Venus, Serena not happy with biopic

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PA Wire/Press Association Images

USA's Serena (left) and Venus Williams with their trophies after winning the Ladies Doubles Final during day twelve of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Rebecca Naden/backpagepix/Press Association Images

Venus and Serena Williams have withdrawn their support from a film that offers a rare insight into the private lives of the champion tennis sisters following a disagreement over the portrayal of their father.

Compiled from 450 hours of footage and produced by an Oscar-winning team, the documentary, Venus and Serena, was expected to be a highlight of the Toronto International Film Festival.

The sisters lifted the veil on their closely guarded privacy, allowing the film-makers to shoot in their homes, hotels and even hospital rooms over the course of a year.

However, they pulled out of an expected red carpet appearance at the film's world premiere this week, timed to follow Serena's fourth singles victory at the US Open, after a dispute over the portrayal of Richard Williams as a controlling figure. The film covers their father's habit of interrupting his daughters' interviewers from off-camera and the 78-page manifesto in which he plotted out the Grand Slam winning careers of his girls when they were in elementary school. Mr Williams' personal life is also scrutinised, and coverage is given to the children he fathered out of wedlock.

According to the Los Angeles Times Venus, the elder sister, took particular umbrage over the portrayal of her father and sought changes from the film-makers, Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, who are ABC News veterans. Some changes were made to the film, but they were not enough to pacify Venus, according to reports.

Ms Major said: “I'm disappointed the sisters didn't like everything that was being shown, because we really set out to tell a true story that was very inspiring.”

Venus and Serena, whose executive producer is Alex Gibney, an acclaimed documentarian who directed the Oscar-winning Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, is said to be largely complimentary towards the sisters.

It tells the story of their rise from LA's tough Compton district to total domination over their sport and includes images of the sisters at play, of their performances at home karaoke parties, and of their fights against serious injuries.

Carlos Fleming, Venus' manager, said his client accepted the film-makers had done the best job they could “under the circumstances”. Mr Fleming called it “an ambitious story to tell for any filmmaker, and we feel like anyone who would try to tell would find it challenging.”

He said a “scheduling conflict” had prevented Venus from attending the official opening, but Film Festival sources indicated that the premiere's date had been arranged to allow the sisters to attend. - The Independent

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