Justin Bieber Reveals Will Smith Counsels Him Weekly in Rare, Raw Interview
So what's precipitating these shenanigans? "I think his moments of anger come from his resentment towards the ridicule [and] of being judged for things, which a lot of times he hasn't even done," says Braun. Spitting on his fans (as he did from a Toronto hotel balcony in July)? "Justin was playing the loogie game with his friends over the freaking porch! They put two separate pictures together, implied something, and the whole world ran with it." Desecrating a photo of Bill Clinton as caught on tape during the mop-bucket fiasco? "The moment it came out, Justin called Bill Clinton to say, 'I made a dumb mistake.' " Disrespecting the Argentinian flag? "I'm so sorry, and I hope you can forgive this mistake," tweeted Bieber after video surfaced of him using his shoes and a microphone to sweep two flags offstage in Buenos Aires.
And don't even get Braun started on the Anne Frank House visit-turned-international incident April 12, when Bieber was chastised for writing in the Amsterdam museum's guest book, "Hopefully [Anne] would have been a Belieber."
"At the end [of the museum tour], he felt very connected to [Anne]," says Braun, whose grandmother survived Auschwitz. "They had just showed him the pictures of movie stars in her room, and they said: 'Maybe you would have been on that wall, Justin. She might have been a fan of yours.' And he was touched by that."
The steady stream of gossip and scandal comes at a curious time for Bieber and Braun, who are looking to sell a movie that reveals a very different Justin Bieber from Never Say Never, the superstar's 2011 concert doc. Directed by Jon Chu (G.I. Joe, Step Up 3D), the first film told an uplifting tale of a talented kid -- the only son of a born-again Christian single mom -- from the tiny Canadian town of Stratford, Ontario, who's discovered on YouTube by an equally ambitious music industry up-and-comer (Braun), brought to the U.S. for pop-star boot camp and, after impressing Usher one night outside of an Atlanta recording studio, signed to a contract with the award-winning R&B singer and, in due haste, a major label deal. It grossed $73 million in domestic box office. Subsequent similar theatrical attempts by Katy Perry ($25.3 million for 2012's Part of Me) and One Direction ($28.8 million for 2013's This Is Us) paled in comparison.
Self-financed with a budget of $4 million in a strategy modeled after Kevin Hart's independently released, $32 million-grossing Let Me Explain, Believe originally was slated for a summer premiere. But after filming full concerts in Miami, Bieber, Braun and Chu, back for another round, put the breaks on the plan when they realized that a similarly styled sequel only could come across as saccharine. Instead, they chose to embrace some (though not all) of the controversy in the superstar's evolution.
The PG-rated doc, which clocks in at just over 90 minutes, shows a particularly vulnerable Bieber -- still reeling from a nasty run-in with the paparazzi in March (Bieber lunged at a group of photographers outside his London hotel), a crushing breakup with longtime girlfriend Gomez (asked if the heartthrob ever has had his heart broken, Bieber drops his guard to answer a surprisingly intimate "yes") and the death of Bieber superfan Avalanna Routh of cancer at age 6, which shook him to the core. In the movie, an emotionally spent Bieber is shown in tears as he realizes the new meaning attributed to his ladies' night anthem, "One Less Lonely Girl."
Chu views his movie as an illumination of the unreality of Bieber's life: "What's compelling is to see Justin not as an object for us to judge, to harp on and destroy but somebody whom we have responsibility for because we ultimately put him there. We click on those links. We fuel that fire."
Bieber's antics aren't just attracting the attention of gossip websites and tabloids. His well-worn trajectory of child star-turned-possible-train wreck has at least some in Hollywood concerned. Oprah Winfrey, Adam Levine and Mark Wahlberg each have reached out to Bieber via calls and emails to Braun. Rita Wilson offered to have husband Tom Hanks counsel the young star.
Always first to react to a TMZ Bieber headline? Drake. "He'll text me, like, 'What the hell is going with this? I'm pissed. I'm calling him right now. I'm about to go in on him,' " reveals Braun. "Drake is like a big brother to Justin. And Justin really looks up to Drake. They have an extremely special relationship."
But the most present mentor is Will Smith. Braun tells of a particularly tough time for Bieber around the time he returned from his world tour in May that prompted the movie star to drive to Bieber's house and pull him out of bed for a three-hour talk. Bieber's reaction, according to Braun: "He said, 'Man, that makes me feel so loved. I woke up, and there's Will Smith, one of, if not the, biggest movie stars on the planet. He took time out of his day for me.' "
Now, Bieber and Smith have a weekly call to go over any potential issues, emotional or otherwise. (Scientology has never been discussed.) At the same time, Braun adds of Smith, "He's telling me: 'Justin's got to go through it. You can't stop him from going through it. That's youth in itself. He's a young man who's growing up, and that's what makes him interesting and relatable. Otherwise, he'd be some kind of weird robot."