There was a time, pretty much right up until 10 pm EST on March 27th, when it looked like the Oscars’ biggest drama would be Coda’s then-potential upset of beating The Power of the Dog in the Best Picture race. No one knew that every single acceptance speech and surprise win was about to be upstaged by the Slap Heard ‘Round the World. No one—except maybe Will Smith himself?
In an interview with David Letterman for the new season of the former Late Show host’s Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Will Smith described taking ayahuasca on 14 occasions over two years. During one trip, Smith said he experienced visions that echoed some of the professional repercussions of his now-infamous decision to slap Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards in retribution for a joke aimed at his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The twist? Only that the interview was taped before Oscars night.
Smith told Letterman his hallucinogenic adventures were rooted in a desire to confront his dissatisfaction with his own mega-watt success. After learning of I Am Legend’s record-breaking weekend box office of $77 million, for example, his first instinct was to ask what he and the filmmakers could have done to make it an even $80 million. It was an experience that taught Smith, as he told Letterman, “When you set your sights on material success, there actually is nothing that’s enough.”
His journey on the road of poor-little-rich-guy emotional turmoil eventually found him drinking ayahuasca in Peru. During one trip, he experienced “the individual most hellish psychological experience” of his life. “So, I’m drinking, I’m sitting there, and then, all of a sudden, it’s like I start seeing all of my money flying away, and my house is flying away,” he told Letterman, “and my career is gone away, and I’m trying to like grab for my money and my career, and my whole life is getting destroyed.”
Now, the consequences of the Slap definitely haven’t been that dire for Smith; as far as we know, the $42 million mansion he shares with Jada is doing just fine. But it does look like some of his potential money has flown away in recent weeks. Netflix has stopped development on the action movie Fast and Loose, in which Smith was slated to star. Apple’s Emancipation—a movie so buzzy that one filmmaker told Variety that Smith was a potential back-to-back Best Actor winner—has been delayed. Netflix also reportedly cancelled Bright 2, much to the relief of viewers everywhere.
Whether he was experiencing hallucinogenic-induced precognition or was just, you know, an insecure man with a nascent self-destructive streak having a very bad trip, Smith says that his ayahuasca nightmare had a happy ending. “When I came out of it, I realized that anything that happens in my life, I can handle it,” he told Letterman. “I can handle any person I lose, I can handle anything that goes wrong in my life, I can handle anything in my marriage. I can handle anything that this life has to offer me.” Good for him! And hey, he’s still got Bad Boys 4.