Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris Say They Used Their Music Video Expertise for 'Battle of the Sexes'

The pair says recent Oscar winner Emma Stone was their first choice to play tennis legend Billie Jean King
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris Say They Used Their Music Video Expertise for 'Battle of the Sexes'
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Married director duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are responsible for some of the most memorable music videos of the '90s and beyond, having created clips for the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins ("Tonight Tonight"), Oasis ("All Around the World") and Extreme ("More Than Words," a personal favourite of late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon).
 
For the past ten years, however, they've been more concerned with making movies — first with the critically acclaimed and quirky Little Miss Sunshine (which helped introduce Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin to the world), and later with 2012's Ruby Sparks.
 
Their latest film is Battle of the Sexes, a provocative look at the nationally broadcast U.S. 1973 tennis match between then-women's champion (and closeted lesbian) Billie Jean King and the larger-than-life, past-his-prime chauvinist Bobby Riggs.
 
"Tennis isn't the most easy to dramatize sport, because sometimes it's really uneven, and this match was not particularly tight. She beat him so easily," Faris tells Exclaim! during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival.
 
"We wanted to make this because of the stories that existed behind the scenes, many of which weren't known, certainly at the time," Dayton adds.
 
Here are a few things we learned about the making of Battle of the Sexes.
 
1. They approached filming the final match like they were making a music video. 

"We experimented a lot with how to portray the match," Dayton says. "We went as far as beginning by taking the original TV broadcast and cutting it down. And we added music to it and we just experimented, 'how do you tell this so that it feels compelling?'"
 
"What was really interesting to us was that at the end of the match Billie Jean did not look triumphant. It wasn't like this joy, like, 'I've won for women for all time!' It wasn't a sense of relief," Faris says. "That's what we were interested in portraying — the victory wasn't so black and white… what she was fighting for in her personal life and her professional life had a long way to go. It was just the beginning, really, for her."
 
2. Emma Stone was their number one pick to play Billie Jean King. 

"There weren't that many people that we felt were right for this and she was just so interested. When someone's that committed to it and that good, I don't know how you could possibly say no to that," Faris says. "Since we shot this she won the Oscar [for her role in La La Land] and she's now achieved a certain prominence within the industry and in the culture, so I think it's been kind of a good thing for her to feel what is it like to go out there and really fight for change. That's what it feels like. She got to walk in Billie Jean's shoes and then now hopefully continue on her own."
 
3. The movie's stars barely share any screen time together. 

"It's funny, because in Crazy Stupid Love there's not many scenes of them together," Dayton says.
 
"They're in two scenes," Faris says, "and I think in this there are three scenes."
 
Battle of the Sexes is in select theatres now. Read our review from TIFF here.