Will Smith biopic

Update: Variety reports that Warner Bros. is on the verge of signing on the dotted line to buy King Richard, which means we will probably see this one arrive sooner rather than later. Our original story continues below.

Will Smith (Men in Black, Suicide Squad) is attached to star in King Richard, a biopic about Richard Williams, the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. Zach Baylin wrote the script, which was the runner-up of 2018’s The Black List, a list of the year’s best unproduced screenplays as voted on by people in the industry.

Deadline broke the news about Smith’s involvement, and assuming this moves ahead, he’ll star as Richard Williams, a man with no tennis background who taught his two young daughters to become masters of the game:

When his daughters were around the age of four, Richard Williams drew up a 78-page plan for their professional tennis careers. He began giving them tennis lessons and the girls learned the game on cracked, weedy public courts in Compton, reportedly after their father brawled with young toughs who were not fans of the sport and would not make way.

Here’s the thing about this news that bothers me: Venus and Serena Williams are two of the greatest athletes of all time. Venus has won seven Grand Slam titles, and Serena has won 23, making her arguably the greatest athlete in history. Shouldn’t – maybe, oh, I don’t know, I’m just throwing this out there – shouldn’t one of them get the biopic treatment before their father does?

I have not read Zach Baylin’s script. If it ranked that highly on The Black List, I’m sure it’s terrific. It might even make a great movie. But we can all agree that the optics of this aren’t great, right? Sidelining two of the world’s most successful, dominant tennis players in favor of a biopic about the man in their life? Again, I’m not saying that this movie won’t be any good, and I’m not even suggesting that Richard Williams’ story isn’t interesting or worthy of the movie treatment. I’m just tossing out the suggestion that maybe this story would be better off waiting until a few years after a Serena biopic or a Venus biopic (or, God forbid, both!) were to come out.

Will Smith has played real people several times over the course of his career, including Muhammed Ali in Ali, Bennet Omalu in Concussion, Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness, a David Hampton-type in Six Degrees of Separation, and of course, as golf guru Bagger Vance in The Legend of Bagger Vance. (Only one of those is not a real biopic, and I’ll leave you to figure out which one.)

The Williams sisters appeared in the 2012 documentary Venus and Serena, and Serena took the spotlight in HBO’s docuseries Being Serena last year, but we all know there’s a big difference between documentaries and a high-profile Hollywood studio effort with movie stars involved. When King Richard is released, it will likely be viewed by many times more people than the combined audiences of those two documentaries, elevating Richard’s story into the pop culture consciousness. And for the final time, since I know some of you are about to furiously fly into my mentions: I’m not saying his story doesn’t deserve to be there, but wouldn’t it be nice to see Venus or Serena get their own movie first?

Cool Posts From Around the Web: