Originally Smith was to have prosthetics put on his face to look like Richard Williams.
Director Reinaldo Marcus Green told Insider he put a stop to that.
“We need him to sink in and disappear, but that doesn’t mean making him look like Richard,” he said.
Many actors have gone through painstaking makeovers to portray real-life people in biopics, and Will Smith was willing to add his name to that list. But before cameras started rolling on “King Richard,” in which Smith plays tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard Williams, its director, Reinaldo Marcus Green, canned the idea.
Green told Insider recently that in the prep leading up to shooting “King Richard,” which opens in theaters on November 19, a team of makeup and prosthetic artists spent hours transforming Smith into Williams.
“They made him look like Richard Williams, it was straight-up shocking,” Green said, noting that there were prosthetics placed around Smith’s nose and cheeks to make him look like Williams.
And though Green said many on Smith’s team and Warner Bros were excited about Smith’s transformation, he was not into it.
“I was like, ‘Look, you guys did an incredible job, but I don’t want that,'” Green recalled saying.
Though Green has only two feature films under his belt – the acclaimed 2018 indie “Monsters and Men” and this year’s “Joe Bell,” starring Mark Wahlberg – the director said he wasn’t intimidated by the Hollywood setting of the “King Richard” production, and spoke up about why putting Smith in prosthetics wouldn’t work.
“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,” Green said. “And it would have been three hours of Will being in the makeup chair every day. Who wants to do that?”
“I looked at Will straight in the eye and said, ‘Look, we don’t need that,'” Green continued.
Green said that his concern was that making Smith look too much like Williams would lead to audiences getting too distracted and thinking more about the way he looked instead of the performance.
“We don’t need him to look like Will Smith,” Green said. “We need him to sink in and disappear, but that doesn’t mean making him look like Richard.”
So the teams came together and drastically pulled back on the makeup work, instead putting grey in Smith’s hair and beard.
Green said throughout the decision-making of the Richard Williams’ look before shooting began, Smith was quiet and absorbed all the pros and cons.
“Will is very much his own man,” Green observed. “I think he’s looking for the truth. He’s watching.”
Smith is gunning for his first Oscar win with his performance as Richard Williams, who in the movie is the family patriarch driven to get his teenage girls, Venus and Serena, out of the dangerous streets of Compton, California and become pro tennis players.
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