When thinking about actors that could play John McEnroe, especially in his prime as a tennis player, is Shia LeBeouf the first one who would come to mind?
Probably not, but LeBeouf as McEnroe is happening. He will portray the legendary (and temperamental) tennis star in a film titled Borg/McEnroe, which will follow the rivalry between McEnroe and Swedish rival Bjorn Borg (played by Sverrir Gudnason) through the late-70s and early-80s, centered on their 1980 Wimbledon championship match.
If you need to see LeBeouf as McEnroe to believe it, no footage from the film has yet been released. But the production did release a photo from the film. Here’s a side-by-side comparison with the actual Borg and McEnroe.
The film will be directed by Janus Metz Peterson, who helmed a season two episode of HBO’s True Detective. More importantly, Peterson directed a 1996 BBC documentary about Borg and McEnroe titled Clash of the Titans. (Given that there have been two fantasy epics with that title, you can guess why this project has the boring “Borg/McEnroe” name to it.)
In a May interview with Variety‘s Elsa Keslassy, LeBeouf explained why he’s suited for the role and very much identifies with McEnroe. To prepare, the actor reportedly trained for two months and read McEnroe’s autobiography. The two have “everything in common,” in his words. “Passionate. Perfectionist. Narcissistic. I’m a bit of a caricature also,” he added.
I haven’t met him yet, but I’m eager to meet him before we shoot,” said LeBeouf. “I got nothing but love and respect for him.”
— The Scottish Sun (@ScottishSun) September 15, 2016
As of late September, however, LeBeouf nor anyone associated with the film had met with McEnroe. And he didn’t seem very happy about that, according to Vanity Fair‘s John Clarke.
“It doesn’t seem like they are all that interested in talking with me,” he said. “I don’t know how you can do it without ever meeting me. Maybe you could talk to a few of my friends. I can barely remember what I was like 36 years ago when I was 21 years old. It could be entertaining. If it’s good, it’d be cool. Let’s hope.”
“It’s difficult even for tennis players to re-enact what they did,” he said. “So how in the hell is an actor going to do it on a court? It looks fake. They look like actors who can’t play. You see these guys, they go out there and they barely even know how to play tennis. Hopefully they’re focusing on stuff off the court. Unless they intertwine it [with] real footage. Then it would be cool, maybe.”
Hopefully, no one told the left-handed McEnroe that LeBeouf is playing right-handed. Maybe they’ll reverse the frame during those scenes.