If directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton played doubles in a tennis match, they would win.
They exhibit the type of teamwork that is extremely admirable in the film industry– their open communication and creativity lead them to success in the 2012 drama “Ruby Sparks” and most notably, 2006’s Sundance darling “Little Miss Sunshine.” Now, the indie filmmakers and real-life couple take on the compelling story of Billie Jean King and her infamous 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs in the comedic biography “Battle of the Sexes.”
Familiar faces from “Little Miss Sunshine” to “Battle of the Sexes”
Jonathan Dayton: Since “Little Miss Sunshine” we’ve been looking for the right thing to do with Steve. It was so much fun to work together with him again and to be able to have a character that could highlight all that Steve brings to a part. We all knew the funny character Bobby was publicly but what was exciting for us was the private side of Bobby and that’s where Steve showed his range.
Steve Carell’s wife hated his makeover
Valerie Faris: His wife is always complaining about his facial hair in our movies! On “Little Miss Sunshine” she didn’t like the beard. He shaved it immediately on the last day. I think she’s gonna grow to like the sideburns.
Putting women first, even in the end credits
Jonathan Dayton: We’ve done this for so long and it’s always been alphabetically [Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris]. But it just felt like the right time to remind everyone that it’s a team…
Valerie Faris: I’m not just the “and.”
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with Emma Stone on the set of “Battle of the Sexes.”
The Presidential election changed the tone of the film
Valerie Faris: We had previewed a rough cut of the film before the election and it did ok. We were pretty happy with the results but were still working on the film. After the election, about a month later, we previewed it again and the score jumped by 15 points. I think the movie got better [from us working on it] but I also think you could feel the [energy] in the room after the election. It changed how the movie felt.
Jonathan Dayton: One thing that we wanted from the start, and I think it’s more important now more than ever, is that we made an effort not to really have clear “bad guys.” Even Bill [Jack Kramer] with his rhetoric is a dimensional person who deserves respect and that’s one thing I’ve learned through this process. You need to respect and engage the people you’re facing. Billie Jean never called [Bobby Riggs] a name. She wanted to engage with him and talk to him. She beat Bobby because she respected him. Billie Jean showed you might not win the early battles but if you stay at it, you can prevail.
“Battle of the Sexes” needs to be seen in theaters
Jonathan Dayton: This story has been told in books and articles and documentaries. But I hope people take away that a feature film seen in a theater is a unique experience. You’re there for two hours and can immerse yourself in something. We can use beautiful music and great performances that allows you to learn something about history that is unique to what movies can do. And then you can go out and talk about it, and that’s really what we hope will happen with “Battle of the Sexes.”
Valerie Faris: That’s what I love so much about Billie Jean, she’s such a generous person and she’s always giving. She doesn’t really like the spotlight. I hope people will take an interest in Billie Jean and Bobby from this movie, they’re all fascinating characters worthy of biopics of their own.