How Peter Howell got to ‘Venus and Serena’ with no audition

Written by James Robinson, Lisa Henderson, courtesy of PTI

Peter Howell doesn’t have to audition for his jobs. He doesn’t need to create articles or comment on films or TV shows. He doesn’t even have to look at scripts. All he needs to do is play them, and that’s what he did.

Peter Howell in “Venus and Serena” Credit: PTI

Raju Chakraborty had to audition for his job as the photographer on the annual Anushka Sharma-starring remake of “Aashiqui.” But that didn’t mean the remake’s sets could get blanked off. The director was Howell and now Howell tells CNN about how he tried to shoot a scene with Sharma and Deepika Padukone.

In “Venus and Serena,” the movie version of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, Howell starts with Venus’s absence. That was because Howell, the American shutterbug, hadn’t been to see her play since giving her the Prime Time Excellence Award at the Independent Film Project East 66th Anniversary Gala in Boston in 2008.

Later that night, he discovered Serena wasn’t winning.

By day four, he’d spotted Serena and she was still losing. Now Howell was doing the desperate spiels he’d always had to do to get access.

First, he persuaded tournament director Mary Joe Fernandez to call Serena. She agreed to meet him at The Players’ Club on Park Avenue North. After they talked, their rendezvous was set. But not before a couple of photos Howell had taken earlier that day were taken out of frame and sent to the tournament’s nameless representatives.

Venus Williams (R) and Serena Williams are shown in a scene in “Venus and Serena” Credit: PTI

By day six, Howell was begging this assortment of administrative lackeys — women and men — to set up a shoot. He learned how to play on and of themselves. Had to start with just half an hour of one or the other of the two tennis superstars on hand and then maybe two more runs later on.

The final film of 2014 of the final trios of Venus and Serena, Weaver and Padukone doesn’t open in the U.S. until May 3. But here is a must see. It’s about two greats of a sport, sisters, about a mother and a father, about immortality.

So that’s Peter Howell with no audition or anyone even thinking he’s a celebrity photographer.

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