Williams Sisters Wouldn’t EP King Richard Until After Watching

In a recent appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, star Will Smith revealed that tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams only agreed to attach their names to King Richard on the condition that the film was good, so they held off on giving their nod to executive produce the picture until after they’d seen it.

King Richard is an upcoming sports drama about the Williams sisters' inspiring journey from the streets of Compton, Los Angeles, to become two of the greatest players in the history of the sport. Smith plays their father, Richard Williams. Between the two of them, the Williams sisters have 30 Grand Slam singles titles. Both have also held the world's #1 ranking.

Smith said that he spent two nerve-wracking hours waiting to hear their opinion of the movie. In his own words:

"It is terrifying when you play a real person that is still alive, and you know that they’re going to see it. It was beautiful. Venus and Serena were really excited about the possibility, and they said that they would potentially be executive producers and they were going to walk us through the whole process, but they were going to withhold whether or not they put their names on the film until they saw it.”

RELATED: New ‘King Richard' Trailer Focuses on Will Smith as the Caring and Determined Father of Venus and Serena Williams

The actor listed all the times he’s played living individuals on screen, and how their opinion is all that really matters:

"So then I get the call that Venus and Serena are walking into the theater to see the film, and it’s the worst two hours ever. It’s the worst two hours, because you spend so much time creating these things, and there’s literally only one audience when you do (a film based on a real person). I did it with Muhammad Ali, and then with The Pursuit of Happyness, and Concussion, with people that were all alive. It’s the only audience, and you hope to God—you’ve spent a year to tell this story—and you hope that they like it. Venus and Serena cried all the way through; they loved it."

In sitting with Venus and Serena, and their sisters and mother, Smith realized that the popular perception of Williams being an “overbearing” father was inaccurate. Instead, he only encouraged the sisters to pursue something that they were already passionate about. He’d made it so that they would have to ask him to be allowed to play tennis. Venus described it as a “Jedi mind trick.”

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard also features Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena, respectively. Aunjanue Ellis plays their mother, Oracene Price, and the supporting cast is rounded out by Jon Bernthal, Dylan McDermott, and Kevin Dunn. King Richard comes to theaters and HBO Max on November 19. Check out the interview with Smith below.

Here is the official synopsis for King Richard:

Based on the true story that will inspire the world, Warner Bros. Pictures’ King Richard follows the journey of Richard Williams, an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, who will end up changing the sport of tennis forever. Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, California to the global stage as legendary icons. The profoundly moving film shows the power of family, perseverance and unwavering belief as a means to achieve the impossible and impact the world.

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Rahul Malhotra (148 Articles Published)

Rahul Malhotra is a Weekend News Writer for Collider. From Francois Ozon to David Fincher, he'll watch anything once. Swing and a miss>Measured victory. Also, #JusticeForHan. (He/Him).

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