Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-10-18
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

MOVIES Gender politics focus of 'Battle' royale
by Lawrence Ferber
2017-09-27

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


There's a scene toward the end of 1970s-set Battle of the Sexes in which gay fashion designer Cuthbert Collingwood "Ted" Tinling tells closeted tennis champ Billie Jean King that the times will change and, eventually, queer people shall live and love openly: After all, she was one of the people changing them.

How prescient Tinling was.

Directed by Little Miss Sunshine's wife-and-husband team of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, and scripted by Simon Beaufoy ( The Full Monty; Slumdog Millionaire ), Battle of the Sexes revisits the 1973 earth-moving tennis match between twentysomething King ( Emma Stone ) and fiftysomething Bobby Riggs ( Steve Carrell ), a former men's champ turned showboating chauvinist and hustler, which takes place as the married and deeply closeted King experiences a first lesbian love with a Los Angeles hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett ( Andrea Riseborough ). The match would ultimately score a major point for gender equality in the sport, while King would go on to become an out icon.

"It's a sports movie, but frankly what got us interested in this was to tell Billie Jean's personal story," said Dayton. "The thing people hadn't heard before."

Indeed, the film tackles King's profound realization that she is other than straight; her tortured and complicated love triangle with Marilyn and husband Larry King ( Austin Stowell ); the endless stink eye she received from virulently homophobic Aussie tennis rival Margaret Court ( Jessica McNamee ); and King's passionate efforts to bring gender equality to society and her sport. The film actually commences with a 1970 rift between the time's dominant male-run tennis association, the USLTA, under which women received a mere fraction of the prize money male players did at tournaments. King subsequently formed the Virginia Slims Circuit with eight other women later dubbed the "Original 9" and World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Hellman ( Sarah Silverman ), which became the Women's Tennis Association ( WTA ) tour by 1973.

King was involved with the film's creation early on—an extensive session with Beaufoy during the scripting stage, reading subsequent drafts, viewing early cuts—and weighed in throughout the process. "She was very involved, and it was difficult for her," Dayton said, "because this was a really hard time in her life and she hasn't really revisited it. She said she hadn't seen the match in 25 years, and the relationship with Marilyn was fraught."

Indeed, the relationship with Barnett, who was known as King's assistant professionally, has been characterized by many as toxic and completely deteriorated in the subsequent years. It served as catalyst for King coming out publicly in 1981, when Barnett filed a palimony suit that claimed she was owed a Malibu home and lifetime financial support. The resulting publicity saw King lose potential endorsements and the legal fees proved devastating. King, still married to Larry at the time, characterized Barnett as mentally unstable—a paraplegic due to an accident by this time, she reportedly attempted suicide by jumping off a building—and King ultimately won the case. Today, King is happily partnered with Ilana Kloss, a fellow former tennis champ and current commissioner of co-ed tennis league, WTT.

Despite the unfortunate way things turned out for the relationship and Barnett, the filmmakers focused on the sunniness of their early days together, "because it was a key moment for Billie Jean, and we wanted to celebrate her finding her authentic self and not get locked up in what happens later," says Dayton. "We're really telling the story of this particular time in her life. And now that its finished and she can watch the movie with an audience, I think it's been an incredibly positive thing for her."

English actress Riseborough—who previously co-starred with Stone in 2014's Birdman ( her credits also include Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals and Madonna's W.E. )—admitted she tried to focus on the Marilyn of those happier early days, and keep what followed on the periphery.

"None of us know where our lives will be in ten years no matter how we plan or imagine things," she opines. "We have no idea what facets of our personalities might come out. The relationship with Marilyn awakened something in Billie Jean. That was a huge basis for how I played her. Freedom and liberty and the hope of the early 70s, she embodies all of that in our film. I felt she was incredibly grounded and earthy, but she had lightness, was ethereal, and hopeful, and free-spirited. Apparently, Marilyn had those qualities, Billie Jean told me since then."

In constructing the film, the makers took significant artistic license with the timeline of real events, especially in regards to the relationships depicted ( including that of Riggs and wife Priscilla, played by Elisabeth Shue ), for emotional resonance. To play King, Stone trained extensively in tennis for four months, gaining fifteen pounds of muscle in the process, while extensively researching and spending face time with the icon. Yet although Stone imbued her performance with subtle King-isms—the pitch of her voice, body language, gait, and smile—the filmmakers elected not to go the Monster route of extensive makeup and hair work to fully transform Stone into the freckled, and as Faris diplomatically puts it, "less stylish haircuts" of King at the time. "We made a creative decision to avoid the mullet," says Dayton.

"I think to get that mullet we would have had to put so much hair on Emma," Faris elaborates, "and deal with the logistics of wigs and prosthetics. It's not so much about making her look like Billie Jean exactly."

Riseborough also had the opportunity to spend personal time with King, although not until after production wrapped. She admitted that having King's personal support for the production was important to all involved, and finds her to be a profoundly inspirational figure. "You spend five minutes around her and you want to go into your life and start punching walls, she's so motivating," Riseborough shared. "Billie said that I was eerily like Marilyn. I'm very pleased with that."

For the gripping climactic match, shot to evoke 1970s sports TV, pro players Kaitlyn Christian and Vince Spadea doubled for Carrell and Stone, recreating their respective characters' 1970s playing styles ( from the style and weight of racquets to tennis court surfaces, everything about the game has changed since then ). Christian also stood in for Stone during a recreation of King's tense match with Court ( Lauren Kline doubled for McNamee during this scene ).

Court, who segued from her tennis career to that of Pentecostal minister, has been actively rallying against same-sex marriage in Australia—a non-binding survey of the country's population on whether same-sex marriage should be legal is underway, and could motivate politicians to actually move ahead with legislation—and made international press recently for her proclamation that gays "want marriage because they want to destroy it" and somehow that will lead to eradication of Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, and Christmas to boot.

"We were a little worried that we were going too far with portraying her homophobia," Dayton noted, "but she's been very good at making us feel comfortable that we haven't exaggerated anything."

One supporting character whose life absolutely reads stranger than fiction—and easily deserves his own film—is Tinling, the Original 9's dress designer who served as a British spy during WWII, pro tennis player, tennis historian/commentator, designer ( he designed Martina Navratilova's 1979 Wimbledon dress ), and author during his seventy nine years ( he died in 1990 ). Cumming plays Tinling as friend and sort of queer mentor to King, and delivers one of the most memorable, moving lines at the end.

"We just scratched the surface [with him]!" Dayton said. "There were so many interesting people [within this story] and they all deserved more time, but that was part of the fun of this—to throw them all together and keep all these balls in the air as we tell this particular story."


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Chicago-made Signature Move returns to theaters this weekend 2017-10-20 - Chicago-made Signature Move will be back in theaters this weekend The made-in-Chicago-by-Chicagoans movie Signature Move returns for a limited engagement starting Friday, October ...


Gay News

Women's March on Chicago to return as 'March to the Polls' 2017-10-18 - Women's March on Chicago, the coalition behind the historic gathering of 250,000 women and their allies this past January, is setting Jan. 20, ...


Gay News

New Study: Attitudes toward gays, lesbians changing in developing world 2017-10-18 - Washington — Today, Center for Global Development Senior Fellow Charles Kenny and Researcher Dev Patel released a new studythat finds that just as ...


Gay News

ELECTIONS 2018 Ebonie Davis running for vacated state rep position 2017-10-18 - By Matt Simonette Ebonie Davis simply says that the reason she is deciding to run for the post of 25th District state ...


Gay News

Grand marshals named for Nov. 4 Pink Hat Run 2017-10-18 - CHICAGO—Illinois state Rep. Juliana Stratton ( D-5 ) and Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell ( D-3 ) have been named Grand Marshals for the ...


Gay News

Freelancers Anonymous LGBTQ comedy feature filmed in Chicago 2017-10-16 - Award-winning Spanish filmmaker Sonia Sebastian ( De Chica en Chica/Amazon ) teams up with Lisa Cordileone and playwright Amy Dellagiarino on Freelancers Anonymous, ...


Gay News

Annual Human Rights Campaign Chicago Gala to Honor Back Lot Bash Founders 2017-10-16 - CHICAGO, IL ( October 16, 2017 ) — The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Chicago Steering Committee announced today that Christina Roberts ...


Gay News

Dyke spaces exhibit debuts on National Coming Out Day 2017-10-14 - A rousing night of queer women comedy kicked off Howard Brown Health's "Lost & Found: An exhibit exploring Chicago's dyke spaces of the ...


Gay News

Lambda Legal fights for intersex citizen denied a U.S. passport 2017-10-13 - ( Denver, CO, October 10, 2017 ) — Lambda Legal returned to federal court today on behalf of Dana Zzyym, an intersex citizen ...


Gay News

LPAC names Vaid interim executive director 2017-10-13 - Washington, DC: October 13, 2017…….LPAC, founded in 2012 as the first lesbian Political Action Committee, announced today that Urvashi Vaid, longtime attorney and ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.