In Battle of the Sexes, Emma Stone plays tennis legend and social activist Billie Jean King. Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the film also stars Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs and centers on the infamous 1973 match between King and Riggs, in which King fought to legitimize women’s tennis in the eyes of those who didn’t take it seriously.
Playing a tennis pro was no easy feat for Stone, who hadn’t considered herself especially athletic until training for Battle of the Sexes.
“I had never played an athlete before and I had never been athletic before, really,” Stone told reporters at a Los Angeles press conference about how the physicality affected her performance and her relationship to her body. “I danced, obviously, and things like that. That’s athletic, but in a different way than a weight lifting tennis player.”
In effect, training proved very difficult, but it taught Stone a lot.
“The beginning of the process was pretty brutal, but then you get into a place that’s so amazing and you start to understand the mind of someone who is strong enough to execute whatever it is they want to execute,” she continued. “‘I want to put the ball over there. I can do it. I have the strength. I want to lift this up. I can do it.'”
And through her training she became, in a word, ripped.
She became strong as hell, and her dogs — YES, DOGS! — reaped the benefits.
“My dogs have a 60-pound food bag, and I was like, ‘I got it,'” she quipped, and acted like she was picking up the bag. “It’s the most empowering feeling. I can’t believe I just did this. It’s just the best.”
Through the process of filming Battle of the Sexes, Stone learned about the extent of King’s social power — and how she was able to make such a huge impact.
“Mentally, I thought Billie Jean is a social activist. She was always wired for social change. She knew that from a young age,” Stone said. “She also realized she was great at tennis and this was going to be an amazing platform for her, if she could be the best, to change the world.”
Not to mention, Stone came to understand how King’s athleticism enabled that social power.
“Physicality has everything to do with that,” she continued. “If you have the strength to be the best in tennis, you can change the world. That was an amazing place to get to, to understand that physical strength equals strength out in our country or in the conversation or to further equality. And I know that sounds a little bit…crazy for me to say that, but I did start to put those pieces together.”
That doesn’t sound crazy at all to us. There’s certainly power in physical strength, and King is the perfect example of that. See for yourselves when Battle of the Sexes lands in theaters on September 22nd.