COURTSIDE CHAT: “She [Billie Jean King] taught me you don’t have to be perfect to be great,” said Emma Stone, speaking on a panel Tuesday night, along with King, Shonda Rhimes and Valerie Faris, director of the new movie, “Battle of the Sexes,” which stars Stone. The panel was moderated by Amy Emmerich, chief content officer of Refinery29, and the movie premiere event was sponsored by Citizen Watch Co.
The film, which comes out Friday and premiered at the School of Visual Arts, is the true story of the 1973 tennis match between King, the world’s number-one female player, and ex-champion and hustler Bobby Riggs, played by Steve Carell.
The movie explores many important social issues — the wage gap, sexism, sexuality and identity — all of which continue to be relevant today. “I think it will take another 175 years to be equal,” said King. The 28-year-old Stone said she hopes that everybody sees the movie, but probably the most important would be “my generation and younger.”
The influence of sports in women’s lives, the advances since Title IX, and the importance of teamwork figured prominently in both the movie and the discussion.
“Sports are a microcosm of society,” said King, who described growing up and playing tennis at a Los Angeles club. Everyone was white, as were the tennis balls, shoes and clothes. “I asked myself where was everybody else? And I was going to fight for equal rights for men and women. I dedicated my life to this because I thought it was so important,” she said.
“Tennis is a global sport and I knew if I could get good enough and become number one, maybe I can change the world and make it a better place,” she said. She also said everyone is an influencer who has the power to change their own lives, their families’ lives and others’ lives.
Rhimes, the TV producer and screenwriter, added how important it is to raise one’s voice. “The thing I got from this movie is it’s not confidence, it’s courage. You don’t have to be confident to know you can do something, you just have to be courageous enough to take a step and do it,” she said.
Stone, who did extensive weight-training for the movie [although she had a double for the tennis scenes], shared her thoughts about being courageous: “I’m almost 29…I have this tendency, I fixate on the mistakes that I made and the choices I made.…I wish my whole life track record was perfect.…The thing I’m coming into.…You can be flawed and you can be imperfect, and still have a voice.…I don’t feel unapologetic yet, I feel like I’m on my way to being braver and more courageous. I thank Billie Jean for that.”