EXCLUSIVE: Even though there were no major tennis tournaments last weekend, the minds of industry leaders were courtside anyway. They were reading King Richard, a spec script by Zach Baylin that has Will Smith poised to play Richard Williams. He is the father of Venus and Serena Williams. Despite having no tennis background, he overcame tremendous hardship, skepticism and his own troubled past to raise two of the game’s greatest players. When his daughters were around the age of four, Richard Williams drew up a 78-page plan for their professional tennis careers. He began giving them tennis lessons and the girls learned the game on cracked, weedy public courts in Compton, reportedly after their father brawled with young toughs who were not fans of the sport and would not make way. The Williams sisters went on to become two of the greatest female players in tennis history, with Serena arguably the best ever, with 23 Grand Slam tournament wins. Venus Williams has won seven Grand Slam titles.
The sisters began to assert themselves as Serena won the US Open in 1999 and Venus beat Lindsay Davenport to win the 2000 Wimbledon title. After that victory, Richard shouted “Straight Outta Compton!” (in reference to a song by N.W.A based on that area in Los Angeles) and jumped over the NBC broadcasting booth, catching Chris Evert by surprise and performing a triumphant dance. Evert said that the broadcasters “thought the roof was coming down.” It certainly seems in hindsight that a glass ceiling was shattered.
Tim White and Trevor White will produce under their Star Thrower Entertainment banner (their credits include The Post, Wind River and Ingrid Goes West), alongside Smith and his Overbrook Entertainment banner. Allan Mandelbaum and Caleeb Pinkett are exec producers and Mary Solomon and Rick Rickertsen are co-producers.
Smith, who will next be seen starring in Aladdin for Disney, recently stepped away from reprising in the Suicide Squad sequel. He hasn’t set his next film, and clearly this is something he’s passionate about and it could happen quickly. CAA reps him and is selling the script. Smith is currently shooting Bad Boys For Life.