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'King Richard': Can Will Smith bag an Oscar for stellar performance in sports drama?

Smith has competition. He'll face-off against the likes Benedict Cumberbatch, Denzel Washington, and Andrew Garfield for the elusive award
Will Smith in a still from 'King Richard' (IMDb)
Will Smith in a still from 'King Richard' (IMDb)

Jon Bernthal, one of the key cast members of 'King Richard' strongly opined that this was the movie that would see Will Smith win his first Oscar. The last time he came closer to holding the prestigious award was for his portrayal of Muhammad Ali in 'Ali', but it was Denzel Washington who walked away with the prize instead. Now, with the sports drama that sees Smith shape the careers of two of the greatest athletes in the world — Serena and Venus Williams, there's every chance that he will win the coveted award that's been elusive.

In an interview with WTOP, Bernthal, no stranger to starring in major blockbusters himself said Smith had his vote when it comes to winning the Oscar. "He’s definitely got my vote,” Bernthal remarked. "What Will does in this movie is so beyond a beautiful performance. The way he dove into this, the way in which he changed his body, changed his demeanor, his ability to come off the cuff with such unbelievable improvisation, he literally elevates this film. I’ve never been on a set and seen this."


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Will Smith in a still from 'King Richard' (IMDb)

The critic reviews have already poured in with USA Today saying his portrayal of an "imperfect tennis dad" is already "Oscar-ready". Now, that's a bold prediction, but not a surprising one considering the decorated career he's had over the last couple of decades.

He is versatile, likable, and a unique actor. If there were to be an extensive list of prerequisites to becoming a successful actor, Big Willie would have checked all boxes effortlessly. The man's a singer, he can groove, he can blend into any role with élan' and execute it to perfection.  He debuted as Manny, a cripple in the '92 American drama, 'Wherever the Day Takes You' which tells the story of teenage runaways trying to survive on the streets of Los Angeles.  

While he initially gained fame as the rap star Fresh Prince, he cut it as an A-list actor on silver and small screens over the years, while unequivocally demonstrating his own commercial viability and sturdy appeal to a broad cross-section of viewers.  Guest appearances included, he's crossed well over 40 films as a star. Back in the 2000as, he was a pretty bankable star, raking in the big bucks, as he once boasted eight consecutive movies grossing over $100m at the US box office. 2008 was when the slide slowly began.

The edge was back with 'Bad Boys for Life' as the movie was a commercial success and Smith was back with Martin Lawrence for another comedy and action-filled buddy cop drama. And now, with 'King Richard', he's played a cantankerous dad who believes he has two Michael Jordans, both destined to be the greatest sportspersons the world has seen. His role holds that much prominence as both the daughters are tennis legends. The trailer says it all — his approach is no-holds-barred, there's no taking flak from other people, and he's a man fully invested in making his daughters superstars.

Smith has competition. He'll face-off against Benedict Cumberbatch, Washington again, and Andrew Garfield, but this time there's an added advantage of being part of a sports drama, a genre that earlier saw him learn what he needs to do in order to win. If things go right, then it's only a matter of time before he can jiggy with it with an Oscar in his hand.

'King Richard' releases on theatres on November 19 and is slated for an HBO Max release on the same day.