I hail from a tennis-playing family, so the Battle of the Sexes was something I was familiar with even as a child. It’s one of the greatest events in tennis, heck of all sporting history, mainly because it transcends sports. It’s a human interest story, one as old as mankind. Ageing male pro Bobby Riggs challenged Billie Jean King, a female pro at the top of her game in 1973, and the whole thing became so much bigger than just a tennis match. This was at the height of Feminist movement, led by icons like Germaine Greer, so society was hooked at the mouth-watering prospect of seeing their “side” win. Though the fact was, most people saw Riggs as a buffoonish has-been desperately trying to remain relevant, which diminished the validity of a genuine gender face-off.
Anyway, Fox Searchlight Pictures has turned that event into a feature film starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone, and the first trailer dropped today. For obvious reasons, I’ve been anticipating this one ever since it was announced, and it looks like they’ve made a dramedy that plays up the more human aspects. Carell is clearly having the time of his life playing Riggs, and while Stone is a tad too young and pretty (sorry Billie Jean) I don’t doubt she’ll bring something interesting to the role. Can’t wait for this one, even though I know who won.
Here’s the official synopsis: “The electrifying 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King (Stone) and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Carell) was billed as the Battle of the Sexes and became the most watched televised sports event of all time. The match caught the zeitgeist and sparked a global conversation on gender equality, spurring on the feminist movement. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With a supportive husband urging her to fight the Establishment for equal pay, the fiercely private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past. Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis courts and animated the discussions between men and women in bedrooms and boardrooms around the world.”
“Battle Of The Sexes” is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, (“Little Miss Sunshine”, “Ruby Sparks”), and also stars Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Andrea Riseborough , Eric Christian Olsen, Natalie Morales, Austin Stowell, Wallace Langham, Jessica McNamee, Mickey Sumner and Bill Pullman. It premieres 22nd September.