The True Story of ‘King Richard’: How Accurate is a Biography of Richard Williams?

‘It’s the season of Oscar bait biofilms! King Richard, in theaters and streaming on HBO Max today, tells the true story of Richard Williams, the father of world famous tennis champion, Venus and Serena Williams. And what a story.

Williams is a somewhat unusual subject for biopics – he’s not a world-class athlete, but he’s a world-class athlete’s father. But Reinaldo director Marcus Green and screenwriter Zach Baylin manage to justify the film’s focus with a compelling story about how Williams, through perseverance and what feels like a bit of magic, managed to to pull his family out of poverty in Compton, California by betting it all on the future of his two daughters as tennis stars.

Will Smith, who also served as the film’s lead producer, plays Richard Williams, while Aunjanue Ellis plays Williams’ second wife, Oracene “Brandy” Price. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton appeared as young Venus and Serena Williams before they became the household names people know today.


Correct. King Richard Based on the true story of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. In the film, Richard tells anyone who hears that his daughter was born to be a star and that he has an 84-page plan to achieve that dream. It’s a good story – a great story, even – and one that is almost too good to be true. Like any movie based on a true story these days, King Richard credits come with an actual montage intended to assure the audience of its accuracy. So what is the accuracy? King Richard with the real Richard Williams?


Like most movies based on a true story, King Richard is not a documentary, and therefore has some liberties. However, many of the moments you see in movies — especially those that are reenactments of clips and media interviews — happened in real life. Both Venus and Serena Williams are producers and have blessed the film, which in a way adds credibility to the film. Small details from the movie — like the Williams family Volkswagen bus, the handmade signs the girls will stick up at their practice, and the white Venus beads in her hair for the big game hers with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

And of course, there are the larger details that are certainly true – Richard actually grew up in Louisiana and has experience racing with the Ku Klux Klan. The Williams sisters grew up in Compton, and their father began coaching them when they were four years old. There’s a slight correction, though — while in the film Williams says he’s interested in tennis because it’s a sport with so few Black athletes, Williams actually often says he’s become more important. interested in this sport after watched a women’s match on TV and heard that the winner, Virginia Ruzici of Romania, had won $30,000.

Richard Williams, center, with daughters Venus, left, and Serena 1991 in Compton, CA
Richard Williams, center, with daughters Venus, left, and Serena 1991 in Compton, CAPhoto: Paul Harris / Online USA / Getty Images

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Reinaldo director Marcus Green said he talked to both sisters to get the anecdote into the film and hope they change things up. “It was very easy for them to accept that I had some freedoms,” he said. (Green says he didn’t speak to the real Richard Williams, now 79.) One key detail is omitted: Isha Williams, the middle daughter, was also a talented tennis player, trained with her family, and would have become Williams’ third sister if it weren’t for a back injury. “Life is up, 6 am, go to the tennis court, before school,” said Isha New York Times. “After school, go play tennis.”

This says it all, getting the family blessing also made some viewers suspect that it was a false version of the story. It was clearly a film that resonated with Williams, no matter how controversial he was as a public figure in the ’90s. Some criticized the film for rewriting his story. Williams — Derek Smith-leaning critic called the movie ‘A transparent attempt at image restoration’, saying it ‘defends, if not completely condone, questionable tactics’ [Williams] used to push [his daughters] towards greatness. ”

Some tactics not featured in the movie include — follow a year 2014 New Yorkers file– banned his daughters from dating, and “to prevent any urges for early motherhood, Richard would tear the head off any doll Venus brought home”. The signs that Richard hangs are a bit different from what we see in the movies, accordingly New Yorkers articles — examples include, “Venus, You Must Take Control Of Your Future” and “Serena, You Must Learn To Use More Top Spins On The Ball.”

Others, as journalist John Jeremiah Sullivan noted about New York Times in 2014, observed that Richard Williams has “controlled the narrative” of Williams’ story since the 2002 documentary about his life, Raising Tennis Aces: The Story of Williams, was done in collaboration (or, as Sullivan puts it, “in collusion”) with Richard himself.

And of course, there’s Williams’ autobiography, Black and white: The way I see, released in 2014. While King Richard not an official adaptation of that autobiography — in fact, Warner Bros and Will Smith was sued last year by another company that bought the rights to that memoir — many of the anecdotes in the book were included in the film. For example, the story that Richard nearly shot a gang member comes from his book — however, the way Richard tells the story, he can’t find the gang members, and is on his way back. home, he saw one of them lying dead and beaten. On the way.

All this is not to say that King Richard not a true story — it should be said that treat the story with a grain of salt. It’s a great story, no doubt, and it’s also a specific version of that story. But no one can deny that he and his daughters lived an incredible life.

Clock King Richard on HBO Max The True Story of ‘King Richard’: How Accurate is a Biography of Richard Williams?


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