‘Wimbledon’ Stars Saw Their Share Of Tears, Stray Balls, Scotch On Set

Real tennis stars Maria Sharapova, Chris Evert turn out for premiere.

BEVERLY HILLS, California — The stars of “Wimbledon” prove it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s looking like you know how to play the game that counts.

At Monday night’s premiere, Paul Bettany admitted that while his tennis swing may look flawless onscreen, things weren’t always so smooth off-camera. “I hit the cameraman with a tennis ball three times,” he said.  “On the third time I bought him a bottle of single-malt scotch to apologize.”

In the film, Bettany plays Peter Colt, a struggling British tennis player who falls in love with Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), an American tennis player on the rise. To prepare for his role, Bettany trained for more than four months with Australia’s 1987 Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash.

Dunst also spent several months preparing with Cash before filming began. But she said it wasn’t necessarily the game that drew her to the part. Instead, it was the chance to do a little role reversal. “I liked that fact that I got to play a girl who was really kind of the male character of the script,” she said. “I was the experienced seductress and that is what intrigued me.”

Co-star Austin Nichols said he too had little tennis experience when he signed on to play Jake Hammond, the rude American tennis player who previously dated Lizzie and competes against Peter in Wimbledon. “I had three months to train and it was every day for six hours,” he said.  “There were days when I was crying and I didn’t want to do it but I just kept going.”

A real-life Wimbledon champion, 17-year-old Maria Sharapova, traded in her tennis shoes for Manolo Blahniks to walk the green grass carpet in front of the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre. “I can’t wait to meet Kirsten Dunst,” she said. “I loved ’Spider-Man.’ It was amazing.”

Meanwhile, 18-time grand-slam winner Chris Evert, who plays herself in the film, said working on a movie set definitely has its perks. “They had good lunches and the hair and makeup were nice,” she said. “I really liked the pampering.”

And while Dunst may not be a real tennis pro, when it comes to acting, Bettany says she is at the top of her game. “She has been doing this since she was a fetus,” he joked. “Therefore, she is terribly good at it.”

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