Will Smith is no stranger to sports dramas, having portrayed boxing icon Muhammad Ali in 2001's Ali (which earned the actor his first Oscar nomination) and taken on the NFL in 2015's Concussion (which also earned plenty of awards love).
From the looks of the first trailer for King Richard, Smith could be in the running for a third Academy Award nomination for his latest sporting venture as Richard Williams, the determined dad who rallied Venus and Serena Williams to tennis superstardom.
Given Smith's fatherly role and the film's inspirational tone, however, King Richard actually looks like it has more in common with the actor's 2006 tearjerker The Pursuit of Happiness — the film that netted him his second of two Oscar noms.
Written by Zach Baylin and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (the 2018 Sundance premiere Monsters and Men), King Richard follows the formative years of the future phenoms Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) as they defy expectations and emerge out of the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Compton, Calif. en route to global domination on the court.
The trailer makes clear Richard strategized his daughters' success in the sport as he tells one person he had a "78-page plan for their whole career before they were even born."
While fans of Venus and Serena Williams, who were both ranked No. 1 in the world at different points and won a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles, will enjoy moments like their spine-tingling "I'm Venus" and "I'm Serena" introductions in the preview, as the film's title indicates, the story's focus centers on their relationship with and tutelage from their father.
And Smith looks in top form, introducing a distinctive character that is alternately snappy, strict, funny and teary-eyed.
Venus and Serena, meanwhile, clearly didn't mind deflecting the spotlight to their dad. Both are executive producers on the project, along with their sister Isha Prince.
Rounding out the cast is Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene "Brandi" Williams, Jon Bernthal as coach Rick Macci, Tony Goldwyn as coach Paul Cohen, and Dylan McDermott as a sports agent.
With tennis generating plenty of headlines from the Summer Olympics in recent days, fans of the Williams sisters (and father) seem fully on board from gauging early social media reactions to the trailer, with many referencing Smith’s Oscar chances, and the occasional other bemoaning the film's focus on Richard:
King Richard trailer gave me chills.
— LD (@LDarian) July 28, 2021
The king Richard trailer got me crying
— Thee Chappelle Show 👌🏾 (@jASZiLOVE) July 28, 2021
King Richard looks like it's going to be good 🔥🎾
— Supa Love 👩🏾🔬🔬🍷🍃 (@Fikz0z0) July 28, 2021
Wait, so there’s a movie about Venus and Serena Williams… but it centers their father played by Will Smith? pic.twitter.com/7V1df2P7hW
— Nightingale (@PoliticalFandom) July 28, 2021
Based solely off of a 150 second trailer released 7 months before the ceremony, I'm prepared to give Will Smith his first Oscar right now. https://t.co/okSMnlcEu5
— Derek Lawrence (@derekjlawrence) July 28, 2021
— Donnovan Bennett (@donnovanbennett) July 28, 2021
King Richard opens Nov. 19 in theaters and on HBO Max.
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