Husband-and-wife directorial team, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (from Little Miss Sunshine),take us back to the legendary tennis match in 1973 with the upcoming film Battle of the Sexes. Portraying theworld champion Billie Jean King at 29 is renowned actress, Emma Stone (LA LA Land), while Steve Carell (The Big Short) portrays Bobby Riggs at 55, the former Wimbledon Champion and serial hustler.
The celebrated match between the two rivals was more than a battle of the sexes on court. Off-court, King was a champion of women’s equality and struggled with her own sexuality and friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Risebourgh, Birdman). Riggs, a self-made media-age celebrity, struggled with a gambling addiction at the expense of his wife and family. Riggs publicly ranted that female tennis players were inferior to male players and challenged a woman to defeat him. King stepped onto the court accepting his challenge graciously.
The famed Battle of the Sexes took place during a time when many social walls including race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation were beginning to breakdown.It became the most watched televised sports event of all time, reaching over 90 million viewers worldwide. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) states, “The match was watched by the largest TV audience since the moon landing. It was a massive spectacle, filled with the sort of hoopla that had never been seen before or probably since on a tennis court. Yet, the match was almost a sideshow to the bigger battle that raged in America: man versus woman. I’m not sure there’s been such a clear-cut binary debate since, either in politics or sport!”
Battle of the Sexes reminds us of a time when King and Riggs served the world a cultural extravaganza, that echoed beyond tennis courts and sparked discussions that continue to reverberate today,
44 years later.