Looking to tell the “personal story” of Billie Jean King and self-styled provocateur Bobby Riggs — the participants in 1973’s historic Battle of the Sexes tennis match — directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris had to look no further than the Battle of the Sexes script by Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy, who managed to go beyond the public events transpiring on the world stage at the time to depict King’s own internal struggles.
“There are many documentaries that point out the timeline, but this was an opportunity to go places that no documentary cameras ever traveled to,” Dayton told Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione at The Contenders London event, reflecting on the Telluride-premiering drama that was made with King’s blessing.
Based on an event intended by Riggs to demonstrate that men were the superior sex — in tennis and otherwise — Battle of the Sexes makes for politically resonant cinema, taken on as the 2016 Presidential election was in full swing. Noting how differently the film played in previews pre- and post-election, Faris commented on King’s status as an inclusive icon who created a necessary conversation regarding the treatment of women.
“What we love about Billie Jean is that she loves to engage in a dialogue, and not be a polarizing figure. Actually if you see her speak, she’s a very inclusive person,” Faris said. “She loves to bring everybody into the conversation, and I think that was our intention with the film.”
Check out Deadline’s conversation that includes Beaufoy and c0-star Andrea Riseborough above.