Unsung Heroines: Queer Women Who Deserve Their Own Biopics

Martina Navratilova (1956 – present)

BIOPIC-WORTHY BECAUSE: The repeat Wimbledon champ is arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time and one of the first to publicly come out as a lesbian.

Martina Navratilova

THE SUPPORTING CAST: Navratilova’s former lovers novelist Rita Mae Brown and (then-married mother of two) Judy Nelson, fellow tennis champs Billie Jean King and Chris Evert are all essential players in the Navratilova biopic.

SHOULD STAR: The naturally athletic actress Missy Peregrym (Stick It) already has the six-pack and zero-body fat ratio to play the role of Navratilova, so we wouldn’t need to delay shooting in order for her to get into shape.

Missy Peregrym

Let’s add to the mix Mia Kirshner (The L Word) as one of her early lovers, the temperamental novelist Rita Mae Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle), and Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) as Navratilova’s fierce tennis rival and off-court straight BFF Chris Evert. And how about Tina Fey as fellow out lesbian tennis great Billie Jean King? Fey’s already got the glasses and feminist sensibility, and she can supposedly do anything. Let’s see if rushing the net is among her many skills.

Just for kicks, we’d cast Heroes cheerleader Hayden Panettiere as alleged gold-digger Judy Nelson, if for no other reason than to see if Panettiere could replicate Nelson’s questionable hairdo.

Love Match by Judy Nelson

Born in Prague, Navratilova defects from Communist Czechoslovakia at the age of 18 after competing in the U.S. Open. We’ll follow her career as she breaks multiple tennis records and finally lands the ranking of Number 1 tennis player in the world in 1978.

She begins an affair with novelist Rita Mae Brown in 1979, then in 1981 is granted U.S. citizenship and publicly comes out. Navratilova wins the 1984 French Open, and that year simultaneously holds all four Grand Slam singles titles. She goes on to win the Wimbledon singles title nine times, a record that remains unbeaten.

From 1984 to 1991, Navratilova has a long-term relationship with partner Judy Nelson. When they split in 1991, Nelson sues for palimony (aka "galimony") to the tune of $15 million. They eventually settle out of court and Nelson writes two tell-all books about their relationship and break-up.

In 1992 Nelson briefly dates Navratilova’s ex, Rita Mae Brown. Depicting that development in the biopic will help bring home the message that lesbian drama is indeed universal.

Navratilova is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000 and continues to compete and win at Wimbledon until 2006

TAKE A POPCORN BREAK: In 1992, Navratilova plays Jimmy Connors in a Battle of the Sexes tennis match at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and Connors wins 7–5, 6–2. Nobody needs to see that again.

If you need a beverage refill, make a run for the concessions stand when Navratilova appears on the reality scholckfest I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2008 (she comes in second).

SHOULD BE DIRECTED BY: Though she’s currently developing a biopic about controversial German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, actor/director Jodie Foster could easily put it on hold to make a movie about this more obviously heroic European celebrity.

Like Fey, Foster rises to every challenge, but aside from some teenaged skateboarding and waterskiing in Freaky Friday (1975) she hasn’t really tried her hand at sports films in front of or behind the camera. Plus, putting lesbian icon Foster at the helm of a movie about lesbian icon Navratilova would guarantee a cinematic win in, er, straight sets.

That’s it for the first installment of our biopics series, but stay tuned for future articles which will include development plans for films about bon vivant and womanizer Natalie Barney, pioneering filmmaker Dorothy Arzner, civil rights activist Angela Davis, and more!

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