Yes. The King Richard true story reveals that when Venus and Serena's father, Richard Williams, was a youth living in Shreveport, Louisiana in the 1940s and '50s, white attackers hit him "over the head with a baseball bat, a bottle, and a flashlight." He said that he was beaten up when he was five for "handing a dollar to a white store clerk." He told CNN's Open Court that he witnessed a friend being lynched. He also told the story of another friend who was run over by a white woman, after which the woman claimed it was the fault of the victim. In his 2014 memoir, Black and White: The Way I See It, he said that when he was a child he "had a war against white people."
Yes. A King Richard fact-check confirms that he wrote the 78-page blueprint for his children to become tennis stars before Venus and Serena were born. In 1980, he decided to create the plan after turning on the TV and seeing 25-year-old Romanian tennis player Virginia Ruzici awarded $40,000 for winning a four-day tournament. Richard viewed tennis as an avenue to success and prosperity for the family.
Key to the plan would be that his kids would be trained in one of the country's roughest areas, Compton, California. "The ghetto will make you rough, it'll make you tough, it'll make you strong," Richard said. It's true that most people thought he was crazy for being so determined that his children would become tennis superstars. Yet, as we're told over the movie's end credits, reportedly nearly all of his initial plan has come true.
Yes. While the movie starts out when they are older, the King Richard true story confirms that Venus and Serena's father would place tennis rackets in their hands when they were babies. Venus, the older of the two, started to take tennis lessons when she was four years old and Serena enrolled not long after. -Biography
Yes. A King Richard fact-check reveals that they lived in Compton, California until the early 1990s when Venus was 10 years old. Richard had the money to raise them in a better area (they had lived in a "beautiful" area about a block from the beach until Venus was almost three years old), but he believed that Compton would prepare his kids for anything thrown at them in life. In his memoir, he states that one of the biggest misconceptions is that when his daughters burst onto the tennis scene, people thought of them as "the poor black family from the ghetto rising up against the white tide of tennis in America." Richard says that the reality is that they weren't poor and that he "paid his own kids' way through tennis" without ever taking a penny from anyone.
In the early 1990s, the family moved to Florida so that Venus and Serena could attend Rick Macci's prestigious tennis academy.
Yes. Richard Williams' real Volkswagen Bus is shown in the top picture below (with Williams driving). The vehicle inspired the nearly identical VW Bus that Will Smith's character drives in the King Richard movie (bottom picture).
Yes. The movie shows Venus and Serena's father (Will Smith) being roughed up after confronting thugs who are hitting on his underage daughter. The real Richard Williams told CNN that he got into physical altercations with gang members so that his daughters could use the local public tennis courts. In an interview with q on CBC, he said that he got in a fight with three or four guys and had his nose and ribs broken. He also had ten of his teeth knocked out from getting kicked in the mouth. During that same December 1985 altercation, gang members slashed the tires on his Volkswagen Bus and smashed the windshield. In his memoir, Richard says that it was an ongoing effort to get the gang to not gather at the tennis courts. His two-year battle with the gang resulted in numerous arguments and fights that "almost destroyed my body and my spirit."
In researching the King Richard true story, we learned that Venus and Serena faced verbal abuse from local gang members, as well as from whites who saw them on the court. According to their father Richard Williams, as they became more successful, the gang members tried to step in and defend them against "everything that white people shouted." This is left out of the movie.
Richard would later credit their time on the Compton courts as the reason they were able to maintain their composure when they faced a chorus of boos at Indian Wells in 2001. Fans who'd been promised they'd see the sisters compete against each other were upset when Venus decided to pull out of the match due to a knee injury she had sustained in her quarterfinal. Richard claimed that in addition to boos, he heard fans hurl racial slurs.
Yes. This is another element that casts Richard in a negative light that's left out of the movie. The real Richard Williams admits that his training methods were often severe, so much so that gang members who were watching attempted to intervene. One thing Richard did was hang signs around the Compton tennis court that read things like, "Venus, when you fail, you fail alone." We see similar but less harsh signs hanging around the court in the movie. He did hang the sign that read, "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail," which was his motto.
When Richard was being verbally harsh on his daughters, the gang members tried to step in. "When (they) came to me and said, 'You can't talk to Venus in that way.' ... I said, 'Watch out. I'm going to do what I want to do,'" he told CNN.
In the film, a neighbor believes that Richard Williams is being abusive toward his children and calls the police. They arrive at the Williams home with Child Protective Services and question why Richard is so hard on the kids. In researching how true is King Richard, we learned that this scene comes almost directly from Richard Williams' memoir. In real life, some of the neighbors became concerned that Richard and Brandy were making the girls study too much and practice tennis for too long. "Someone even called the police on me for abusing my kids," Richard said. The police showed up and, much like in the movie, Richard explained to them that he was hard on his girls because he didn't want them to "be swept into a culture of drugs and bad people."
Yes. As stated earlier, the Williams family left Compton in the early 1990s so that Venus and Serena could attend Rick Macci's tennis school in Florida. Macci is portrayed by Jon Bernthal in the King Richard movie.
Yes. The movie's acknowledgment of Richard Williams' infidelity is based in fact. While his estranged firstborn daughter, Sabrina, has referred to him as a "serial cheat," there's little information on the extent of Richard Williams' extramarital affairs. He does not delve into his infidelity in his memoir.
Not exactly. It's rather evident while watching the film that we aren't getting the full picture of Richard Williams. Much of Richard's less savory side, including his ego, infidelity, and questionable business dealings are glossed over in the movie. In addition, the movie maintains the narrative that Richard was always kindhearted and nice. He hardly ever loses his temper. His darker side is all but absent, leaving us wondering what it was actually like to live with such a strict disciplinarian who was obsessed with his daughters' success. None of this is surprising given that this is an authorized biopic and Venus and Serena are executive producers on the film.
The movie also seems to show Richard favor one daughter over the other at critical moments, but we never see the impact that had on them. In addition, the film barely mentions why Venus and Serena were given almost all of their parents' focus when both Richard and Brandy had kids from previous marriages. Those things being said, Will Smith does capture Richard's drive, his 24/7 fixation on tennis, and the salesman-like persona of the controversial father.
Yes. Serena said that this happened around the age of 12. While researching King Richard's historical accuracy, we also discovered footage of Venus and Serena's father repeating this during an interview in the early 1990s, stating that although Venus was the rising star at the moment, the younger Serena would eventually become the best player. The statement in the movie is a foreshadow of what would happen in real life.
After rising tennis star Jennifer Capriati (played by Jessica Wacnik) is arrested with weed in a Florida hotel room, Will Smith as Richard pulls his daughters out of the punishing junior tournaments because he wants them to have a regular upbringing. This seems to be in line with how things unfolded in real life. The King Richard true story confirms that Jennifer Capriati, then 18, was arrested for possessing about 20 grams of marijuana in Florida in 1994. Like the Williams sisters, Capriati had also been coached by Rick Macci. She was indeed one of the players whose experience in juniors prompted Richard to remove his daughters from the grueling and at times damaging circuit, instead opting to wait until they were ready to make their professional debuts.
With regard to his decision to pull Venus and Serena out of juniors, Richard told the Washington Post, "We read a lot of things about Jennifer [Capriati] and Andrea Jaeger, but I tell you there are thousands of juniors out there that you will never hear of." It can also be argued that Richard didn't want the pressure and fame to consume them and cause his daughters to rebel against him.
Though Richard Williams has claimed this, it is left out of the movie, likely to avoid potential lawsuits. While we couldn't find evidence of racist comments made by other players toward Serena and Venus, fellow players have criticized the pair for being sore losers and having bad attitudes. In 2000, John McEnroe penned an article for the Telegraph describing Venus and Serena as "cocky" and rude, stating in the article, "What they have achieved is great but they have no respect for anyone in the game. Enough is enough. They are all cold as ice. Would it kill them to say hello to people in the locker room? Is it that hard?"
Black American tennis player Sloane Stephens said that Serena Williams acts like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Stephens upset Serena in the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinals. Two days later, Serena posted a cryptic three-word tweet that read, "I made you." Both Stephens and fans believed that Serena was referring to her. Serena then unfollowed Stephens on Twitter. "She's not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way, not been in the same room with me since I played her in Australia," Stephens told ESPN. "And that should tell everyone something. How she went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter." Stephens said people's perception of her as being so friendly is not reality.
It's true that Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, then the No. 2-ranked player in the world, called for a break during her second-round match against Venus at the 1994 Bank of the West Classic. It's unclear what she did during the break, but it's widely believed she was trying to ice Venus. Like in the movie, Venus had won the first set 6-2 and was leading the second set 3-1 when Vicario halted the action and left the court. After she returned, Vicario won the second and third sets, 6-3 and 6-0 respectively, to win the match.
The exact number of children Richard Williams fathered seems to be somewhat unknown. His estranged firstborn daughter, Sabrina Williams, said that she knows of between 15 and 19 siblings fathered by Richard, but believes there may be more scattered across the country from "LA to Louisiana." She referred to him as a "serial cheat" and nothing more than a "sperm donor." According to Sabrina, he had abandoned their family and her mother Betty when she was eight. -PageSix
Serena won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 1999 and Venus at Wimbledon in 2000. As of 2021, Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, including seven Wimbledon titles, and is second to only Margaret Court. Serena has a total of 73 career titles and has won more than $94 million in prize money. Her older sister Venus Williams has seven Grand Slam singles titles to her name, including five Wimbledon titles, and she has won more than $42 million in prize money. In total, Venus has 49 career titles.
No. Saniyya Sidney (Venus) and Demi Singleton (Serena) had to learn how to play tennis after they were cast for the film. "These girls, once they cast, they learned how to play tennis," Serena told Jimmy Kimmel, "and they learned how to play our technique of tennis." While watching the film, "you can't understand that they didn't play tennis before. It seemed like they've played tennis their whole lives." Serena said that she never had a chance to play with the young actresses on the court.
Yes. Despite the criticism Richard Williams has faced for being a strict disciplinarian who used 'unorthodox' methods and was often tough on his daughters, the King Richard true story reveals that both Serena and Venus credit him for their success and have said so on multiple occasions. During an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2003, Serena spoke of her father's role in her success. "He stayed up many nights watching films so he could teach us. He taught our mum, and then they taught us... Our father doesn't get enough credit. He showed us how to serve, and we have the biggest serves in women's tennis."