“Battle of the Sexes” isn’t just a term, it is also a film. Fox Searchlight Pictures announced today that production of a new movie starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell has begun. In Battle of the Sexes, Stone and Carell play 1970’s tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. The tennis film 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. The screenplay was written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, The Full Monty).
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who were also responsible for the indie hits Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks, direct the story behind the story of the 1973 tennis match between King and Riggs, which was known as “The Battle of the Sexes.” Not only was this “battle” the most watched TV sporting event at the time, but it also ruffled a lot of feathers questioning gender equality creating a few more battles between the sexes.
“The irony isn’t lost on us that we are a husband-and-wife team directing Battle of the Sexes. As soon as we read Simon’s script we knew we had to make this film. We feel so fortunate to have gathered such an amazing group of artists, both behind and in front of camera,” said Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris in today’s press release.
Battle of the Sexes is being produced by Danny Boyle and Christian Colson (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Steve Jobs)
“If all men and women worked as well together as Jon Dayton and Valerie Faris,” said Boyle and Colson, “the world would be a more harmonious place. Together with Emma, Steve and the rest of our fabulous cast they are the perfect team to realize Simon Beaufoy’s brilliant ballad of Billie and Bobby — the perfect odd couple.”
Battle of the Sexes will not only tackle the battle on the court, but also issues within the player’s lives as well. Though encouraged by her then-husband to fight for her rights, King was also at odds with her own sexuality while Riggs was really fighting for a chance to re-live his past successes.
Here is how it all went down: Bobby Riggs was a huge tennis star in the 1940’s, winning six major titles. He retired in 1951, but still stayed in the limelight in the tennis world, freely giving his opinion about the sport, whether wanted or not.
In 1973, Riggs mused that between the sexes, tennis-playing females were inferior to males and even boasted that even at his ripe old age of 55, he could beat any female tennis player. To prove his point, he challenged Billie Jean King to a duel on the court, but she declined his offer. Instead, the first “Battle of the Sexes” occurred between Riggs and 30-year-old Margaret Court. The two met for battle on Mother’s Day May 13, 1973. Unfortunately for Court, she lost the match, but Riggs earned bragging rights in the form of magazine covers on both Sports Illustrated and Time.
While most would have been content proving their point, enjoy being known as the better of the two sexes, and quietly walk away from the spotlight, Riggs was energized. He began to taunt other female tennis players and challenged King to a televised event that was dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes” and came with a $100,000 prize.
“What the women got out of when I beat Riggs was self-confidence and higher self-esteem. For the first time they were asking for a raise, for instance. And they were actually getting them, which is more important” said King in an interview for CNN last year. “I played Bobby in 1973. So everything around — for what I was thinking was about social change. And women in 1973 could not even get a credit card on their own. They had to have co-signing by a male still — in 1973. People don’t realize that — they’ve forgotten.”
One advantage that King had over Riggs that he had not counted on was that she was able to study his game and Court’s loss. When she won the match, Riggs stated, “I underestimated you.”
Battle of the Sexes is expected to come to theaters sometime next year.
[Photos courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.]