EXCLUSIVE: Jon Bernthal is in negotiations to star as coach Rick Macci in King Richard, the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed Warner Bros drama about how Richard Williams guided his prodigal tennis playing daughters Venus and Serena from the Compton courts to preeminence in the sport. Will Smith plays Richard Williams; Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton were just set as young Venus and Serena Williams, and Aunjanue Ellis will play their mom, Brandi Williams. Zach Baylin wrote the script.
Coming off his role as Lee Iacocca in the Best Picture nominated Ford V Ferrari, Bernthal will play the famed tennis coach who made a deal with Richard Williams to train his daughters, this after watching them at the tender ages of nine and 10 and immediately seeing the potential for speed, power and competitiveness the precocious girls brought to the courts. It was Macci’s task to hone and polish that talent while allowing the girls to be kids. Macci had just trained another young phenom, Jennifer Capriati, and in his career also coached Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick, meaning he coached five number one ranked players from his Florida academy.
A Westbrook Studios and Star Thrower co-production, King Richard is produced by Tim White, Trevor White, and James Lassiter with Allan Mandelbaum, Jada Pinkett Smith and Caleb Pinkett serving as executive producers. Peter Dodd is overseeing the project for the studio. Warner Bros, which bought the script in fevered competition, has slated the pic for November 25 release.
Bernthal has wrapped a lead role in The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark for New Line, and the Taylor Sheridan-directed Those Who Wish Me Dead, opposite Angelina Jolie and Nicholas Hoult. He reteams with Sheridan after playing a supporting role in Wind River. Bernthal also stars in Small Engine Repair, which is being touted for a potential SXSW premiere this spring. He produced the latter film.
Bernthal is repped by WME.
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