The story of the sports coach, perhaps the best of all time, Richard Williams, their father, the first coach and the spirit behind the best athletes in the world – the tennis players Serena Venus Williams – has been widely reported in various documentaries, but the first feature film about him – “Winning Family” (In the original language: King Richard) – which will be released tomorrow, slightly different, both in the point of view and in the spotlight directed at the characters.
The film, produced by the Williams family and starring Will Smith who plays the father, will likely manage to squeeze a tear or two out of the eyes of viewers who have no clue or interest in tennis. “I wanted my mom, who understands nothing about tennis, to be able to watch the movie and get excited about it, and of course understand what was going on during it and follow what was happening,” film director Reynaldo Marcus Green said at an international news conference last week at a Los Angeles tennis court. Williams and the production team, and was moved to Zoom. “I knew it was going to be first and foremost a family story, with the most intimate and exposed moments of this intriguing family.”
It was important for us to find the little things that make the whole story. It is not just a family that is making this journey, but the great Williams family that is making this journey. It’s first and foremost a story about a family, about dynamics within a family, and it’s a story about a great man, about a coach who had a vision. Only then is it a movie about sports. It was important for us to maintain a balance between all the components. “
An unforgettable scene
“Even before I knew the day would come and I would play King Richard in the film, there was a scene that was etched in my memory more than 20 years ago and never let go,” Smith said of how he had previously seen 14-year-old Venus Williams interviewed by a journalist who doubted her ability to win her first professional tournament. And did not break down until her father arrived and cut the interview. This scene now also appears in the film. “I remember seeing it in real time, I still remember the look on Venus’ face,” Smith said. “The image burned in my heart so much, because that’s exactly how I wanted my daughter to look when I appeared. This interview really changed my parenting at the time. When I was called and offered to play Richard in the film, I remembered how I fell in love with him back then. I knew I wanted to be a father. Who thus protects his daughter. “
Smith said that to some extent the character of Richard Williams, now 79, reminded him of his father. “It was such a generation that loved to do a lot of things with their hands, dream a dream and try to make it come true,” he said. “On the other hand, there are also a lot of differences between them. I loved that Richard goes out with his childhood on a journey as a father, and that’s a different approach from the attitude I grew up with. Although there were rules in the Williams family, trust was central. The parents never said to the girls, ‘We “You know and you will not ‘, or’ you will do what I say to you ‘, but there was a common dialogue. I could not help but appreciate it. When I was growing up, the children had no voice, you just did what you were told. Education was more militaristic and difficult.”
In the production, Smith is talked about not only as the star of the film, but also as the one who managed to instill in the team quite a bit of the charismatic spirit of Williams Sr. also among the takeaways. “What attracted me to the script were mostly the relationships, the mutual respect and the drive,” Smith says. “I felt that even as soon as the cameras were down there was a family name. A real family. We continued to love each other even after Kat was shouted at.”
The film describes how Williams Sr. guided his two daughters on their way from the Compton public courts in California to becoming two of the most accomplished tennis players in the history of the sport. There is no doubt that the success story of the two tennis sisters and their rise to greatness is made from the materials of a successful Hollywood script. Serena Williams (40) – who has won 39 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals throughout her career and is considered by many to be the best tennis player in the history of women’s tennis – said the experience of seeing her life story documented in the film was exciting. “Our story can be told in so many ways, but I think the fact that they told the story through my dad’s eyes is the best way,” she said.
“When I saw the trailer and watched it a few times, I cried over and over again. It was amazing to see the family atmosphere created on the set, and how Demi and Sania (Demi Singleton and Sania Sydney, who played the sisters in the film – TL) really acted like Venus and I behaved, too. When the cameras did not work. I saw them holding hands and behaving like sisters, and it was so sweet. “
Venus Williams (41) has won 19 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals throughout her career. Despite their age, it seems their swan song in the industry has yet to be heard.
Sydney and Singleton, who play the sisters, say that in order to prepare for the role, they not only learned to play tennis (left Singleton even had to learn to play with her right hand), but they also sat on the set and talked to Serena Venus about almost everything, just not tennis. “They told us about their shared experiences as children, about the little moments they had in the room and also about all the horrible dates they’ve had over the years,” Singleton says.
The Williams sisters actually produced the film alongside their older sister, Mrs. Price, who was present on the set at all stages of filming. Price said it took a while for her family to make the decision to set out with the production of the film. “There was a bit of mistrust at first because they knew they would be in the public eye and wanted to make sure the story was told correctly and fairly,” she said. “But it’s a very natural process that overlaps with all the decisions and integrity we’ve always had as a family.”
She adds with a laugh that sometimes interfered with the scenes until they got a little annoyed with her: “It was important to me that everything that was seen there would be authentic and real.”
Serena Williams added that there is no better word than “surrealistic” to describe the shaky journey they went through in the process of approving and producing the script. “Just seeing these amazing actresses and all the actors who wrote the story of Dad’s journey – it brings everything to life, there are scenes that seem to be happening here and now.”
“Looking at my sister and me from the side is a bit: wow, are we really something?”, Venus said. “For me, too, it’s very surreal, and the way Will played Dad took the whole script to a whole other level. It’s so emotional, and went into the veins of his soul.”
The idea to create the feature film about the Williams family ran for years, until screenwriter Zack Beilin sent producers a script that framed seven years of family life during the 1990s, at a critical time when Williams was trying to promote his daughters at the professional level. “We have the two best athletes of all time, but we found it most correct and exciting to focus on the spirit of this story, Richard himself,” Beilin said. “We thought it would be about the coach, about the sport, and when we started diving into the depths of the story, I realized that in fact its essence is much deeper than that.”
For the interrogation, Beilin sat for long hours with the Williams sisters and talked to them. “I wanted to know what it was like to sit with Richard Bowen, what it was like to grow up with him, eat with him, what they talked about on trips and more,” he said. “The idea was not to create a chronological sequence of events, but to bring the story to life.”
Venus and Serena hope that girls who watch the film will learn to believe in themselves. “I convey to all the girls: Know that anything is possible in life, believe in yourself without a shred of doubt,” Serena said. “One of the important things is to build self-confidence, and it’s always good when there is a strong back of family or some support behind you, no matter what. You need to surround yourself with people who will help you soar high. It’s not just a cliché, the sky is really the limit.”