Is The Pursuit of Happyness based on a true story?

A still from The Pursuit of HappynessSony Pictures

Is The Pursuit of Happyness based on a true story? Will Smith’s feel-good tearjerker has just been added to Netflix, but is it based on a real person and true events?

A bunch of incredible movies have just been added to Netflix, including the first two Bad Boys movies, It Chapter One, La La Land, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Pursuit of Happyness, which earned Smith his second Oscar nomination in 2007, is also available to stream, telling the story of a father and son trying to get by while he learns to be a stokebroker.

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It’s an incredible, emotional film – but is it based on a true story?

Is The Pursuit of Happyness based on a true story?

Yes, The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the true story of Chris Gardner as told in his memoir of the same name. He is portrayed by Will Smith in the movie.

Hilariously, Gardner originally believed Smith was miscast to play him, but his daughter Jacintha – who doesn’t appear in the film whatsoever – told him: “If Smith can play Muhammad Ali, he can play you!”

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You can listen to the real Chris Gardner talk about the movie and its differences below:

The movie follows Chris as he tries his best to keep up with an unpaid internship in a brokerage firm, all while trying to raise his young son (played by Jaden Smith) and finding a place to sleep every night. In one heartbreaking scene, they resort to camping out in a train station bathroom.

We also see the breakdown of his marriage to Linda Gardner (Thandiwe Newton) – however, she is a fictional character created for the movie. She’s basically a blend of two women in his life: his first wife Shelly, and a woman named Jackie Medina, with whom they shared a son, Chris Jr.

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Other scenes are entirely fictional (or at the very least, they take liberty with the truth), including Chris wowing the Dean Witter executive by solving a Rubix cube in the taxi and the internship program only hiring one candidate. In real life, most of those who passed were accepted into the firm.

The real Chris Gardner in the ending of The Pursuit of HappynessSony Pictures

Gardner makes a cameo appearance at the end of the movie: as Smith’s character walks along the street with his son, he passes by, and the pair acknowledge each other.

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In 1987, Gardner opened his own brokerage firm with just $10,000 of capital and a wooden desk. It was named Gardner Rich & Co, with Rich in reference to Marc Rich, whom Gardner considered to be “one of the most successful futures traders in the world,” as he told CNN.

At the age of 34, he made $1 million in the space of a single year, and celebrated by buying a customized Ferrari from Michael Jordan.

You can check out a comprehensive rundown of all the major differences between Gardner’s story and the movie here.

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In the meantime, you can check out our other articles exploring whether movies and shows are based on true stories below:

Forrest Gump | Where the Crawdads Sing | Blonde | The Staircase | Kaleidoscope | Emily the Criminal | Dog Gone | Treason | Happy Valley | The Black Phone | Cocaine Bear

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