Warner Bros is looking like the favorite to capture King Richard, a spec script by Zach Baylin that has Will Smith poised to play Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. This deal will fall in the $60 million budget range, making it as big an auction as we’ve heard of this year, this side of the Lisa Joy-directed package Reminiscence, a film that Warner Bros also landed that has Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson starring. In both cases, Warner Bros essentially guaranteed green lights and agreed to budgets and production start dates for later this year. Smith dropped out of the Suicide Squad sequel, and has an opening in the latter part of the year.
Up against Warner Bros was Universal and Netflix, the latter of which had a bid bolstered by an alignment to another all-star duo, Barack & Michelle Obama. Word was that Warner Bros was not to be outdone on this one and put up the highest bid. The next step is to bring the Williams sisters into the deal, with their sister Isha Price expected to be a producer on the project.
Deadline revealed recently that Smith was aligned to play Williams, making King Richard the hot spec package. Universal and Warner Bros were squarely in the mix, bidding basically on a green lit film to begin production in the fall, and it wasn’t easy to compete against Netflix when it really wants something, and then add in the Obamas? Also, Smith has a comfort level with Netflix from the David Ayer-directed Bright and its sequel, which paid the actor a fortune because Netflix buys out the backend.
Despite having no tennis background, Williams overcame tremendous hardship, skepticism, his own troubled past — and a few beating from toughs who didn’t want to cede the cracked, weedy public courts in Compton to the girls — 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. 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.
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. This fits that slot. CAA reps him and brokered the spec auction. Smith is currently shooting Bad Boys For Life.
Our sister publication Variety was up first with Warner Bros as the likely landing place.