Iconic tennis history comes alive

Exclaim! - - SCREENSHOTS -

IT’S HARD TO MAKE A GOOD TENNIS MOVIE, which is why the best ones aren’t just about the sport, but what’s hap­pen­ing off the court. “We wanted to make this be­cause of the sto­ries that ex­isted be­hind the scenes,” says Jonathan Day­ton ( Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine), one half of the di­rect­ing duo (with his wife Va­lerie Faris) be­hind Bat­tle of the Sexes.

The film, star­ring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, is a loose retelling of the 1973 tennis match be­tween Bil­lie Jean King, a clos­eted les­bian com­pet­ing at the top of her game, and Bobby Riggs, a chau­vin­ist Wim­ble­don champ playing past his prime, who set the spec­ta­cle up in part to help fi­nance his gam­bling ad­dic­tion.

In real life, King clob­bered Riggs in three straight sets, but, as Faris tells it, “the vic­tory wasn’t so black and white.”

“What was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to us was that at the end of the match Bil­lie Jean did not look tri­umphant,” she says. “What she was fight­ing for in her per­sonal life and her pro­fes­sional life had a long way to go.”

To play such a nu­anced role, Faris and Day­ton tracked down a pre-Os­car­win­ning Emma Stone, who jumped into the role shortly af­ter film­ing La La Land. It was a smart choice, be­cause, much like King, the Hol­ly­wood ac­tress has be­come an out­spo­ken fem­i­nist, es­pe­cially in re­gards to equal pay and sex­ism in Hol­ly­wood, since step­ping into the spot­light.

“I think it’s only in re­cent years she’s felt com­fort­able speak­ing out,” Day­ton says.

“I think it’s been kind of a good thing for her to feel what is it like to go out there and re­ally fight for change,” Faris adds. “She got to walk in Bil­lie Jean’s shoes and then now hope­fully con­tinue on her own.”

“What she was fight­ing for in her per­sonal life and her pro­fes­sional life had a long way to go.”

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