If you follow sports, or even if you’re breathing, you know the story of tennis ingenues Venus and Serena Williams. What Hollywood wants you to know is the story of their father and tennis coach, Richard.
Apparently, Richard Williams wants you to know his story as well, which is why he sold the rights to it — twice! And now, both he and Will Smith‘s production company, Overbrook Entertainment, is being sued for making the film, King Richard, set to release November 2021.
According to the complaint, via THR, TW3 Entertainment and Power Move Multimedia acquired not only the motion picture rights to the book but also the rights to Richard Williams’ life story. That was back in May 2017 when they paid — get this — only $10,000.
Their project about Richard Williams was already under works, when they heard in July 2018, that Warner Bros. and Star Thrower Entertainment also had a project about Williams’ life in the works. It seems Warner Bros. paid Richard Williams $1 million to make King Richard. And who can say “no” to that kind of coin?!
Well, maybe King Richard should have because now Warner Bros. and Will Smith’s company is being sued for breach of contract by the defendants and intentional interference with contractual relations.
A Racket Sport
That’s the thing in Hollywood — it’s a small town and some people want to romanticize your name in lights but may pay very little. Richard Williams learned that the hard way. His story deserves a big screen but a book and a movie for five figures? Dude. Even we cinephiles know that is chump change.
And now, his life story of triumph over the odds have come to this.
This case presents an unfortunate and tawdry situation: the cold and calculating misappropriation and interference with Plaintiffs’ intellectual property. Plaintiffs’ good faith and contractually protected efforts to bring an amazing story into visual art form were met with Defendants’ greed and disregard for Plaintiff’s existing rights.lawsuit: filed by superior court of the state of california, county of los angeles
But Richard Williams may not be totally to blame for King Richard being made outside of a legally binding agreement. The lawsuit states the history of the rights to each story. At the heart of this disagreement is King Richard’s son and business partner Chavoita Lesane.
The plaintiffs claim in the suit they purchased the rights for that paltry sum directly from Lesane, who was allegedly given “limited power of attorney” by Richard Williams for “purposes of dealing with film and media rights for his book.”
Somewhere along the way, Williams forgot what Lesane did and followed the money to Warner Bros. and Overbrook Entertainment. Doh!
Plaintiffs and Warner Bros. entered into an implied-in-fact contract, based on their conduct as alleged above, whereby Plaintiffs disclosed ideas and materials regarding the Richard Williams Rights to Defendants for sale, i.e., in consideration for Defendant Warner Bros’ obligation to pay and credit Plaintiffs if Defendant Warner Bros. or any of its affiliated entities used any of those ideas or materials in any motion picture, television program merchandising program, or otherwiseMore from Lawsuit
The Ace in the Hole
This is Warner Bros. Surely, they won’t lose a breach of contract lawsuit to two relatively unknown companies, TW3 and Power Move, right? Well, not so fast.
Defendant Warner Bros. used Plaintiffs’ ideas and materials in King Richard, and such ideas and materials provide substantial value to Defendant,” the complaint goes on to assert amidst claims of a May 2017 agreement for rights to the elder Williams’s 2014 memoir Black and White: The Way I See It and “Plaintiffs’ pre-existing property rights.even more from the lawsuit
How would Warner Bros. and Overbrook Entertainment know what TW and Power Move was doing in the first place. Apparently, Lesane enters the picture again. He was the source for TW and Power Move learning their contract was nullified in the first place.
In the lawsuit, TW3 Entertainment says Lesane told them Star Thrower and Warner Bros. entered into a new agreement to produce a film based on Williams’ book, “Black and White: The Way I See It.” To make up for it, Lesane told TW3 they were free to “produce some other type of media (such as a mini-series) if Plaintiffs decided to do so.”
Yeah, that’s going to leave a mark.
Will this movie ever make it to a theater near you? Who knows. As of now, November 2021 is the date for the game and set, but the lawsuit in Los Angeles county will determine the match.
King Richard will star Smith, Aunjanue Ellis as Brandi Williams (mom), Saniyya Sidney as Venus, Demi Singleton as Serena, and Punisher’s Jon Bernthal as the Williams sisters’ other coach, Rick Macci.