Battle of the Sexes
My journey with the film began in February of 2016 at a $25,000 tennis tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, Ca. Lornie Kuhl, who was the actual coach for Bobby Riggs, was scouting prospective candidates for the body double role for Emma Stone, who played Billie Jean King in the film. I went in for an audition after the tournament and during the audition, I played 15 minutes of tennis with a wood racquet using a continental grip and then went in for a fitting to make sure I was around the same height and measurements as Emma Stone. I left the studio and got a call two days later saying I got the role, and as a bonus, I would have an actual acting part in the movie as one of the original nine women (Kerrie Melville-Reid) who helped Billie Jean form the seminal Virginia Slims tour.
A few days later the process began. My first appointment was with a Hollywood hairdresser and I came in with a full head of long, brown hair and left with short, black hair up above my shoulders. For the next two months, I was in and out of studios for fittings, going to see the hairdresser for trims and dying, and practicing tennis with Vince Spadea and Emma.
Getting used to the wood racquet took a few months. Vince, Emma, and I spent time on the court working on sequences of shadow swings for hours. I was lucky enough to get to spend two hours on the court with Billie Jean King when she visited, and she taught me the rudiments of how she played and what grips she used and also gave me advice on my tennis game. Then Vince and I played points against each other with our wood racquets at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, which was due to be demolished a week later. Finally, the directors gave us a script of points they wanted us to incorporate into the tennis match (the Directors-Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton-were the husband and wife team who also directed the sleeper hit “Little Miss Sunshine”)-they were fantastic to work with and everyone on the set was nicer than I ever thought they would be. I also got to meet Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, and of course, Steve Carrell and many other actors. Once we perfected our tennis skills we were ready to start the filming.
The filming process took 4-5 weeks and was unlike anything I had ever experienced. What people see on the screen for 5 seconds can take five hours to film. Numerous takes were taken with different cameras and from several different angles. My days ranged from four to fourteen hours and the mantra from my time filming was “Hurry up to wait.” My day would start with hair and make-up and then after a few hours of splurging in the all you can eat catered buffet, they would call you to set where you would sit and wait for them to film the scene you were in.
Because I played two different people, some days I would have to completely change character and go in for a hair and makeup re-do and then return to film scenes that my other character was in. In the final days of filming, we filmed the big match in the LA Sports Arena. On those days they placed a series of black dots strategically on my face so that when they were putting together the film they could CGI Emma’s face onto my body. Seeing the finished product is very strange because the CGI looks so natural. It’s like I got a complete make-over!!
The most fun part of watching the film for me was trying to pick out when my face was used and when they used CGI. Not many people pay enough attention to tell the difference but it is SO obvious when I am on the screen because I walk much different than Emma and I am also more muscular then she is. All in all, I had one of the best experiences of my life and met so many interesting people. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I absolutely would. The movie has such a powerful message and I was honored to be a part of it. BJK is one of my new heroes.
You can catch me next in Thailand and Taiwan where I will be pairing with a fellow Inphorm member, Jessica Moore.
Go out and see the movie and spread the word!