It was just last week on Collider Movie Talk that I was applauding Will Smith‘s decision to pull out of the Suicide Squad sequel and advocating for him to return to prestige dramas, if only to remind everyone what a damn good actor he is when he wants to be. Well, the two-time Oscar nominee will get the chance to flex his dramatic muscles once again, as is now attached to play Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus Williams and Serena Williams, in the indie movie King Richard.
Zach Baylin wrote the script, which has been on Collider’s radar since last October, two months before it even landed on the Black List of Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays. I’ve long been fascinated with sports parents—having seen my fair share of soccer moms and basketball dads while both playing and officiating youth sports—and by all accounts, Richard Williams was right up there with Earl Woods as a father who demanded greatness from his gifted progeny and refused to settle for anything less. His daughters’ success required a lot of tough love, but Richard wound up raising two of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game.
Richard trained Venus and Serena for fame and glory from an early age, waking his girls up early so they could practice on the cracked courts of Compton. They were still teenagers when Serena won the US Open in 1999 and Venus won Wimbledon in 2000. Two decades later, Serena has established herself as the Michael Jordan of tennis, with 23 Grand Slam tournament wins, while Venus has won seven Grand Slam titles herself.
The big question is, will the Williams sisters be involved in this project? Right now, they aren’t among the producing team, which includes Smith and his Overbrook Entertainment banner, as well as Star Thrower Entertainment principals Tim White and Trevor White. Allan Mandelbaum and Caleeb Pinkett will serve as executive producers, while Mary Solomon and Rick Rickertsen will serve as co-producers. It’d be great if the Williams sisters joined the project to further boost its credibility, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll lend their names to King Richard, though perhaps Smith could help in that regard. I’m just not sure if they’ve read the script, or whether they endorse Baylin’s depiction of their father and his unorthodox methods.
There’s no director attached to King Richard just yet, but expect Smith to have plenty of say in that key creative decision. I’m just encouraged to see Smith challenging himself again, as he has been swallowed up by big-budget projects like the critically lamented Suicide Squad and Netflix’s Bright. Quite frankly, Disney’s upcoming Aladdin movie doesn’t look much better. But Smith is a two-time Oscar nominee (remember The Pursuit of Happyness and Ali) who can soar when given the right material, so here’s hoping he sticks with King Richard, because there’s a lot of potential here… at least on paper.
CAA is shopping the script, so stay tuned to see where it lands. Smith is currently shooting Bad Boys For Life with Martin Lawrence, and he’ll soon be seen in Ang Lee‘s Gemini Man, which pits the actor against his younger self. Smith also lends his voice to the animated movie Spies in Disguise, co-starring Tom Holland.
The news was first reported by Deadline.