Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason in 'Borg/McEnroe': First Look at Actors as Tennis Giants

Bjorn Borg of Sweden (left) and John McEnroe of the USA prior to the Men's Singles Final at Wimbledon on 4th July 1981.  McEnroe won in four sets.  (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images).
Bjorn Borg of Sweden (left) and John McEnroe of the USA prior to the Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon on July 4, 1981 (Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images).

In 1980, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg faced off in what would become one of the greatest Wimbledon finals matches ever. That David-and-Goliath showdown, between an up-and-comer from the USA and the four-time defending champion from Sweden, is the stuff big-screen sports dramas are made of — and so it will be, when Borg/McEnroe hits theaters next year, with Shia LaBeouf as the U.S. tennis legend.

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Given LaBeouf’s own wild public persona, he seems a natural fit for the role of McEnroe, the fiery champion who remains as notable for his on-court outbursts as his seven career Grand Slam singles titles. The first image of LaBeouf as McEnroe (tweeted by PiFiZone; see it below) shows he’s not the mirror image of the real-life tennis player — especially when compared to co-star Sverrir Gudnason, who’s the spitting image of Borg.

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Nonetheless, the actor’s go-for-broke spirit figures to help energize this tale about the duo’s intense rivalry (they faced each other 14 times in official competition — each winning seven times — and eight times at invitationals, where each won four times). The centerpiece is that legendary 1980 Wimbledon finals match, featuring a 20-minute fourth-set tie-breaker in which the American — then gunning for his first Wimbledon crown — fought off five match points to push the contest to a decisive fifth set, which was won by the Swede. McEnroe would go on to win three singles titles at Wimbledon in his career.

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In May, LaBeouf told Variety that he took to the role because “you look for parallels in your life, and I’m lucky because there is a lot here…Everything in common. Passionate. Perfectionist. Narcissistic. I’m a bit of a caricature also…This is epic. It’s f—ing epic. This is the biggest movie I’ve been in lately.” Directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, Borg/McEnroe slams into theaters some time in 2017.

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