“King Richard” star and Oscar contender Will Smith opened up his wallet for his cast members amid a reported $40-million payday, The Hollywood Reporter says. Smith produces and stars in the film as the father of Venus and Serena Williams, and per reports, after WarnerMedia shifted its Warner Bros. slate to day-and-date for 2021, he opted to give money to his fellow co-stars. The idea was to compensate the actors for lost theatrical returns.
“Smith enjoyed a hefty payday — according to reports, as much as $40 million — and then personally wrote checks to the cast which includes Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who play Venus and Serena, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, and Aunjanue Ellis, among others. A source described the payments as a nice bonus, given by Smith on top of what they already received from the studio as compensation for the pivot to simultaneous HBO Max release strategy,” per THR.
At a recent event in Hollywood hosted by Elle, his co-stars Sidney and Singleton praised the actor as a leader on set.
“Being on set with him was an absolute blast,” Singleton said. “He made sure that everyone felt comfortable and safe and had a great time — it was never a dull moment — ever.” Added Sidney: “He made sure everyone felt included and felt the love. He has such a big heart.”
His co-star Layla Crawford also said, during the recent Los Angeles premiere of “Red Notice,” Smith brought some cast members to tears when he offered them new phones. “He gave us Polaroid cameras and different treats all the time. He’s just such a generous and sweet person. He also gave us iPhone 12 Pro Max gifts in boxes. We ripped them open and everyone started crying. I literally cried my eyes out — it was the best gift ever,” she explained. “Will Smith is a blessing, I learned so much from working with him.”
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, “King Richard” is in the running for a number of Oscars this year, and could potentially bring Smith his first Academy Award. The film has played a number of festivals and is next set to close AFI FEST before opening in theaters on November 19 — day-and-date on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max.