LOS ANGELES— Will Smith won his first Academy Award on Sunday, capturing the best actor honor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the determined father who raised tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard.”
Smith, 53, one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, had been nominated twice before, for 2001’s “Ali” and 2006 movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
This time, he depicted Richard Williams and his unconventional strategy for elevating his daughters from a municipal park in a hardscrabble Los Angeles neighborhood to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Smith shot to fame in the 1990s in the television sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and took on mostly comedy and action roles early in his movie career before expanding into drama.
He earned his first Oscar nomination for playing Muhammad Ali and his second for portraying another real person, Chris Gardner, a onetime homeless father who went on to found his own brokerage firm.
Isha Price, one of Venus and Serena’s three older half-sisters, was an early collaborator on the “King Richard” script, providing details and recollections that made the movie the story of the family.
Venus and Serena Williams joined the project as executive producers only after they watched the completed film. Richard Williams has been in ill health for years and did not take part.
“It is terrifying when you play a real person that is still alive, and you know that they’re going to see it,” Smith told late night TV host Jimmy Fallon in November.