Will Smith says he contemplated killing father following childhood trauma

The actor describes his late father as a “violent” man in his new memoir.

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Will Smith’s memoir WILL drops next week, and bombshell excerpts released this week reveal his complicated relationship with his late father.

The veteran actor keeps it all the way real about his childhood trauma in excerpts that appear exclusively in PEOPLE. In the book, Smith describes his late father, Willard Carroll Smith Sr., as a “violent” man. The superstar recounts an incident involving his father that left him so vengeful that he considered killing him. 

“When I was nine years old, I watched my father punch my mother in the side of the head so hard that she collapsed. I saw her spit blood. That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, has defined who I am,” he writes

Smith has since carried tremendous guilt for failing to protect his mother. 

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith attend Paramount Pictures’ premiere of “Gemini Man” in Oct. 2019 in Hollywood. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“Within everything that I have done since then — the awards and accolades, the spotlights and attention, the characters and the laughs — there has been a subtle string of apologies to my mother for my inaction that day. For failing her in the moment. For failing to stand up to my father. For being a coward.” 

He continues, “What you have come to understand as ‘Will Smith,’ the alien-annihilating MC, the bigger-than-life movie star, is largely a construction – a carefully crafted and honed character – designed to protect myself. To hide myself from the world. To hide the coward.”

The anger from his childhood reached a boiling point when Smith found himself contemplating murder as he cared for Will Sr. during his battle with cancer.

“One night, as I delicately wheeled him from his bedroom toward the bathroom, a darkness arose within me. The path between the two rooms goes past the top of the stairs. As a child I’d always told myself that I would one day avenge my mother. That when I was big enough, when I was strong enough, when I was no longer a coward, I would slay him,” Smith writes.

“I paused at the top of the stairs. I could shove him down, and easily get away with it. As the decades of pain, anger, and resentment coursed then receded, I shook my head and proceeded to wheel Daddio to the bathroom.”

Smith was a teenager when his parents separated. They divorced in 2000; Willard Sr. died in 2016. 

“My father was violent, but he was also at every game, play, and recital. He was an alcoholic, but he was sober at every premiere of every one of my movies,” Smith writes. “He listened to every record. He visited every studio. The same intense perfectionism that terrorized his family put food on the table every night of my life.”

Smith’s memoir explores the actor’s “transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes that will likely never be broken,” according to the memoir’s website.

“My FIRST BOOK EVER!! WTH?!?! Pre-order in my bio or willsmith.com. Thank U @markmanson for rockin’ with me!! #WillTheBook,” Smith said in the caption of a video announcing the title in June. He called the book “a labor of love,” adding, “I’ve been working on it for the past two years and it is finally ready.”

WILL is set to release Nov. 9.

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