In Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's Battle of the Sexes, Emma Stone and Steve Carell play Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs -- two giants of the tennis world who famously faced off against one another in a 1973 exhibition match. For those who don't know how it ended in real life, I won't spoil the movie for you here -- but if you've been wondering who would win in a showdown between Emma Stone and Steve Carell, that is a question we can answer: apparently Carell would wipe the floor with his co-star. When I had the opportunity to ask the directors recently, they told me,
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris: [simultaneously] Steve.
Valerie Faris: Steve has been playing his whole life.
Jonathan Dayton: He's great. And, actually, with Steve it was really a matter of him learning how to play like Bobby. He's a great contemporary player, but Bobby's game is really an old school style of tennis.
After seeing Battle of the Sexes last week, I found myself curious who would win in a real tennis match between Emma Stone and Steve Carell - and I kept that question in my back pocket when I sat down for an interview with Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton at the Los Angeles press day this past weekend. In case you can't tell, there was absolutely zero hesitation in their response, as both were very clear in thinking that Carell would emerge the victor of an actor vs. actor showdown.
As Jonathan Dayton noted, however, while Steve Carell had plenty of tennis experience before starring in Battle of the Sexes, he basically had to relearn the game for the movie. While modern tennis is played with aerodynamically designed rackets with large head sizes, the equipment that was used back in the early 1970s was far less sophisticated. Having acknowledged the surprisingly different way the game was played with the different rackets, I followed up with the directors about it, and they explained that it was certainly part of the challenge in getting their stars properly prepared and playing authentically.
Valerie Faris: The wood racket, which Billie Jean played with, is heavy! Bobby's was aluminum, but also just small.
Jonathan Dayton: Their game, their grip - it was a complete re-do.
For those of you who have recently been watching the U.S. Open on television, you may get a special kick out of seeing the contrast between how the game was played -- and that option is available to you now. Battle of the Sexes, which co-stars Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales, and Tom Kenny, is now out in theaters in limited release. Check the listings of your local cinema to see if it's playing in your area.