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Emma Stone stars as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell is Bobby Riggs in the 1970s-set sports film ‘Battle of the Sexes.’
Fox Searchlight

Battle of the Sexes retells an event in American history that’s so bizarre, it doesn’t quite seem true 40 years later. 

The film focuses on the nationally televised 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match in which 29-year-old Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) beat 55-year-old former champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in three straight sets.

“The actual match was a pure pantomime, outright silly. Yet what was going on underneath was incredibly serious,” says the movie’s screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy. “That win had a huge sociological effect.”

Beaufoy capped his research by sitting down with King for a marathon interview before writing the screenplay. (Riggs died at age 77 in 1995.) 

“I’d say 99% of it they got right,” says King, 73. “They certainly captured the essence.”

Some key points of accuracy:

Their grand entrance actually was that bizarre

King really did ride into the Houston Astrodome on a feather-adorned Cleopatra litter carried by four bare-chested hunks. Promoter Jerry Perenchio suggested the absurd entrance.

“He said to me, ‘I know you’re a feminist. So you probably won’t get on this Egyptian litter, will you?’ ” King recalls. “I said, ‘Yes, I love it! Let’s go.’ He was shocked. I got on it, and we walked out.”

Riggs entered in a rickshaw drawn by young women.  

“We really brought the entertainment factor to the match and made it exciting to people,” says King.

The net exchange of gifts went down

King found out that Riggs, who was paid $50,000 to wear a Sugar Daddy jacket during the match, intended to give her a giant Sugar Daddy candy on a stick. Perenchio had a small pig for King to present him in exchange.

“I said, ‘Are you kidding, you have that?’ That was better than anything I could think of,” says King. “I named it Robert Larimore Riggs, Bobby’s formal name, and put a little ribbon around his neck. It was so cute.”

She made Perenchio promise that the pig would never end up “as ham…