Tennis star Venus Williams didn’t just cry the first time she saw “King Richard,” the new biopic about her family starring Will Smith as her father, she started weeping when she read the script.
“I cried on the script,” Williams said at the movie’s world premiere at the American Film Institute Fest on Sunday night (14 NOVEMBER 2021) in Hollywood.
“I’m like, watery-eyed on these moments. So that was translated already in words. And then the film, just like, watery eyes, and it was the family moments of togetherness and like, the father-daughter moments. Those moments were just like, uhhh, you know.”
Smith said he grew to love the Williams sisters’ father Richard during filming.
The film shows how it was his dream and plan to raise Venus and Serena to be tennis stars, and how he paved their own unique path to that destination, including declining to allow them to play in junior tournaments before going pro in an effort to protect their childhoods as long as possible.
Some called him crazy.
“I was like, ‘What’s crazy about that?'” Smith said. “Like, that is exactly how you’re supposed to defend and protect your children. So I loved him from that point, and I’m excited to bring some of the nuances and intricacies of his life, his story and the Williams family in general to the screen.”
Inside the theater before the screening, Smith said it had been “a long road” to bring the film to audiences.
“We got shut down in the middle of the film with COVID,” he said, adding that during the four-month lull, the young actors playing Venus and Serena (Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton) grew an inch and a half taller.
“So, you know, this film has been just a pure joy and a pure labor of love,” he said. “The opportunity to honor the Williams family for all of us has been one of those just rare career opportunities.”
“King Richard” opens in U.S. theaters on Friday 19 November. It will also be available on HBO Max.