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He's not your average spectator

Published May 23, 2004

The sport of tennis might not have a more controversial figure than Richard Williams, father to Serena and Venus Williams. The elder Williams, 62, is skilled at raising eyebrows. He says what he wants whenever he wants to say it. Years ago, Williams drew fire for allowing his daughters to become professionals at 14. And during the rise to prominence he irked some with his seemingly endless boasts. On several occasions, he hoisted hand-scribbled signs at tournaments. When he boldly predicted Serena and Venus would become the world's two best players, many laughed. But when they held the top two spots two years ago Williams looked prophetic. Williams, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, recently kicked back with Times staff writer Keith Niebuhr to talk about his daughters, tennis and, believe it or not, moviemaking.

QUESTION: What's the best part about being Richard Williams?

WILLIAMS: I'm very honest, I'm very direct. I'm extremely motivated. Whatever I'm doing this year, two years later I'll be doing something else. Right now, I'm into making movies.

QUESTION: Really? What kind?

WILLIAMS: Comedies. And we're going to shoot some dramas.

QUESTION: How does a tennis dad get involved in movies?

WILLIAMS: Everybody else was making them, so why wouldn't I try?

QUESTION: On a serious note, do you need any actors? I work cheap.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, we'll probably need some.

QUESTION: Will your daughters be in any of your films?

WILLIAMS: They might.

QUESTION: Okay, what's the worst part about being Richard Williams?

WILLIAMS: Every place I go I'm recognized. And I don't like that.

QUESTION: Other than your daughters, who's your favorite player on tour? There has to be somebody out there you pull for.

WILLIAMS: Well, my favorite isn't playing anymore. And it's Martina Hingis.

QUESTION: What makes her so special?

WILLIAMS: I've never seen somebody who didn't have very much to work with that won everything there was to win. I really admired her.

QUESTION: You're a South Florida guy now, but do you miss living in Los Angeles?

WILLIAMS: Yeah. I really miss living in the ghetto, in Compton, because I miss being able to get more directly involved with underprivileged people ... and seeing a shootout. I always go back, at least twice a year.

QUESTION: Your daughters probably dream of winning championships and organizing fashion shows, but what do you dream about?

WILLIAMS: I dream about trying to help every kid through my youth program with Gov. Bush, Learning to Read Better.

QUESTION: Which is your favorite event to attend?

WILLIAMS: In tennis or outside of tennis?

QUESTION: Take your pick.

WILLIAMS: I would say the Assembly for Jehovah's Witnesses.

QUESTION: Okay, what about in tennis?

WILLIAMS: I don't like tennis that much. They're all the same.

QUESTION: And your least favorite?

WILLIAMS: With my program, I hate going to jail to get kids out.

QUESTION: Let's say somebody pulls you aside and says, "Hey, I'd like to date your daughter." What piece of advice would you give them?

WILLIAMS: I don't think I could give any advice at all. I figure I'd leave it up to them two.

QUESTION: What is Serena's greatest achievement?

WILLIAMS: Her education.

QUESTION: How about Venus?

WILLIAMS: Definitely, without a doubt, it would be her education.

QUESTION: If they weren't playing tennis, what would they be doing?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think Venus would be an anthropologist. I think she'd be a full-time student until she was about 27 years old. She loves her education.

QUESTION: Have you taught your daughters everything you know or is there more for you to pass along?

WILLIAMS: In tennis, I think I've shown them pretty near all the things I know. But there are some other things to work on.

QUESTION: When did you come out of your shell, or have you always been outspoken?

WILLIAMS: My mom made me that way when I was a little kid.


WILLIAMS: I had a failing grade in school when I was in the third grade. And she said that anybody who hesitates to speak out, if you're right or wrong, will lose your dream. And she wanted me to dream.

QUESTION: Are you good for tennis?

WILLIAMS: I think I'm extremely good for the game. Wherever I go, people want to get involved in tennis or want to come shake my hand.

QUESTION: What does Richard Williams do for fun?

WILLIAMS: I work. I'm a workaholic. I work 18 hours a day.

QUESTION: Last thing. Let's say you're making a movie about yourself. Whom do you cast to play Richard Williams?

WILLIAMS: Venus has asked if I could get Denzel Washington.

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