Will Smith gave his 'King Richard' co-stars money to compensate for shift to HBO Max release, report says

Will Smith
Will Smith stars in the upcoming "King Richard." Pablo Cuadra / WireImage /
  • Will Smith gave cash bonuses to his "King Richard" co-stars.

  • The payment was intended to compensate for Warner Bros.'s shift from theatrical to HBO Max release, THR reported.

  • The publication reported that Smith had a $40 million salary for the movie.

Will Smith gave personal cash-bonuses to his "King Richard" co-stars to compensate for the financial impact of Warner Bros.'s decision to release the film simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters, according to a new report in The Hollywood Reporter.

The publication reports that Smith - who produced and starred in "King Richard" as the father of Venus and Serena Williams - earned as much as $40 million for his work on the highly-anticipated biopic.

The report cites a source saying that after WarnerMedia pivoted to a simultaneous home and theatrical release of its 2021 slate, Smith personally wrote "checks to the cast" to compensate his fellow actors for loss of earnings from the film's theatrical run.

"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," THR reported.

Insider has reached out to representatives for Smith for comment.

Will Smith in a white and blue windbreaker suit
"King Richard." Warner Bros.

The entire main cast of actors, including Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who play Venus and Serena in the film, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, and Aunjanue Ellis, were listed as recipients of Smith's bonus in THR's report.

Both Sidney and Singleton - who are already receiving praise for their depiction of Venus and Serena - have praised Smith's presence on set.

"Being on set with him was an absolute blast," Singleton said at an Elle Women Hollywood event, according to THR. "He made sure that everyone felt comfortable and safe and had a great time - it was never a dull moment - ever."

Sidney added: "He made sure everyone felt included and felt the love. He has such a big heart."

Late last week at the premiere of Netflix's "Red Notice," Layla Crawford, who also stars alongside Smith in "King Richard," praised the actor for his kindness and generosity.

"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," Crawford said. "We ripped them open and everyone started crying. I literally cried my eyes out - it was the best gift ever. Will Smith is a blessing, I learned so much from working with him."

"King Richard" debuts in theaters and on HBO Max November 19. The film, which was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, has already become an awards season frontrunner. Last week, Insider's Jason Guerrasio sat down with Green who revealed that Smith was originally to have prosthetics put on his face to look like Richard Williams. However, Green put a stop to it.

"We need him to sink in and disappear, but that doesn't mean making him look like Richard," Green said.

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