Who should play Billie Jean King in the new Battle of the Sexes movie?
The news that Will Ferrell will play Bobby Riggs in a new movie about the 1973 Battle of the Sexes has left everyone pondering one obvious question: Who will play Billie Jean King?
Holly Hunter played the tennis icon in the 2001 made-for-television movie When Billie Beat Bobby, and she did a fine job capturing King's athleticism and youthful spunk. But the film wasn't an outright comedy, and with Ferrell playing Riggs and his production company behind the new film, you have to think they're going the comedy route, a la Ferrell's other sports-themed movies like Semi-Pro, Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory.
With that in mind, here are our suggestions for the Billie Jean King casting call:
The obvious heiress-apparent to Kristen Wiig at Saturday Night Live (more on her later), and hands-down the funniest current cast memberer on SNL, McKinnon already has her BJK audition tape ready to go. She did a wonderful impression of King during a recent Weekend Update segment before the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Just listen to her say "Trouble? I come from trouble, Seth." That is such a Billie Jean King way to say a very Billie Jean King line.
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Of all the current women in comedy, Wiig is the one with the chops to hold her own against Ferrell's over-the-top absurdist comedy. The two shared the screen in last year's Anchorman 2 and are used to each other's comedy style after being castmates on SNL for one season. Plus she laid down a solid tennis scene in Bridesmaids.
You don't have to worry about her ability to capture BJK's intensity; though she will have to learn a one-handed backhand.
If Ferrell needs a more low-key comedic partner, Portlandia's Brownstein is the way to go. The former Sleater-Kinney guitarist is relatively new to the comedy game, but she excels at being the understated partner to Fred Armisen's crazy characters while also doing over-the-top outrage really well. That combination might make her perfect for a loosely-based parody version of King. To top it all off, Brownstein actually played tennis for her high school in Redmond, Washington and is a big tennis fan.
Here she is in a Portlandia sketch with Armisen and the one-and-only Martina Navratilova.
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Fey is the "straight-woman" comedic relief that makes Ferrell's buffonish characters even more... buffooney? His Riggs will look like a complete neanderthal next to Fey's King, and that's a lot of comedic space to work with. And while we're at it, how about casting Fey's best friend Amy Poehler as King's BFF Rosie Casals? The two don't look alike, but I can only imagine the fun banter and chemistry would feel accurate.
Also accurate? Fey and Poehler's salute to women's tennis: