While Hollywood has long embraced the biopic, it has become more common in recent years for the family members of a film’s subject – or even the subjects of the films themselves – to take on executive production roles for themselves. make sure the movie is as true to their vision as it is entertaining.
Warner Bros. ‘ king richard follows Richard Williams’ pursuit to make his daughters Venus and Serena the tennis superstars they are today. Venus and Serena’s sister, Venus and Serena executive producer, stars Danielle Lawson’s film, confesses THR that she initially doubted Zach Baylin’s script. “People had approached us before about doing similar projects,” Price says. “You don’t necessarily know the implication you’re meant to have, and most of the time people don’t quite get the story. They try to cover too much.
After WME’s Dave Wirtschafter defended the script, Price gave it a chance – and was surprised by its accuracy. “I called Dave and I was like, ‘Who did this and where did he get all this information? “” Price remembers, laughing. While more private elements of Williams family history have already been incorporated into the script, Baylin and producer Tim White were initially concerned about what the family was willing to share. During their first meeting, Price said, “Off the stage, Oracene Price, my mother, the truest woman on the planet,” insisted the film be as truthful as possible about her relationship with Richard. Williams. “She was like, ‘We have to be honest about this or we can’t do it.’ We cover a lot of difficult things that happened in our family – things that I would never have shared to begin with. ”
As the family were open to share his personal story, Price said he worried about protecting their father’s image or, at the very least, offering a counter-narrative to how Williams was portrayed in the media. “He was vilified in the press like a lot of tennis fathers,” she says, adding that it was Venus who suggested the film show the toxic behavior of other parents in the junior tennis leagues. “He took them out of the juniors because it was not a healthy environment for [his] children. He’s a guy who stood up for his children and didn’t let them be crushed by the media, by the world, by life in general. This should be the story [instead of] what the story was for so, so long.
While the subjects of king richard are alive and could influence the development of the film, that of Netflix Tic, Tic… Boom! tells the story of the late Jonathan Larson’s early artistic endeavors, years before he wrote the award-winning Tony and Pulitzer musical To rent. But the composer, played in the Lin-Manuel Miranda film by Andrew Garfield, wrote the source material as a rock monologue by one man about his self-imposed pressure to achieve musical theater greatness before his 30th birthday.
“We considered [a film adaptation] over the years, ”explains EP Julie Larson, Jonathan’s sister. “We wanted to make sure that there was a way to expand it – to be authentic to what my brother was thinking at the time, but also to say something and that we could put it in the hands of someone that we thought we could do it Justice. “
But it was also about doing justice to the stories of the people in its orbit. Her original show featured fictional characters from her real life – his girlfriend and best friend – all written from his perspective. With the film adaptation being closer to a traditional biopic, Julie Larson says she was “really aware of [her] great responsibility ”towards these characters in his brother’s life.
“I’ve spent much of the past 25 or 26 years trying to make sure that I protect and honor everyone in my brother’s sphere,” she adds. “It always weighed heavily on me. Not everyone necessarily wanted to be in the foreground. Ultimately, she says, everyone in Jonathan’s life sees the film as a snapshot of a long lost time and a chance to spend time with it again. “Watching and experiencing Andrew playing with my brother has been a joyful experience,” she says. “We got part of Johnny back.”
Getting that stamp of approval from people who have personal knowledge of a film’s subject matter is tricky. Aretha Franklin participated in the development of MGM / UA Respect before her death in 2018 and even chose Jennifer Hudson to play her in the film. The film won the approval of surviving family members, unlike this year’s Franklin competing project Nat Geo’s Genius: Aretha, for which Cynthia Erivo earned an Emmy nomination.
MGM / UA Gucci House – Ridley Scott’s crime drama starring Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, who ordered the murder of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci in 1998 – drew a scathing reaction from the Gucci family right after its release in November. “The production of the film did not bother to consult the heirs before describing (…) the members of the Gucci family as thugs, ignorant and insensitive to the world around them,” the statement said.
The Academy may not be taken aback by the Gucci’s response. After all, winner of the best picture 2019 Green book – about the friendship between pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga – has been disowned by the musician’s family as a false statement. Ali won the award for Best Supporting Actor and the film also won the award for Best Original Screenplay for writer-producer Nick Vallelonga, who had the final say in his father’s story.
This story first appeared in the January 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.