LaBeouf says learning tennis for ‘Borg/McEnroe’ like learning to dance

Shia LaBeouf compares learning tennis legend John McEnroe’s style to ballet at TIFF

Shia LaBeouf says learning tennis legend John McEnroe’s style was like rehearsing a ballet.

LaBeouf stars opposite Sverrir Gudnason in “Borg/McEnroe,” a film that recreates the match between McEnroe and Bjorn Borg at the 1980 Wimbledon Championships.

LaBeouf says the action scenes in the film were carefully scripted and choreographed to resemble the famous match.

Director Janus Metz added that some moviemaking “magic tricks” were used to “sell” the actors’ performances, given they had never played tennis prior to the film shoot.

Although he spent countless hours learning about the sport, LaBeouf felt he never truly learned how to play.

The world premiere of “Borg/McEnroe” officially kicked off TIFF on Thursday, which runs through Sept. 17. Canadian tennis phenom Denis Shapovalov was set to walk the red carpet along with the film’s stars for the gala screening.

“We rehearsed things like a ballet, including [McEnroe’s] outbursts. I would literally play them on a screen right before we would film and look at where everything was, and it was very paint-by-the-numbers in a way,” LaBeouf said at a press conference.

“You could’ve given me 20 years and I would’ve never played like McEnroe…. I started learning it like a dance, I never actually played tennis, it was something different.”

About 340 films will screen at this year’s fest, which is a smaller number than in recent years — a result of a TIFF mandate to trim the overall number of titles by 20 per cent. Organizers said they made the changes in response to feedback from audiences, the industry and the media.

Among the first celebrities to arrive in Toronto for the fest were Charlie Hunnam of “Sons of Anarchy” fame, who stars in “Papillon” with Rami Malek of “Mr. Robot,” Armie Hammer of “Call Me By Your Name,” and supermodel and musician Grace Jones, who is promoting a documentary about her life.

Other films in the lineup include “Suburbicon,” directed by George Clooney, Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing.”

About a third of the films in the lineup are directed by women, including Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father.”

Other stars expected to attend the festival include Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”), Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba (both of “Molly’s Game”) and Steve Carell and Emma Stone (co-stars of another tennis movie, “Battle Of The Sexes”).

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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