×

Toronto Film Festival Kicks Off With Shia LaBeouf Channeling John McEnroe

“Tennis anyone?”

With those words and a gesture to his sneakers, artistic director Cameron Bailey kicked off the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night. Bailey took the stage at the Roy Thomson Hall for the gala premiere of “Borg/McEnroe,” a dissection of the famed rivalry between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

It’s a film that’s more interested in the agony rather than the ecstasy of the sport. “Borg/McEnroe” is also notable for offering a meaty role for Shia LaBeouf, a bad boy of cinema, who plays McEnroe, a player fabled for his short fuse on the court. While calling the cast to the stage, Bailey said McEnroe was a “a role [LaBeouf] was born to play.”

In a press conference earlier in the day, LaBeouf copped to his similarities with the hot-tempered tennis legend. Seemingly referencing LaBeouf’s troubles with the law, which include numerous arrests for public intoxication, a reporter asked if the actor was sick of being grilled more about his personal foibles than his craft, much as McEnroe was frequently questioned about his fiery demeanor.

“This is another parallel that I feel with him, for sure,” said LaBeouf, adding, “He was a young man. Everything was really loud and really fast, so I don’t think he was really searching. He was just trying to win.”

He called the experience of playing McEnroe “cathartic.”

Director Janus Metz said he saw Borg and McEnroe as two sides of the same coin, both motivated by a relentless competitive streak and thirst for perfection. The film is a psychological thriller, he argued.

“That was about so much more than tennis,” he said. “It’s about two people driving themselves to the edge and beyond.”

Audience members at the screening were given red headbands, a reference to the two athletes’ headwear. An after-party at Campbell House, a Georgian mansion, boasted ping pong tables, karaoke, tenderloin sliders, and a gelato bar.

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content