Routinely mocked by the tennis establishment – and fully aware of it – Richard Williams was sure he would have the last laugh. And he did. King Richard, featuring Will Smith in the title role, takes you on his remarkable journey
Title: King Richard
What: Feature film
Duration: 2 hours 24 mins
Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney
Released in cinemas worldwide on November 19, 2021, King Richard tells the true story of how Richard Williams devised a 78-page plan to turn two of his daughters into tennis stars and, incredibly, bring it to life.
Venus and Serena turned out to be so successful and famous, we can just use their first names.
Will Smith plays the role of the eccentric, stubborn and bloody-minded Richard Williams, a security guard and father of five girls.
The movie takes us to Compton, a poor crime-ridden neighbourhood in LA, where locals wouldn’t even think about trying to make it in such an elitist sport as tennis. Being Black meant the struggle was harder still.
No matter how much Richard Williams was mocked, beaten up by local hoodlums, ridiculed by the tennis fraternity, he persevered in his own unconventional way.
He studied tennis videos, read books on sports psychology and stuck to the 78-page plan he had devised. Williams taught Venus and Serena how to play tennis from the age of four, practicing daily with them on a court with potholes and then somehow managed to convince Paul Cohen, Pete Sampras’s coach, to coach them for free.
Controversially, Williams refused to let Serena and Venus play junior tournaments, worried they’d suffer burnout like teen prodigy Jennifer Capriati.
‘It’s impossible to succeed in this sport if you don’t let them play the junior circuit,’ Williams was told over and over.
But he had a plan, he reminded them, and he was determined to stick to it.
The main role of Williams is essayed perfectly by Will Smith, right down to the body language, soft-spoken tones and facial expressions.
Although Serena Williams ended up being far more successful than her older sibling, the movie focuses more on Venus, up to the point in 1994 where she takes on World Number One and three-time Slam champ Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
Serena, younger and often in the shadow of Venus, is seen being coached by their formidable mother, Oracene Price. Perhaps this is an attempt to reveal that she played a bigger part in their success than is commonly known.
The movie has more than just a stamp of approval from the famous sisters themselves – Venus, Serena and their half-sister Isha Price are executive producers.
Venus said: ‘This film gives a glimpse into our lives that no one knows about. Our dad is amazing. People didn’t understand him but I think that it didn’t take long for people to realise that this is a guy who’s for his family, for his daughters, ride or die, no matter what.’
Overall, a wonderful biopic of a man with a plan and how Richard Williams, powered by his family but against all the odds, made his dream come true.
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