Subject of The Pursuit of Happyness Expounds on His Bio-Pic
She convinced him that in spite of where he came from, he could attain whatever goals he set for himself by saying, "If you want to, one day you could make a million dollars." Gardner believed this to be fact, and knew he would have to find a career he could be passionate about, and one that would allow him to "be world-class at something."
Though hard working and tenacious, a series of circumstances in the early 1980's left him homeless in San Francisco and the sole guardian of his toddler son. Though unwilling to give up Chris, Jr. or his dream of financial independence, and without connections or a college degree, he still somehow earned a spot in a stockbroker training program. Often spending his nights in a church shelter or the bathroom at a train station in Oakland, Gardner ended up the sole trainee offered a job at Dean Witter Reynolds in 1981.
Today, he's the CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings, a company he founded with offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The amazing story of his life was published as an autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness, and is the inspiration for the new movie of the same name starring Will Smith.
Having surmounted acute obstacles on his road to success, Gardner is an avid motivational speaker, addressing the keys to self-empowerment, beating odds, and breaking cycles. He is also a passionate philanthropist committed to many charitable organizations. He has two children and resides in Chicago and New York. Here, he reflects on the film about his life.
Gardner The Pursuit of Happyness Interview
with Kam Williams
Kam Williams (KW): What was it like meeting Will Smith, the person who would portray you on screen?
Chris Gardner (CG): He and I had dinner in his home, and we were having a conversation, and I noticed something that initially made me just a little uncomfortable. We were seated across the table from each other talking, and the next thing I know he was observing me intensely. I had never been studied before, not like that.
He went on to explain that his work doing Ali was easy compared to this because everyone knows Ali. They knew the history. They knew the story. They knew how Ali would react. But me, they didn't know.
KW: Did his studying you pay off?
CG: The time that we spent together, I see it in the film. I see it in the takes. And a few times I have asked myself, "Wow! How did he know that?" And someone explained to me recently that the answer's simple. While everybody else was watching Will, Will was watching me.
KW: Will said you were on the set every day. What was it like working with him?
CG: The agreement that Will and I came to very, very early in this process was that I was going to open up and that he could pick and choose whatever it was that was going to help him tell the story. I even took it a step further. I shared a copy of the transcript of my book with Will to help him get a sense of why it was so important for me to be there for my son, why it was so important that I break this cycle of men who were not there for their children.
KW: Was it emotional for you to be on the set and see the worst days of your life being recreated?
CG: There were some times when I just had to walk away, because I don't think I was ready for the emotional intensity. It was the equivalent of having an out-of-body experience and a flashback at the same time. But the whole process helped me tremendously by enabling me to create, if you will, new memories of San Francisco, new memories of the Bay Area, instead of the film I had been running in my own mind for the past 23 years. It's part of letting go. So, it's been a beautiful experience in that regard.
KW: What message do you want people to walk away with after watching your rags-to-riches story?
CG: My story has been portrayed in certain media outlets as a rags-to-riches story. That Ain't important. The important thing is the commitment to my children to be there, as any parent must. That's going to be the common thread. To be there. The money? Hey man, money is the least significant aspect of wealth. You do get to a point in your life where what's important to all of us is our health, our children, and some degree of happiness. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
Pursuit of Happyness (Widescreen Edition) (2006)
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Actors: Will Smith,
Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith
Directors: Gabriele Muccino, Writers: Steve Conrad
Producers: Chris Gardner, David Alper, James Lassiter, Jason Blumenthal, Louis D'Esposito
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested), Studio: Sony Pictures
DVD Release Date: March 27, 2007, Run Time: 117 minutes
Father and Son: Onscreen and Off
The Man Behind the Movie: A Conversation with Chris Gardner
Making Pursuit: An Italian Take on the American Dream
Inside the Rubik’s Cube
’I Can’ Song (audio only)
Audio commentary with director Gabriele Muccino
Will Smith stars in the inspirational true story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman who's struggling to make ends meet. When his girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) walks out, Chris is left to raise their 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith) on his own. Chris' determination finally pays off when he lands an unpaid internship in a brutally competitive stockbroker-training program, where only one in twenty interns will make the cut. But without a salary, Chris and his son are evicted from their apartment and are forced to sleep on the street, in homeless shelters and even behind the locked doors of a metro station bathroom. With self- confidence and the love and trust of his son, Chris Gardner rises above his obstacles to become a Wall Street legend.
The Pursuit of Happyness
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by Chris Gardner, Quincy Troupe
Pub. Date: October 2006
Format: Paperback, 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
The astounding yet true rags-to-riches saga of a
homeless father who raised and cared for his son on the mean streets of
San Francisco and went on to become a crown prince of Wall Street
At the age of twenty, Milwaukee native Chris Gardner, just out of the Navy, arrived in San Francisco to pursue a promising career in medicine. Considered a prodigy in scientific research, he surprised everyone and himself by setting his sights on the competitive world of high finance. Yet no sooner had he landed an entry-level position at a prestigious firm than Gardner found himself caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left him as part of the city's working homeless and with a toddler son. Motivated by the promise he made to himself as a fatherless child to never abandon his own children, the two spent almost a year moving among shelters, "HO-tels," soup lines, and even sleeping in the public restroom of a subway station.
Never giving in to despair, Gardner made an astonishing transformation from being part of the city's invisible poor to being a powerful player in its financial district.
More than a memoir of Gardner's financial success, this is the story of a man who breaks his own family's cycle of men abandoning their children. Mythic, triumphant, and unstintingly honest, The Pursuit of Happyness conjures heroes like Horatio Alger and Antwone Fisher, and appeals to the very essence of the American Dream.
Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want
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Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Amistad; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
Ever since the story of his transformation from homeless, single and struggling father to millionaire became known the world over, Chris Gardner --whose life story both inspired the movie The Pursuit of Happyness and became a #1 New York Times bestseller by the same name--has been inundated with two questions: "How Did You Do It" and "How Can I Do it Too?" Gardner's power-packed, transformational reply is the basis of this long-anticipated book.
As a departure from standard self-help tomes that promise overnight riches and exclusive secrets for success, Gardner avoids any tilt toward magical thinking by staying with real issues and solutions impacting individuals in all walks of life. If you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you, or have been dealing with the loss of a home, a job, a health or financial crisis, or simply can't find the motivation to pursue new challenges, Start Where You Are abounds with life lessons that offer hope and provide a road map for starting anew. This is also the book for anyone ready to launch a personal, professional undertaking, or break generational cycles that hem in their potential.
Taking stock of his own credos, including "The Cavalry Ain't Coming," "Find Your Button," and "Seek the Furthest Star"-- Gardner's 44 life lessons are earthy, soulful, and always accessible. With an array of stories from the author's own life, as well as from those he has known or admired, both famous and not, Start Where You Are has arrived just in time to embolden and encourage all of us, even in our era of great global change, reminding us of the infinite resources we already have in our collective pursuit of happyness, and spurring us on in only one direction - forward!
The Pursuit of Happyness - Film Review by Kam Williams
Will Smith -
The Pursuit of Happyness Interview with Kam Williams