3:19pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Father of Venus and Serena Williams Headed to Court Over Film Adaptation
Serena and Venus Williams have spent countless hours on the court as repeat Wimbledon champs and tennis icons — but now their father (and coach) could be spending some time in court because of a dispute over the movie rights to his life story.
TW3 Entertainment and Power Move Multimedia on Tuesday sued Richard Williams, Warner Bros. and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment, along with several others, over the upcoming film King Richard. TW3 claims it optioned the rights to Williams' memoir Black and White: The Way I See It through his son, Chavoita Lesane, in 2017. As a coach, Williams has been central to his daughters' careers, and the book tells the story of how "he has walked a long, hard, exciting, and ultimately rewarding road for seventy years, surmounting the many challenges to raise a loving family and two of the greatest tennis players who ever lived."
According to the complaint, TW3 and Power Move acquired not only the motion picture rights to the book but also the rights to Richard Williams' life story. They paid $10,000 in May 2017 and then began working to develop the project. In July 2018, they became aware that Star Thrower Entertainment also had a project about Williams' life in the works.
TW3 and Power Move claim it sent Star Thrower a cease and desist and the company's lawyers reached out to Williams' accountant asking for a copy of the 2017 agreement, but Lesane assured them the document hadn't been shared.
They also say from September to December 2018 they pitched the Williams project to Warner Bros., along with other projects, and were told a deal was definite. But, in January 2019, they were told Warners wasn't interested in doing any biopics. Two months later, Lesane informed them Warners was making the King Richard film but they could exploit the rights in another format, such as a limited series. A few days after that, news broke that Smith was attached to star in the Warners movie. The plaintiffs say they reached out to Overbrook's president of production and he seemed surprised about their claim to the rights but didn't follow up on a promise to look into it and get back to them.
TW3 and Power Move are suing Lesane and Williams for breach of contract, Warner Bros. for breach of implied-in-fact contract, and Overbrook and Star Thrower for intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, among other claims.
Warners declined to comment. Reps for Smith have not yet responded.