Fifteen Things I Learned at the Battle of The Sexes Press Day.
Battle of the Sexes was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. I was lucky enough to see the film at the Telluride Film Festival World Premiere where Emma Stone, Billie Jean King, and several others were there in attendance.
Battle of the Sexes stars Emma Stone as the iconic and legendary tennis superstar Billie Jean King. The film focuses on the launch of the Women’s Tennis Association, her battle for equal rights, and her own personal battle with her sexuality. The film ultimately leads up to the famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).
After seeing the film, I knew that I would want to participate in a much larger discussion with the cast and filmmakers. I reached out to the good people at Fox Searchlight where I was invited to attend dual press conferences for the film.
The first press conference was labeled as “Team Billie Jean” and featured Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Alan Cumming, Austin Stowell, Natalie Morales, Jessica McNamee, and, of course, Billie Jean King.
Now, instead of trying to summarize what happened at the two press conferences, I decided that it would be more enjoyable to point out some of the most interesting takeaways from each one.
15. Billie Jean King points out that when she was playing tennis, the women were always asked about their sexuality but the men were never questioned.
14. Valerie and Jonathan loved working with Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine. They kept hoping to find a film that would be able to showcase his talent. It has been 10 years since they worked together.
13. During the Battle of the Sexes match shown in the film, a journalist named Howard Cosell is shown standing beside Natalie Morales who plays Rosie Casals in the film. This scene uses actual stock footage of Cosell and Casals commentating the match but replaces the original Casals with Morales. It was shot in split screen and featured a hand double. Morales said, she listened to the footage repeatedly to make sure she got the scene perfectly.
12. “There was a side to this guy that nobody ever knew,” said Steve Carell about Bobby Riggs. He said that he could see the pain that he was suffering when he watched interviews and talked about his wife. Carell was all about showcasing that side of Bobby in the film.
11. Emma Stone thought of Billie Jean as a social activist who was always wired to push for social change.
10. Billie Jean King’s ex-husband Larry King was always supportive of her “changing the tennis world” and actively spoke about how to change it while they were at the Cal State Library in the 1960s. Larry King was also a founding member of the WTA.
9. Alan Cumming found the film to be “fascinating” because it looked like it had was actually shot in the 70s and not a period piece made about the 70s.
8. Andrea Riseborough runs an all-female film company and states that the reason for creating the company is not because she wants to employ only women but because she wants to balance out the roles offered to women while also giving more opportunities to younger women.
8. Emma Stone and Billie Jean King attended the US Open together where Sloan Stevens won. Stone said that it was incredible to see something that King has fought so hard for to become a reality.
7. Steve Carell grew out his hair and sideburns to play Bobby Riggs. He also dyed his hair for the part.
5. Emma Stone stated that she isn’t great at tennis but was trained by Vince Spadea for the film. She pointed out that a lot of her tennis scenes featured a professional stunt double named Kaitlyn Christian. Stone joked that “if this had been the Billie Jean tennis movie, I never would have gotten the part.”
4. Valerie Faris was shocked about what she learned about Howard Cosell while researching him. She thought he was very liberal but upon closer look found some of his actions to be very offensive to women especially some of his statements about Billie Jean.
3. Steve Carell thinks Bobby Riggs created a character. He just wanted to be famous. He didn’t care about politics. Thinks Riggs was just a “put on and a self-promoter.”
2. Jonathan Dayton hopes that a feature film seen in the theater is a unique experience where for two hours you can immerse yourself in something. He hopes audiences can learn something about history that is unique to it and then go out and talk about it.
1. Battle of the Sexes was tested twice before it was released. The first time was before the election and the second was after the election. Valarie Faris said they didn’t really change that much about the film and the score went up 15 points after the election. “You can feel it in the room after the election that it just changed how the movie felt,” noted Faris.
It is important to note that for every ticket sold to Battle of the Sexes during opening weekend, 20th Century Fox will be donating 79 cents to Billie Jean’s Women’s Sports Foundation.
Be sure to check out Battle of the Sexes in theaters this weekend and help support a great film as well as well as a great cause.