Sex, Swedes, the ’70s: why Borg Vs Mcen­roe could be a smash


The first of a new se­ries where we pre­view 30-year-old sports matches... What? It’s a film? Oh, as you were...

“THIS MOVIE IS not about a ten­nis match,” says Shia Labeouf, the ‘Mcen­roe’ of Borg Vs

Mcen­roe. “I don’t think the big re­veal is who wins the match. That would be a shitty movie. Our big re­veal is the hu­man side of things: the smoke and mir­rors of th­ese men be­ing he­roes and vil­lains.”

The match Labeouf refers to is the pair’s clas­sic 1980 Wim­ble­don fi­nal, but to­day’s set-ups swap SW19 for West 54th Street. Em­pire has joined the pro­duc­tion in the mid­dle of a bac­cha­nal. Out­side it’s Gothen­burg, Oc­to­ber 2016. In­side a sleek mod­ern restau­rant, it is Stu­dio 54, 1977. Ten­nis su­per­star Björn Borg (Sver­rir Gud­na­son) is be­ing in­ducted into the leg­endary New York nightspot by fel­low player Vi­tas Geru­laitis (Robert Emms) and is tak­ing in the sights: naked, gold­painted dancers on podi­ums, top­less wait­ers, a fancy-dress an­gel strad­dling a devil, while refugees from Satur­day Night Fever dili­gently disco-dance with­out mu­sic so dia­logue can be recorded.

“We are in a mo­ment in Björn’s life when he is be­ing ex­posed to the global jet-set life of the time,” ex­plains di­rec­tor Janus Metz Ped­er­sen

(Ar­madillo). “It is an ex­cit­ing mo­ment of par­ties and nu­dity and all that comes with the temp­ta­tions of fame he was sud­denly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.”

Borg’s he­do­nism plays against the myth of the pair be­ing op­po­sites — Mcen­roe the ‘fire’/ brat, Borg the ‘ice’/good guy. Borg Vs Mcen­roe posits the (base)lines were not so clear cut.

“They were very dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, but they were the only ones who could un­der­stand the other be­cause they knew what it was like to be on top and how dif­fi­cult it is,” says Gud­na­son, sport­ing flares and a shirt with Con­corde-like col­lars. “Even if they were dif­fer­ent, they were also alike.”

Although Mcen­roe is not in to­day’s scene, Labeouf is on set in cargo shorts and a red trucker cap. If the ac­tor is a tar­get for the pa­parazzi, he is clearly beloved by the crew, josh­ing around, hug­ging peo­ple, soak­ing up the party at­mos­phere.

Borg Vs Mcen­roe is near the end of its shoot, but th­ese easy vibes weren’t al­ways the case.

“We had a ri­valry here on the set,” Labeouf ad­mits of his re­la­tion­ship with Gud­na­son. “It was lov­ing and friendly, but real. We didn’t re­ally hang out un­til af­ter I wrapped. It wasn’t the bad eye. It was closer to what Borg and Mcen­roe had.” What goes on the Tour, stays on the Tour, it seems.

Clock­wise from above: Emo­tional Mcen­roe (Shia Labeouf) in de­spair as Borg (Sver­rir Gud­na­son) re­mains im­pas­sive; Borg shows his se­cret steamy side in Stu­dio 54; Di­rec­tor Janus Metz Ped­er­sen (right) on set; “You can­not be se­ri­ous!” Labeouf em­braces his...

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