Welcome to the 2020 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theatre near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material. Monday through Friday until mid-May AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have suggestions for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.“
FILM: “King Richard”
DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Brothers Pictures
DIRECTOR: Reinaldo Marcus Green
PRODUCERS: Tim White, Trevor White, James Lassiter, Allan Mandelbaum, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Caleb Pinkett
WRITERS: Zach Baylin
CAST: Will Smith, Liev Schreiber, Aunjaeu Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Jon Bernthal, Dylan McDermott
SYNOPSIS: A look at how Richard Williams coached his daughters Serena and Venus Williams to tennis success while changing sports and history in the process.
SCHEDULED RELEASE: November 25, 2020
Who doesn’t love a good biopic?! The Academy sure seems to love them. According to British film writer Ellen Cheshire, there has been a surge of love for biopics from the Academy beginning in the mid-2000s. Biopics have dominated the Best Actor category in recent years — 7 of the last 9 winners were for a biopic performance. In 2019 alone, 4 out of the 5 nominees were in this genre. Biopics have also had a good run in the Best Picture category as well with 15 pictures taking home this recognition since in 1936 (including the likes of “The Great Ziegfeld,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Patton,” “Gandhi,” “Amadeus,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “The King’s Speech” and “12 Years a Slave” amongst others — all of which were great films). So “King Richard” is in good company on that front.
To make their odds even better, “King Richard” tells a little-known, behind-the-scenes story of the journey of two of the most iconic sports figures of all time — Venus and Serena Williams. The sisters have revolutionized tennis and made sports history while staying true to themselves and blazing a path for others to follow. Their story is a highly inspirational narrative that sometimes works well for Academy voters, and there is built-in brand recognition for the film right off the back. Even if you’re not a tennis fan, everyone is familiar with the Williams sisters. They are sports royalty, but few know all the details of their journey, and this film will give viewers a glimpse of what it takes to become legendary. “King Richard” will follow the patriarch form the beginning of his time coaching the sisters in Compton through their Grand Slam wins (30 in total + 4 Olympic Gold Medals). Everyone loves a rags-to-riches story of overcoming all obstacles to achieve greatness.
As if that weren’t enough, “King Richard” boasts an amazing all-star cast. Will Smith tackles the role of Richard Williams, and some of Smith’s best work comes from biopics. His two Best Actor nominations came from biopic roles — 2002’s “Ali” and 2007’s “Pursuit of Happyness.” Although neither brought him home the statute, those performances showed that he is adept at taking real-life stories and bringing them to life on the big screen. Smith has also had huge recent successes at the box office with “Aladdin” and “Bad Boys For Life,” which doesn’t ever hurt during awards season.
Along with Smith, there’s Liev Schreiber, who has had quite an impressive career with multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominations under his belt. He always gives a strong performance, and “King Richard” should be no different. Rounding out the cast are Jon Bernthal, Aunjaeu Ellis (who gave a stellar performance in the critically-acclaimed “When They See Us”) and youngsters Saniyya Sidney (“Fences,” “Fast Colors” and “Hidden Figures”–all critically-acclaimed films) and Demi Singleton (“Godfather of Harlem” and Broadway veteran) playing the sisters.
In terms of challenges, there may be a few obstacles and stumbling blocks along the road to awards season. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the entire film industry with releases in flux and studios scrambling. Even the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has changed it’s eligibility rules for films for this year’s Golden Globes. “King Richard” is currently scheduled for release on Thanksgiving Weekend, which is usually a big weekend for Hollywood with a lot of awards hopefuls being released. “King Richard” could possibly get lost in the shuffle or overshadowed by other big-time, critical darlings that may be released.
Although the cast is strong, the team behind the camera is a little more green and may hamper the odds of the film come awards season. The screenplay is written by screenwriting newcomer Zach Baylin. With a few screenplays in production and development, “King Richard” would be his first full-blown offering. Winning an Oscar for your debut work, while not impossible, has only happened a handful of times–mostly in acting categories. If Baylin were to win, he would be in good company with Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”), Diablo Cody (“Juno”), Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”) and Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”). In contrast, these winners were more original screenplays falling on opposite ends of the spectrum (dark humor or a serious drama) while “King Richard” is based on a true-life story.
“King Richard” is directed by up-and-coming director Reinaldo Marcus Green. With only three feature films to his name, Green has gained critical praise for his “Monsters & Men,” which won the Sundance Special Jury Price in 2018. While not unheard of for more green directors to win an award for directing or Best Picture, it will be an uphill battle for Green. “Monsters & Men” was a robust directorial debut, but will his vision and subject matter be strong enough to break through all of the noise come awards season?
POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
- Best Picture
- Director (Reinaldo Marcus Green)
- Actor in a Lead Role (Will Smith)
- Costume Design (Sharen Davis)
- Makeup and Hairstyling (Jacenda Burkett & Carla Farmer)