‘The Williams method’: how Venus and Serena became tennis stars

  • Will Smith gets into the skin of the father of the sisters Venus and Serena Williams in this film in which we follow in his footsteps to turn them into great tennis champions

  • A crazy? A visionary? Director Reinaldo Marcus Green introduces us to the American dream through this story of effort and improvement through sport

They are two living legends of women’s tennis. The hermanas Williams not only have they won everything, but they have also become inspirational references. Venus managed to be the first African-American woman to reach the top of the WTA rankings and Serena is considered one of the best players in history.

His life, from the time they started training at the age of 4 until they reached glory, is undoubtedly a movie story, one of those that Hollywood likes so much about how it is possible to achieve the American dream with effort and tenacity. But Williams method, which is now being released, does not focus exclusively on the unbeatable sisters, but rather on the one who is supposed to be the true architect of their success, their father, Richard Williams, a most controversial figure for his insistence on making his daughters champions. A crazy? A visionary? The movie directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green It has been supervised by the family itself, so the reading it transmits is the most whitewashed. That Will Smith is the protagonist influences in a fundamental way so that the public feels closer to this patriarchal figure that on the screen acquires an almost heroic dimension.

“It’s about wanting to be the best versions of ourselves, and how it can be achieved thanks to the strength of the human spirit”

“There were many ways to tell this story,” says the director. “But beyond the victories on the tennis courts, what interested us was the process behind it. Because really, the movie is about a family that fights together to achieve a goal”. “More than a goal, a dream”, continues Will Smith during the press appearance. “An impossible dream. In essence, it is about wanting to be the best versions of ourselves, and how it can be achieved thanks to the strength of the human spirit.”

One of the most interesting aspects of Williams method it is precisely the way in which family dynamics are reflected, the relationship between Richard and his wife Oracene (Aunjanue Ellis) and how they work together to create a stimulating environment for their daughters in a difficult suburban Californian neighborhood and despite their lack of economic resources. The bonds established between the sisters in their day-to-day life, how they support each other and how they grow and overcome stages, are also fundamental. That atmosphere of everyday life is perfectly captured thanks to Marcus Green’s camera and the understanding of a cast in which the young women also stand out. Saniyya Sidney like venus and Demi Singleton like Serena. “The other sisters, Isha, Lyndrea, Tunde, were also on the courts collecting balls supporting Venus and Serena, the older ones helping to take care of the little ones. It was like a well-oiled chain of protection and all that had to be transferred well to the screen”, says the director.

irrational faith

He fought for them to have the best opportunities, the best coaches. What moved him was an irrational faith, at least, that’s what he says

People say that Richard Williams drew up a plan (78 pages) for his daughters to conquer the world of tennis and that he had a kind of revelation when he saw Virginia Ruzici play on television. She began giving lessons to Venus and Serena at the age of four, spending hours practicing on the public tennis courts, rain or shine. He fought for them to have the best opportunities, the best coaches. What moved him was an irrational faith, at least, that’s what he says. The most chilling thing is that all his prophecies came true. When in 1999 the Williams sisters met in the final of what is now the Miami Open, from the stands Richard took out a banner that read: “I told you so!”. For producers Tim and Trevor White, that was the germ of the film. “We thought that sports training had not been told well enough and that was of course a motivation, but what we wanted to capture was the story of a family that makes the impossible come true.”

In the film we go through all the first steps of the sisters. How did Richard get that Paul Cohen, who at the time was working with John McEnroe Y Pete Sampras, taking over the training of Venus, how Serena got relegated but continued to train under her mother’s supervision, the first junior championships, her move to Florida to switch to the Rick Macci, who had taken Je to the highestnnumber Capriati, until reaching the first Venus final against Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. “The most difficult thing was how to condense all these fundamental episodes and make them have a meaning and an evolution within the story,” says the screenwriter Zach Baylin. “It was clear to me that the important thing was the details and the union between the characters.”

For Will Smith, this role may finally lead to an Oscar after being nominated twice, for But Y Looking for happiness. At the moment, he is one of the big favorites after winning the Golden Globe. The actor and producer, who has just published his memoirs, after a professional downturn, seems to have recovered thanks to this role that has been very important for him. . “Fundamental to playing Richard was my relationship with my own daughter, Willow, and the way she has approached her professional career. I tried to help her but without pressuring him to find his space. There is a very complex pulse with children between control and understanding that also has to do with your own ego.

‘The Williams method’

Direction: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Interpreters: Will Smith, Demi Singleton, Saniyya Sidney, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal

Premiere: January 21, 2022

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