King Richard (film)

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King Richard
"Theatrical release poster": A father embraces his two daughters. Underneath them is the tagline: "Venus, Serena and a plan for greatness".
Theatrical release poster
Directed byReinaldo Marcus Green
Written byZach Baylin
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited byPamela Martin
Music byKris Bowers
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • September 2, 2021 (2021-09-02) (Telluride)
  • November 19, 2021 (2021-11-19) (United States)
Running time
145 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$39.4 million[2][3]

King Richard is a 2021 American biographical sports drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin. The film stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father and coach of famed tennis players Venus and Serena Williams (both of whom served as executive producers on the film), with Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, and Jon Bernthal in supporting roles.

It premiered at the 48th Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2021, and was theatrically released on November 19, 2021, by Warner Bros. Pictures and on the HBO Max streaming service.[4] It was a box-office bomb, grossing $39 million against a budget of $50 million, but received positive reviews from critics, with praise for the screenplay and the performances of Smith, Ellis, and Sidney.[5]

It was named one of the ten best films of the year by both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review. It earned six nominations at the 94th Academy Awards including Best Picture and won Best Actor for Smith.

Plot[edit]

Richard Williams lives in Compton, California, with his wife Brandy, his three step-daughters, and his two daughters, Venus and Serena. Richard aspires to turn Venus and Serena into professional tennis players; he has prepared a plan for success since before they were born. Richard and Brandy coach Venus and Serena on a daily basis, while also working as a security guard and a nurse, respectively. Richard works tirelessly to find a professional coach for the girls, creating brochures and videotapes to advertise their skills, but has not had success.

One day, Richard takes the girls to see coach Paul Cohen, who is in the middle of practicing with John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. Despite his initial reservations, he agrees to watch the girls practice, and is impressed. However, the Williamses cannot afford professional coaching, and Paul refuses to coach both girls for free; he selects Venus to receive his coaching, while Serena continues to practice with Brandy. Paul encourages Venus to participate in juniors tournaments. She quickly finds success, but Richard stresses to Venus and her sisters that they should remain humble despite their success. At one of Venus's tournaments, Serena also signs up to play, unbeknownst to Richard. As both girls continue to succeed, the family are treated as outsiders among the predominantly white, upper-class competition. Richard meets with high-profile agents, but, fearing that his daughters will be taken advantage of, pulls them out of the junior circuit entirely. Paul warns him that his decision will destroy the girls’ chances to turn pro, but Richard stands firm, firing Paul as a coach.

Coach Rick Macci travels to California to see the girls play. Impressed, he takes the girls on, and the family relocates to Florida to train at his facility. Richard surprises Rick by reiterating that the girls will not play juniors, instead training and attending school like normal little girls. In the ensuing three years, questions arise from the media and from Rick about Richard's strategy with the girls and his desire for media exposure. Venus tells Rick that she wants to turn pro. Richard reluctantly agrees, but later reneges, worrying that she will suffer a similar fate to Rick's pupil Jennifer Capriati, who is allegedly suffering from burnout and has been arrested for drug possession. The decision strains Richard's relationships with Venus, Brandy, and Rick. After an argument with Brandy, he reconciles with Venus, agreeing to let her play in the upcoming Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California. Before the tournament, the family meets with a Nike executive, who offers them a major sponsorship deal worth 3 million dollars. Rick urges them to accept, but the family collectively agrees to decline, believing that once Venus begins to play she will attract more lucrative offers.

Venus initially struggles in her first professional match against Shaun Stafford, but eventually triumphs. She comes in as a heavy underdog in her next match against top-seeded Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Venus takes the first set and leads in the second before Vicario takes an extended bathroom break, an apparent act of gamesmanship. Sánchez Vicario recovers to win the second set and the match. Richard and Brandy comfort a dejected Venus, telling her to be proud. As the family leaves the stadium, a large crowd of supporters is waiting to cheer her on, and Rick tells Richard that several major shoe companies are anxious to meet with Venus.

An epilogue reveals that nine months later, at the age of 15 Venus would sign a contract with Reebok for $12 million (equivalent to $22,000,000 in 2021). She would go on to win Wimbledon five times and become the first African American woman to be ranked number one in the world during the Open Era. Serena, who joined Venus as a professional two years later, would become a 23-time Grand Slam champion and considered by many to be the greatest female player in tennis history.

Cast[edit]

Ayan Broomfield was the body double for select scenes of Venus Williams matches.[7]

Production[edit]

Reinaldo Marcus Green, the film's director

The project was announced in March 2019 with Will Smith set to play Williams, from Zach Baylin's screenplay.[8] Warner Bros. was the successful bidder for the film.[9] Reinaldo Marcus Green signed as director in June.[10]

In January 2020, Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney were cast as Serena and Venus, and Aunjanue Ellis as their mother Oracene Price.[11] Jon Bernthal also entered negotiations to play Rick Macci.[12] In February, Liev Schreiber and Susie Abromeit (uncredited in the final film) joined the cast;[13][14] and in March, Dylan McDermott, Katrina Begin and Judith Chapman.[15][16]

Principal photography began in January 2020 in Los Angeles.[17] According to the California Film Commission, the production spent $35.6 million in the state, with $7.5 million returned in tax credits.[1] In March 2020, filming was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18] In October 2020, Tony Goldwyn joined the cast, replacing Schreiber, who dropped out due to a scheduling conflict as a result of the pandemic. Filming resumed later that month.[19]

Will Smith reportedly received $40 million for his role. When production concluded, he reportedly gave his co-stars "a nice bonus" via checks, due to the decision to release the film in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously, on top of the compensation already received from the studio.[20]

The film features the original song "Be Alive" by Beyoncé, released on November 12, 2021.[21]

Release[edit]

The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2021,[22] and was released on November 19, 2021, in theaters and on HBO Max.[23] It was previously scheduled to be released on November 25, 2020,[24] but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[25] The film was chosen to close the AFI Fest on November 14, 2021;[26] that same day, it closed the New Orleans Film Festival's live screenings. By the end of its run, it will have also screened at film festivals in London,[27] Chicago,[28] Savannah,[29] Miami,[30] Indianapolis,[31] Denver,[32] Middleburg,[33] Philadelphia,[34] Sydney,[35] Toruń,[36] and Morelia.[37] The film will also open the 25th American Black Film Festival (ABFF), with president and general manager Nicole Friday describing King Richard as "a film that is a touchstone of ABFF's legacy of showcasing extraordinary Black talent and inspiring storytelling reflecting the brilliance of diversity in Hollywood."[38]

The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD February 8, 2022 by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, with the 4K Ultra HD release through Warner Archive Collection on the same date.[39][40]

Reception[edit]

Audience viewership[edit]

Samba TV reported to Deadline Hollywood that the film was streamed by 707,000 U.S. households on HBO Max in its first 3 days of release on the platform. In addition, it stated that 59% of the viewers were female and 54% African Americans. HBO Max Executive Vice President and General Manager Andy Forssell praised the film for being watched without interruptions unlike other day-and-date titles, while Warner Bros. Pictures Chairman and Chief Content Officer Toby Emmerich stated that the company was pleased with the film's initial streaming performance.[41] It was streamed by nearly 2 million U.S. households by the end of its first 30 days on HBO Max.[42] By March 20, the film had been streamed in 2.6 million households in the United States, including 403,000 since the Oscar nomination announcements on February 8.[43]

Box office[edit]

As of April 4, 2022, King Richard has grossed $15.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $24.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $39.4 million.[2][3]

In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and was projected to gross $8–10 million from 3,250 theaters in its opening weekend.[44] The film made $1.9 million on its first day, and went on to debut to $5.7 million.[45] The low figure was attributed to the 145 minute runtime, as well as the film's availability on HBO Max.[46] The film made $4.8 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame, including $3.3 million (-33%) in its second weekend, finishing seventh.[47] In its third weekend, the film earned $1.2 million, finishing ninth.[48] King Richard dropped out of the box office top ten in its fourth weekend, earning at least half a million dollars and finishing twelfth.[49]

Venus and Serena Williams about the film[edit]

Both Venus and Serena are listed as executive producers on the film, a title they approved only after viewing the finished product. Serena said: "I think it was a great opportunity to see how amazing African-American fathers are. A lot of black men aren't seen in that light. And a lot of people think that my dad was a different character. He wanted us to have fun first over anything. That's the thing that I loved most."[50] According to Serena and Venus, the film is as true to reality "as possible."[51]

Critical response[edit]

The performances of Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis garnered widespread critical acclaim, and Academy Award for Best Actor and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nominations, respectively, with Smith winning.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of 281 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's consensus reads, "King Richard transcends sport biopic formulas with refreshingly nuanced storytelling – and a towering performance from Will Smith in the title role."[52] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[53] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it a 94% positive score, with 89% saying they would definitely recommend it.[46]

Kevin Maher of The Times gave the film 4/5 stars, writing: "A towering turn from Will Smith, his best since Ali and one of the year's great screen performances, defines nearly every frame of this film."[54] Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "an engrossing family drama that doubles as a sharp rethink of how a family operates within the overlapping, often overbearing spheres of race, class, sports and celebrity."[55] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal criticized the film's length, but said that it was "a sports movie that transcends itself without losing track of itself."[56] Wendy Ide of The Guardian gave the film 4/5 stars, describing it as a "crowd-pleasing biopic" and writing: "Smith is excellent, fully inhabiting the character in one of the only roles to date that has required him to fully shed his habitual gloss of Will Smith charm."[57] Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent also praised Smith's performance, writing: "It's one of those impressive fusions between actor and character, which all comes across so effortlessly onscreen, but gives King Richard the lifeblood it needs to triumph as a film."[58] K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone wrote: "The movie's brightest-burning idea, and it is sincerely moving, is that Richard, for his flaws, does what he does on behalf of the young black women he's raising. This rings true in real life and in fiction."[59][60]

Allegra Frank of Slate was more critical of the film, writing: "Venus and Serena Williams are the names we rightly remember, but King Richard remains fixated on the male bravado that pushed for them to get their names out there in the first place."[61] Kyle Smith of National Review wrote that the film "makes the sororal tennis champs seem almost incidental to their own rise to greatness."[62] Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club gave the film a grade of C+, writing that it "keeps enough of Richard's messy past off screen to feel like a hagiography with a few concessions, rather than a true warts-and-all portrait."[63]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
AACTA Awards January 26, 2022 Best Lead Actor – International Will Smith Nominated [64]
Academy Awards March 27, 2022 Best Picture Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith Nominated [65]
Best Actor Will Smith Won
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated
Best Film Editing Pamela Martin Nominated
Best Original Song Dixson and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter for "Be Alive" Nominated
African-American Film Critics Association January 18, 2022 Best Actor Will Smith Won [66]
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Won
Best Breakout Actor Saniyya Sidney Won
Best Emerging Director Reinaldo Marcus Green Won
Alliance of Women Film Journalists January, 2022 Best Actor Will Smith Nominated [67]
Best Actress In A Supporting Role Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Ensemble Cast Rich Delia and Avy Kaufman Won
ACE Eddie Awards March 5, 2022 Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic Pamela Martin Won [68]
American Film Institute (AFI) December 8, 2021 Top Ten Films of the Year King Richard Won [69]
Black Reel Awards February 27, 2022 Outstanding Film King Richard Won [70]
Outstanding Director Reinaldo Marcus Green Nominated
Outstanding Actor Will Smith Won
Outstanding Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Won
Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Female Saniyya Sidney Nominated
Demi Singleton Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble King Richard Nominated
Outstanding Original Song "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Nominated
Outstanding Editing Pamela Martin Nominated
BAFTA Awards March 13, 2022 Best Actor Will Smith Won [71]
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated
Best Casting Rich Delia and Avy Kaufman Nominated
Chicago International Film Festival October 26, 2021 Audience Choice Award for Feature Film King Richard Won [72]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards March 13, 2022 Best Picture King Richard Nominated [73]
Best Actor Will Smith Won
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Saniyya Sidney Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated
Best Song "Be Alive" Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 20, 2021 Best Picture King Richard Nominated [74]
Best Actor Will Smith Runner-up
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Denver Film Festival November 4, 2021 Best Feature – Audience Choice Award King Richard Won [75]
Detroit Film Critics Society December 6, 2021 Best Supporting Actor Jon Bernthal Won [76]
Best Film King Richard Nominated
Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Gold Derby Film Awards February 27, 2022 Best Actor Will Smith Nominated [77]
Best Original Song "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Nominated
Golden Globe Awards January 9, 2022 Best Motion Picture – Drama King Richard Nominated [78]
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Will Smith Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Original Song "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards March 26, 2022 Razzie Redeemer Award Will Smith Won
Heartland International Film Festival October 18, 2021 Overall Audience Choice Award King Richard Won [79]
Pioneering Spirit Award Will Smith Won
Hollywood Critics Association Awards February 28, 2022[80] Best Picture King Richard Nominated [81]
Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Cast Ensemble King Richard Nominated
Best Director Reinaldo Marcus Green Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated
Best Original Song "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Won
Best Film Editing Pamela Martin Nominated
Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 17, 2021 Best Original Song in a Feature Film "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Nominated [82]
Houston Film Critics Society February 19, 2022 Best Picture King Richard Nominated [83]
Best Actor Will Smith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 13, 2021 Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Runner-up [84]
Miami International Film Festival November 11, 2021 Audience Award King Richard Won [85]
NAACP Image Awards February 26, 2022 Outstanding Motion Picture King Richard Nominated [86]
Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture Reinaldo Marcus Green Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Will Smith Won
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture Jon Bernthal, Aunjanue Ellis, Tony Goldwyn, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Will Smith Nominated
Outstanding Soul/R&B Song "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Nominated
National Board of Review Awards December 2, 2021 Top Ten Film King Richard Won [87]
Best Actor Will Smith Won
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival January 6, 2022 Ensemble Performance Award Jon Bernthal, Aunjanue Ellis, Tony Goldwyn, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Will Smith Won [88]
Philadelphia Film Festival November 3, 2021 Narrative Audience Award King Richard Won [89]
Producers Guild of America Awards March 19, 2022 Best Theatrical Motion Picture Tim White, Trevor White, Will Smith Nominated [90]
Satellite Awards April 2, 2022 Best Motion Picture – Drama King Richard Nominated [91]
Best Director Reinaldo Marcus Green Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Will Smith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated
Best Film Editing Pamela Martin Nominated
Best Original Song "Be Alive" (Beyoncé and Dixson) Nominated
SCAD Savannah Film Festival October 30, 2021 Outstanding Achievement in Cinema Award Aunjanue Ellis Won [92]
Screen Actors Guild Awards February 27, 2022 Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Will Smith Won [93]
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Jon Bernthal, Aunjanue Ellis, Tony Goldwyn, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Will Smith Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association December 12, 2021 Best Actor Will Smith Nominated [94]
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards December 6, 2021 Best Actor Will Smith Nominated [95]
Best Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis Won
Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated
Best Youth Performance Saniyya Sidney Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle December 11, 2021 Best Actor Will Smith Won [96]
Best Equality of the Sexes King Richard Won
Writers Guild of America Awards March 20, 2022 Best Original Screenplay Zach Baylin Nominated [97]

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