News broke last year that Will Smith would be playing Venus and Serena Williams' father, Richard Williams, in an upcoming biopic, King Richard -- but a new lawsuit claims that the tennis coach had already sold his life rights to someone else.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday, TW3 Entertainment and Power Move Multi Media claim that the upcoming film, produced by Smith's production company, Overbrook Entertainment, and Warner Bros., is based on a multi-million dollar breach of contract.
"This case presents an unfortunate and tawdry situation: the cold and calculating misappropriation and interference with plaintiffs’ intellectual property," the court documents state. "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."
Warner Bros., Overbrook, Williams and his son and business partner Chavoita Lesane, and production company Star Thrower Entertainment (as well as its executives Timothy and Trevor White) are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
TW3 Entertainment and Power Move Multimedia claim they are the true owners of Williams' story because they bought the rights to his 2014 memoir, Black and White: The Way I See It, in 2017. They say they bought the rights from Lesane, who allegedly had been given power of attorney by his father for "purposes of dealing with film and media rights for his book." Lesane was allegedly involved in an initial draft of a script for the project too.
Williams later sold the rights to his life for King Richard for $1 million. The lawsuit asserts the defendants knew about TW3 and PMMM's previous deal, but never reached out to compensate or credit them. The plaintiffs are seeking "an injunction requiring all profits for any project using the Richard Williams Rights to be placed in trust for Plaintiffs’ benefit."
King Richard -- starring Smith, Saniyya Sidney as Venus and Demi Singleton as Serena -- is set to hit theaters in 2021. ET has reached out to Williams, Lesane, Smith, Overbrook and Warner Bros. for comment.
Reporting by Joseph Corral.
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