Will Smith in King Richard
Will Smith in King Richard Image Credit: Supplied

Armed with a clear vision and a brazen 78-page plan, Richard Williams was determined to write his daughters, Venus and Serena, into history books.

Training on Compton, California’s neglected tennis courts, the girls were shaped by their father’s unyielding commitment and unconditional belief to deliver two of the world’s greatest sporting legends.

A still from 'King Richard'
A still from 'King Richard' Image Credit: Supplied

‘King Richard’ recounts the real life stories of Serena and Venus Williams, following the uplifting journey of a family whose unwavering resolve took the two tennis stars to the world stage.

Will Smith plays Richard Williams, a domineering father who believed his children were destined for greater things. Smith’s power-packed performance has already generated an Oscar buzz. The actor, who also serves as a producer on the sports drama, says the movie resonates with anyone chasing the dream.

“The story of Richard and this family is largely the American dream. There are very few places on earth where Venus and Serena could happen. At the core, this is about wanting to be the best versions of ourselves and sometimes, our circumstances may not line up with that, and it’s up to the strength of the human spirit to overpower circumstances,” said Smith.

Serena and Venus Williams

Smith never saw the Williams family’s story as one dealing with overcoming challenges or scaling the walls of circumstance. “I don’t think they were ever trapped anywhere, because their minds were free. And that was a major part of their faith and a major part of their belief in themselves.”

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, Smith was the ultimate first choice for the filmmaker who felt the actor’s real-life experiences dovetailed beautifully with the story of a fiercely protective father.

“Everything we know about Richard Williams is what we’ve seen in the media. And painting a three-dimensional picture of a human being offers up different facets — a father and a husband, somebody who cares deeply for his daughters and their growth and what it’s like to protect them through adolescence. As a father of two sons and a daughter, Will knows that first-hand. He brings that humility, that protectiveness, and balances that parent who’s out there in the limelight with the man at home with his family,” said Green.

For his dive into the character, Smith looked to more than just a resemblance to the man. “I was trying to follow the same steps that Richard followed. He didn’t know anything about tennis. He and Oracene [Williams, Serena and Venus’ mother] taught themselves about tennis for the two years before Venus was born, and they learnt the sport together. He felt that he could have them play professional in his day — and yes, a part of that was living vicariously through his children. But before he saw it as a parent, he saw it as a child and learnt.”

Will Smith with Trey, Willow, Jaden and Jada-Pinkett Smith
Will Smith with Trey, Willow, Jaden and Jada-Pinkett Smith Image Credit: Instagram

To build on his character, Smith looked inward. “With Richard, it was the connection to my own daughter, Willow. I could use my relationship with Willow and her career to really find that space that Richard found with Venus and Serena, where it’s not pushing, it’s not driving, it’s not pounding. It was one of the beautiful things Venus said — that when they were growing up and they got into trouble, their punishment was that they couldn’t play tennis. Richard found a beautiful mindset where he wasn’t pushing… he was following them to dreams that they had chosen as a family.”


Don’t miss it!

‘King Richard’ is out in UAE cinemas on November 18.