“I decided pretty early on to limit the palette to something that felt like it could relate to not only the sport of tennis, but also the way that the film felt,” Oscar and Emmy-nominated composer Kris Bowers declares about his ambitiously rhythmic score for “King Richard.” “To represent both this family and also Venus and Serena themselves and how much of a force they were when they came into the game and how much they changed the way that the sport felt in so many different ways.”
We talked with Bowers as part of Gold Derby’s special film composers “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with key Oscar and guild contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“King Richard,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin, stars Oscar nominee Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father and coach of superstar tennis players Venus Williams (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton). The film is based on Williams’ inspiring true story, spotlighting a tenacious and committed father instrumental in raising and coaching two of the most gifted athletes of all time, who rose up from humble beginnings to become international grand slam sporting icons.
Bowers was keen to steer clear of some of the motifs and themes that we often hear in sporting films. He says that the score feels different and unique because the film was put together with a certain rhythm in mind. “I think one of the biggest reasons,” he says about why the film sounds so innovative, “was obviously not only following Rei’s direction, but because Pam Martin, the editor had already cut these matches in a way that felt so clear what the arc of the game was. And it’s pretty fascinating that there’s no commentary at all in any of the games,” he remarks. “So the only way you know how the game is going is by the reactions or how the game feels pace-wise,” he explains. “It really made it very clear how the music should be supporting those things and where we should be landing emotionally.”
“And then otherwise rhythmically, I was always wanting to have something that felt as unpredictable as the game is when you watch it play,” Bowers says about his innovative use of ambient and percussive sounds that immerse the audience in the climactic battles happening on the tennis court. “There’s so much syncopation to the rhythm because of how much they’re trying to knock the other off-balance. Anytime that there’s this predictable rhythm, pretty soon somebody is going to do something that kind of changes that,” he says. “A lot of those sections are in five or these odd time signatures, just because to me it felt more fun to have something that felt rhythmically unpredictable.”
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