Will Smith Planned a ‘Straight-Up Shocking’ Transformation for ‘King Richard,’ but He Got Rejected

Warner Bros.

A physical transformation in a biographical drama is an easy way to stir up Oscar buzz. That’s not the route Will Smith takes in the upcoming “King Richard,” but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Speaking to Insider ahead of the film’s theatrical and streaming release this month, “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green revealed Smith and Warner Bros. were originally set on using prosthetics to transform the two-time Oscar nominee into looking like Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. But it was Green who put a stop to this plan.

“They made him look like Richard Williams, it was straight-up shocking,” Green said of the makeup team, which applied prosthetics to Smith’s nose and cheeks to reshape his face so it would look more like Richard Williams. “I was like, ‘Look, you guys did an incredible job, but I don’t want that.’ Will has his acting coach who has been with him for 30 movies, he had a dialect coach so he could speak similar to Richard, we have so much. And it would have been three hours of Will being in the makeup chair every day. Who wants to do that?”

Green continued, “I looked at Will straight in the eye and said, ‘Look, we don’t need that.’ We don’t need him to look like [Richard Williams]. We need him to sink in and disappear, but that doesn’t mean making him look like Richard.”

Even without a large-scale transformation, Smith is stirring up Oscar buzz for his performance in “King Richard.” IndieWire’s Oscars expert Anne Thompson currently has Smith listed as a frontrunner to land a nomination for Best Actor. Such a nomination would mark the third of Smith’s career, following noms for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

IndieWire’s chief film critic David Ehrlich wrote of Smith in his “King Richard” review: “Smith renders Williams as a larger-than-life figure locked in an endless tiebreak with his own sense of worth. He’s a stubborn, controlling, and unfathomably tenacious man whose success left behind just enough friction to justify being the subject of his very own biopic.”

“King Richard” opens in theaters November 17, the same day it becomes available to stream on HBO Max.


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