Billie Jean King on the casting of Emma Stone in ‘Battle of the Sexes’


Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 to promote the Battle of the Sexes tennis match. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures/Associated Press

By Leighton Ginn

When Billie Jean King recounts hearing about the casting of the Battle of the Sexes movie, her eyes light up and she speaks with an enthusiasm as if she was learning about it for the first time.

Portraying King will be Oscar-nominated actress Emma Stone, who is currently generating buzz for her movie “La La Land.”  Playing Bobby Riggs will be comedic actor Steve Carell, who earned an Oscar nomination for “Foxcatcher.”

King learned about the casting from the film’s producer, Danny Boyle, who is the Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“I go ‘Emma Stone? She’s an A-plus as an actress,'” King enthusiastically said. “And then he said Steve Carell for Bobby Riggs. I was like, ‘Oh my God, another A-plus actor.’ Every actor is like an A-plus.”

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King said she has meet many people involved with the movie, including Stone.

And King said she was even more impressed with Stone after getting to know her.

“She’s a fantastic human being,” King said. “In real life, she’s fantastic. She’s very gifted. I was blown away.”

In addition to Stone and Carell, the movie will also star Alan Cummins, Elisabeth Shue and Sarah Silverman.  The movie will be directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who also did “Little Miss Sunshine.”

King also said she was impressed with the publicity photos of Stone and Carell as herself and Riggs. She did get to meet with the makeup and wardrobe people on the movie and liked what she saw.

“They really want to make it a real 1973 film,” King said.

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King points out that she’s not involved with the making of the movie, so she doesn’t know exactly what the movie will center on, outside the 1973 match.

Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon champion, bragged he could beat any of the top women tennis players at his advanced age of 55. King had refused an offer to face Riggs, but when he beat No. 1 Margaret Court, she felt she needed to play.

The match took place on Sept. 20, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome, which was the most watched tennis match at the time. King won in straight sets, and the victory became a symbol for the Equal Rights Movement.


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