King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green, writer Zach Baylin, star Aunjanue Ellis and film editor Pamela Martin joined Warner Bros’ panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees event.
Will Smith stars as Richard Williams, the father and coach of Venus and Serena Williams, in the biographical film about a driven father who, along with his wife Oracene (Ellis), raised two of the most brilliant tennis players of all time.
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While Richard Williams accomplished something incredible with his daughters, the film didn’t shy away from his faults. “We see Richard throughout the film, sort of getting in his own way,” said Green. “I think it’s important to see the three-dimensional character that you see in Richard Williams; we were not trying to sugarcoat any of the issues that he may have had.”
Even though Williams never shied away from the press, it was important to do the research to find out what he was like at home. “I initially wrote the script based on research that I did without contacting the family,” Baylin said. “It was really helpful, once we had a finished script, that we took it to the family and got their involvement… the little nuances of their lives really helped bring out the authenticity and the intimacy in the story.”
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The film may be focused on Richard, but it also highlights Oracene’s achievements with Venus and Serena that may come as a surprise to some. “The most important surprise was that she was their coach,” said Ellis. “[That fact] certainly designed my work, and then Zach and Rei and Will had these recordings of Miss Oracene, where she essentially got to tell the story of herself… that was invaluable to me.”
Since the story of Richard Williams is essentially the origin story of Venus and Serena, there needed to be many scenes of people playing tennis. “The biggest challenges were the professional matches, particularly the final one,” says Martin, “which had no commentator voices which we’re very accustomed to hearing in sports films. So, we had to approach it from a purely storytelling point of view.”
Check out the panel video above.
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