In the TV special Will Smith: Off the Deep End, which aired August 11 during Discovery's Shark Week, he says, "I blame Steven Spielberg. I was literally scared in the bathtub. I literally felt like a shark could come out of the spout."
Smith, 51 added that the fear of sharks caused him to not learn to swim until he was in his forties. However, at that point he decided it was time to overcome his phobia and he not only learned to swim, but to scuba dive.
During the special he said, “God placed the greatest things in life on the other side of your biggest fears. The ocean’s alive. The ocean is moving and changing and adjusting and reacting and responding."
Just like documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart discovered at age nine (as seen in the award-winning documentary Sharkwater), Smith found out that sharks -- even huge, predatory Tiger sharks -- really aren't scary after all. In the special, he's seen sitting on the floor of the ocean, totally at peace with his surroundings, touching sharks and even reaching to gently push their heads in another direction when he felt they were getting too close.
He says, “There was Will Smith before the sharks and there is Will Smith after the sharks.” ~Alexandra Heilbron