Borg McEnroe by Janus Metz Pedersen is the winner of the “BNL People’s Choice Award” at the 12th Rome Film Fest. The film starring starring Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf and Stellan Skarsgård, is about one of the world’s greatest icons Björn Borg and his biggest rival, the young and talented John McEnroe and their legendary duel during the 1980’s Wimbledon tournament.
On one side of the net, the cool and composed Björn Borg; on the other, the hot-headed, quick-tempered John McEnroe. The former anxious to hold on to his title as the top-ranked tennis ace; the latter determined to dethrone him. Revealing their lives on and off the court, Borg McEnroe is an intimate, stirring, and fascinating portrait of two indisputable icons of the history of tennis, with an epic account of the legendary 1980 Wimbledon final.
Janus Metz Pedersen, director of Borg McEnroe rose to international fame with Armadillo, which won the Grand Prix of the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival. In Denmark, he had made a name for himself in 2008, with two films, Love on Delivery and Ticket to Paradise. In 2015, he directed the third episode of the second season of the celebrated HBO series True Detective starring Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams. Over the course of his career, he has also directed shorts, commercials, and art and music videos.
In his Director Statement, Pedersen said, “To me, Borg McEnroe is the tennis version of Raging Bull. It’s about two young men, each out to prove he’s number one, to feel important. To be somebody. Trapped in their own rivalry – one of the more spectacular cases in the history of the sport – they eventually had to come to terms with themselves and their own private demons.
To explore Björn and John’s inner turmoil, the film relies on crude camerawork, frequently using handheld cameras and Steadicams to convey a sense of immediacy and realism. A counterpoint to this are the sequences designed to create a rich atmosphere, with almost symbolic images that were meant to suggest the historical significance of the events. The film looks at a clash of titans, and this requires putting things in proportion. We put the audience in Björn and John’s shoes, but then we back out of this saturated and often claustrophobic environment to reclaim a broader perspective that underlines the importance of the match and the existential dimension of the whole story. As a biopic inspired by the two rivals’ lives, particularly the legendary Wimbledon showdown in 1980, Borg McEnroe evokes an age when tennis players were “rock stars” and John and Björn came out on top. This wasn’t just two men playing tennis. This was a clash between two continents. Two ways of behaving, two opposite characters facing off. Two different ways of being men. Borg McEnroe is a marvelous demonstration of all of the above”.