On Friday, September 22, the movie Battle of the Sexes made its way to theaters across America. Based on the game-changing match between tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973, the movie stars Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs. Stone, who was named as the highest paid actress by Forbes in August, recently shared her insights on what it was like to play the courageous and outspoken equality pioneer.
In fact, two nights before the movie hit theaters, Emma Stone, Billie Jean King, Battle of the Sexes co-director Valerie Faris, and screen-writer Shonda Rhimes (who had nothing to do with the movie, but was in attendance at the request of King) gathered at the Theater of Visual Arts in New York after a private screening of the movie to discuss the real concepts of equality and women’s rights that are at the heart of the Fox Searchlight Pictures movie. The panel discussion, “How Far has Feminism Come?” was sponsored by Citizen Watch, also the exclusive timepiece sponsor of the movie, and a partner of the Billie jean King Leadership Initiative.
Emma Stone, who had to bulk up by about 15 pounds and lift weights to build her arm muscles so she could properly portray the former World No. 1 tennis player, openly admitted that she learned a great deal about courage and having a voice by portraying this short time in King’s life.
“Many of us know Billie Jean King as an icon and an activist with a strong voice for LGBTQ rights, but we don’t really know whole story of what she and the original nine [women] went through to split off and form WTA [Women’s Tennis Association] for a dollar because they were not being paid equally,” says Emma Stone. “For them to risk all they risked, and for her, with all she was going through in that one part of her life, to be so strong is amazing. We stand on her shoulders in the fight for equality. And to think that it all started with a young girl who had vulnerabilities and fears, and yet had the courage to speak out. She taught me that you don’t have to be perfect to be great, and that you can push through your fears and still have a voice. I think that is a great story to share with the world right now.”
Indeed, King is known for her advocacies for gender equality and social justice. She has long fought not only for women’s rights, but also, and maybe more importantly, for equal rights. While this movie portrays the historic victory King pulled out over Riggs in the most-watched televised match of the time (while simultaneously going through her own sexual identity crisis), it is more about her courage in fighting for women’s rights and equal pay. In fact, King remains steadfast in her pursuits for equality and equal pay.