knocked out in this new version of the Karate Kid?

‘He’s The Best Around’ – so went the theme tune of the original ‘Karate Kid’ from the eighties, a franchise so loved, it spawned a Saturday morning cartoon and four sequels (including a 1994 version that saw Oscar winner Hilary Swank become the next Karate Kid). The original movie has been refreshed but is he still the best around? The film has won strong reviews and reached number one at the American box office. Starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith, the movie hits Irish cinemas this weekend. Below, Jaden Smith talks about taking on the iconic role of The Karate Kid.

Q: Were you a fan of the original Karate Kid movie?

A: I think the original Karate Kid is amazing and hopefully our film is amazing, too. It’s old but it’s still really good, it’s like how Avatar will be in like 20 years (laughs). Our film is set in a new country and we have some different fighting styles and I think that the story in this one is really good too.

Q: What was it like filming on location in China?

A: Great, it’s really interesting. They have so many cool things especially where we were staying – they have The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, so many things. On our first day in China I went to an amusement park and we were racing in these cars. Very cool. I wish I could speak the language though. I remember we were at the amusement park and these guys were yelling at us and I had no idea what they were saying, they just started yelling for some reason. It was like ‘why are they yelling?’ I did like China but you know, I was working a lot of the time and I didn’t really get a lot of time to see all of the things that maybe you would do if you are a tourist.

Q: Can you tell us about your training with Master Wu. What was that like?

A: Great. It was three months before, four months during the shoot and I’m training again now, I have to leave here and then go to him. There was a lot of training and at one point we really didn’t think we would have enough time to learn it. And you know, on set we would have a few little accidents. OK I admit it – I got hit like once! (laughs) But you have to make some contact otherwise it doesn’t work. And if you are going to hit someone and they are meant to block the blow and they don’t, well they are going to get hit in the face. So they need to block it.

Q: What happened when you were hit?

A: I remember we were doing this scene and there was this guy who was shouting at me and I had to be really scared and he strikes out at me and I was meant to block it. I put my head the other way and I got hit in the face once and in the ribs once – but the ribs was actually part of the scene. I actually thought my nose was bleeding, but it wasn’t.

Q: What happens at the beginning with your character that makes him want to train and learn kung fu?

A: He gets beaten up. Dre gets like one shot in but Cheung recovers in a like a millisecond and he beats the dog mess out of him. He tears right rough him and then Dre’s like ‘oh my gosh, I have to learn how to beat this guy…’ And that’s when he goes to Mr. Han (played by Jackie Chan).

Q: How did you get on working with the great Jackie Chan?

A: Oh man, he is amazing. Every time that he would come in he would say ‘good morning’ in a different language. And he would teach like the crew members things and he would teach me things. Man, he was just very straight forward and he would get things done when he needed to get things done, you know? He was like the most amazing person ever, and like he was always teaching me things, he was teaching me things about how to stretch correctly, and how to like be in a scene correctly, and he would always tell me ‘OK, yeah, you need to focus..’ He was great. And he would always be right there with me the whole time.

Q: What’s the most important thing he taught you?

A: Probably to stay focused when you’re in the scene because if you’re focused and you can get it done, and the funniest thing he taught me is he would always go like this (drums his fingers) so you can play like a little song. I was doing it all the time. There was one scene in Dre’s house and I wasn’t even in it but I was there. And Harald was like ‘what’s that sound?’ And I looked at my hand and I realized I’d been doing it in the middle of a scene (laughs).

Q: What’s your average day on set like?

A: Okay, my mom, or somebody will wake me up around 8.30, okay? I get out of bed around 9.30 and brush my teeth, take a shower, eat, you know, receive a long lecture from my dad before I go to work, get in the car, drive to work. Then I’d sit in the chair for hair and makeup, and then I would go to my trailer, just chill, and then go off to do some scenes. We would rehearse, they would set up the cameras, then I will go back. When they’re done, I go back to do the scene for like an hour, set up all these different shots, come back, wait for like 30 minutes and then maybe another scene and then it’s lunch time. Go eat lunch for like 10 minutes, then train for an hour and a half. And then back for more scenes. At the end of the day I go home and play like two hours of World of Warcraft and then I shoot my brother with nerf guns..(laughs).

Q: Your parent’s (Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith) are producers on the film, what was it like working with them?

A: It was difficult because my dad would always be like, ‘OK Jaden, you’ve got to do this scene and you have to be really emotional, so you have to do this, and we’re gonna maybe need you to cry, and we need this and we’re gonna need that..”, And then my mom would be like, “OK, Jaden, here’s some apples, do you want some apples?” “No, I don’t want any apples….” Ten minutes later it would be ‘OK, Jaden I’ve got some apples, do you want some?’ No, I’m OK, thanks Mom. I think I’ll pass on the apples..’ And then she would be like ‘I’ve had these apples for an hour and a half, you’re going to eat the apples and get some energy..’ So it was ‘OK Mom, I’ll eat the apples..’ (laughs).

Q: Why have you continued your martial arts training?

A: Well, I want to stay buff, you know. I’m trying to get my Taylor Lautner thing going on. Just in case they need a stunt double for Eclipse or something (laughs). I’m like ‘buff guy, here! Ready for any action, ready to turn into a werewolf at any time!’

The Karate Kid opens in Ireland on July 28th