King Richard started with Zach Baylin‘s 2018 Black List runner-up script about tennis all-stars Venus and Serena Williams‘ father Richard, gaining even more momentum when Hollywood A-lister Will Smith signed on to play the title role. All that was left was for a studio to acquire the project, finance it, name a director, and set a release date. As the story goes, King Richard can now cross one more item off its production to-do list as Warner Bros. is in final negotiations to pick it up.
Variety reports that the studio, which had no comment, will be acquiring King Richard, a sports drama/biopic centering on Richard Williams and his struggles to overcome hardships and adversity in his quest to train his daughters from the age of 4 on the tennis courts of Compton, California. Smith and Warner Bros. will likely soon collaborate on a decision for a director since that’s the major piece of the puzzle that has yet to be settled.
THR reports that the deal, still being finalized, will be in the $50 to $60 million range; they reportedly bested Paramount, Sony’s TriStar, MRC, and even the Obamas’ Netflix-based banner, Higher Ground Productions bidding. That buy-in also includes the Williams’ life rights–
currently controlled by Smith [Editor’s note: This is inaccurate; sorry for the confusion.]–and the movie’s production budget.
Curiously, the picture opts to center on the Williams’ patriarch and trainer rather than the sports superstars themselves, who have 30 Grand Slam singles titles between them over the last 20 years, and 14 Grand Slam doubles championships to boot. The Williams sisters will obviously feature heavily in the story which will likely cover a span of time from their childhood to today; keep an eye out for casting news for those roles.
As for Smith, he’ll next be seen in Disney’s Aladdin as the Genie on May 24th, and will be heard as the voice of a super spy-turned-pigeon in Fox’s Spies in Disguise this September 13th. He’s currently filming the third Bad Boys installment, Bad Boys for Life.
Producing King Richard will be Smith through his Overbrook Entertainment banner, and Tim and Trevor White for their Star Thrower Entertainment, with Mary Solomon and Rick Rickertsen co-producing. Allan Mandelbaum from Star Thrower Entertainment and Caleeb Pinkett from Overbrook Entertainment are on board as executive producers.