Director Reinaldo “Rei” Marcus Green’s “King Richard” follows Richard Williams, played by Will Smith, as he takes daughters Venus [Saniyya Sidney] and Serena [Demi Singleton] from Compton, Calif. to the global tennis stage, setting them on their path to tennis stardom.
While the film, which opens Nov. 19, follows Venus’ rise, its core theme is family and determination. Members of the crew discuss how it all came together.
Pamela Martin, editor
“The opening as scripted was Richard picking up balls at the different country clubs. He goes home and takes the girls to the Compton court, and then he goes to work and the next day, he’s shopping for coaches, getting rejected. But it just didn’t get you in his headspace. When they were shooting the movie, it wasn’t the opening that was in the script. I kept asking, ‘What are you shooting here? Are you going back and getting this?’
“I put the first cut together, pretty much as scripted. We looked at the film, and I said, ‘The biggest problem is the opening.’ Rei and I talked about maybe mixing the shopping for coaches with the picking up of the balls, which is what you see in the beginning.
“I took a stab at it and it worked, because it gets you 100% in his head. So, he goes through what he does and by the time he sits down at his desk at work and pulls out the tennis magazines, he is tired and you feel how hard he’s working and it pays off.
“We sent our sound supervisor, Richard King, down to the tennis court with a tennis pro to record every single hit and have the progression of the age. THIS IS CONFUSING; CAN WE MAKE IT … to record every single hit and [show progress over different ages]. So, when you get to the final, that professional level of the ball hits like a bullet and you really heard that sound.
“We cut the film in the pandemic, but Rei and I decided we wanted to work together, which was so important and we were tested every week. Kris Bowers would come in every few weeks, and while we did some things remotely, it was a huge back and forth. It’s so great when you have your composer in early. When you watch the movie, it’s such a dance between the picture and the music; it just works perfectly in tandem. And when you’re editing a movie about rhythm, it was important to have that.”
Kris Bowers, composer
“The first thing that I found was Richard’s theme, and the initial conversation with Rei was about how important it was that we felt warmth from him and this family dynamic [while] at the same time being able to feel his stubbornness. That led me to think about a chord that could encompass both of those things. That incessant note starts on the first chord and it’s already a dissonance; it’s already a note that doesn’t really fit in that chord but still has a warmth to it.
“There’s a melody in that theme that I thought would be interesting to do variations on for pretty much all the other themes. It mirrored the way that Richard had this plan that he then gave to his daughters. It’s a five-note theme and it also becomes a theme for the competition scenes.
“Venus’ theme is inspired by Richard’s cue. But it starts soft and timid. By the time we hear it in the end, it’s this big orchestra, which keeps growing and swelling with her, and you feel that support.”
William Arnold and Wynn Thomas, production designers
Arnold: With the Florida house that the family moves to, that was a place in Chatsworth that we found. The kitchen was important [later in the film]. That scene came together, but being on location we couldn’t build and didn’t have time to paint, so we had to cover up the tile and put counters over the existing work to make it feel of the period.”
Thomas: “Our job was to take the viewer on the same journey as the Williams family — from the inner-city tennis courts to the juniors, and the courts start to expand. We ended up shooting at a lot of private tennis clubs, ending up at Dignity Health Sports Park [in Carson, Calif.], which stood in for Oakland Coliseum for the final match.”