Tennis great Billie Jean King, 73, attended the red carpet premiere of Battle of the Sexes with stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell.


The film is a biopic of sorts that details the famous “battle of the sexes” tennis match between King and Bobby Riggs. Riggs notoriously challenged King to a match, stating that a woman wouldn’t be able to beat him, and of course he was wrong, and King aced the competition in three straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3).

Stone plays King in the film, while Carell portrays Riggs, who died in 1995. King wore a smart bright pink jacket with matching glasses on the red carpet (which was actually green like tennis turf), while Stone wore a silver jacket over a white striped shirt-dress.

“The actual match was a pure pantomime, outright silly. Yet what was going on underneath was incredibly serious,” screenwriter Simon Beaufoy told USA Today. “That win had a huge sociological effect.” King has said that the film is extremely accurate. “I’d say 99% of it they got right,” she said. In fact, some moments that almost surely seem made up, were very true. The players’ entrances, for example, really were extremely bizarre. King rode out to the court on a Cleopatra-style thrown carried by four shirtless men, while Riggs was peddled out by a rickshaw drawn by a woman.


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“He said to me, ‘I know you’re a feminist. So you probably won’t get on this Egyptian litter, will you?'” King recalls. “I said, ‘Yes, I love it! Let’s go.’ He was shocked. I got on it, and we walked out. We really brought the entertainment factor to the match and made it exciting to people.”

The only part that was more dramatized was the actual tennis, simply because if the players knew where the ball was coming next, the hits or misses would look too practiced. “We experimented with doing the exact points, but it looked fake,” says directors Jonathan Dayton, who co-directed with Valerie Faris. “It was important that the players not anticipate where the ball was going. In the end, we played each point like a real match, not knowing who would win.”

Stone and Carell did learn some tennis moves with instructors, and particularly Stone with guidance from King herself. “Oh yeah, oh big time,” Stone says of watching King’s matches to prepare. “We were watching her matches constantly and her interviews and yeah, it was full steeping in Billie Jean.” The actress even practiced with the legend herself. “She’s such a great coach that she immediately gets a gauge of the ppl she’s around and asks a lot of questions and just keyed in on, ‘alright, you can dance, that means you know footwork, now run!’ And she’d just throw the ball at my face and I’d just move to the ball and get my footwork down, but it helped me so much to start out with her… she’s the best.”

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