WATCH: Emma Stone and Steve Carell Take You Behind the Historic Real-Life Tennis Showdown of Battle of the Sexes
In an exclusive featurette about the upcoming film, the two stars and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) explain the historical impact of the event that inspired their big screen adaptation.
“It’s called Battle of the Sexes and it’s about Billie Jean vs. Bobby Riggs,” says Dayton over introductory clips from the film featuring Carell as “misogynist” pro Bobby Riggs taunting Stone as tennis legend Billie Jean King.
“Billy Jean is probably the first professional female athlete that I took note of,” adds Faris.
The film recounts the real-life 1973 Battle of the Sexes, when King beat former world No. 1 player Bobby Riggs—a man—in three straight sets, propelling women’s tennis onto the world stage.
“Bobby was a hustler,” says Carell of Riggs. “A promoter and a showman, apart from being a great tennis player.”
Stone and Carell in Battle of the Sexes.
Stone notes the contrast between the two — aside from their gender.
“Billie Jean in that era was going through so much pressure — professionally and personally,” she says over more scenes from the film, including action shots and a more intimate setting with costar Andrea Riseborough, who portrays King’s then-secret lover Marilyn Barnett. “She’s always been driven by affecting social change, and tennis was really the vehicle because she was so great at tennis it really gave her a voice.”
Adds Carell: “This was a big moment. Tennis was popular, but that was crazy to play in a football stadium.”
And those lucky fans in the stadium didn’t include the millions watching the match at home.
“The whole world was watching,” says Stone. “It was the sporting world’s version of the moon landing.”
Battle of the Sexes opens in theaters Sept. 22.