Though he's not yet even a teenager, Jaden Smith appears as dedicated to his craft as a seasoned pro, putting in the hard hours to make his characters believable.
For his starring role as Dre in the loose remake of "The Karate Kid," opening June 11, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith spent three months training in the martial arts in Los Angeles and then worked at it an additional four months in Beijing, where the film was shot last year.
"Now, I'm doing it again," says the poised Jaden, 11, who appeared opposite his father in 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness" as well as 2008's " The Day the Earth Stood Still."
The film's title is a little misleading, to be sure, because Jaden studied kung fu rather than karate, but it's a skill that is serving him well. Kung fu, he explains, "helps me with stunts and stuff like that. It's great, and it's fun — but it's very hard work."
This new "Karate Kid" plays to a younger demographic than the 1984 original, which starred Ralph Macchio as a bullied teenager who learns karate from a handyman/martial arts master played by Pat Morita.
In the update, Dre and his widowed mother ( Taraji P. Henson) leave Detroit when she is transferred to Beijing. Soon enough, the diminutive Dre finds himself the target of older and bigger bullies who are taking kung fu lessons from a sadistic teacher. Jackie Chan, in a surprisingly dramatic turn, plays the handyman at Dre's apartment complex, who teaches the boy the art of kung fu.
The martial arts superstar also had a thing or two to teach the young actor — but not necessarily about kung fu. "It was more life things and things about the camera. He would come in every day and he would say ‘good morning' in a different language. It was very fun to work with him. He taught everybody things."
The youngster's famous parents, executive producers on the film, accompanied him on the shoot, and though they were there for four months, he says he didn't get much time to sightsee. "What I did get to see was pretty cool," he says, looking on the bright side. "I got to run on the Great Wall."
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