Jeremy Sisto spent years working with screenwriter pal Gene Hong to bring “Break Point,” his new tennis comedy, to life. The film follows a washed-up tennis pro roping his estranged brother (David Walton) into making another bid for on-court glory. He just maybe didn’t consider how much actual tennis he’s have to play while filming it.
You’ve been very involved with this for project for a long time.
Yeah, me and Gene, the writer, used to play tennis and talk about movies, and we thought there was a space for a good tennis comedy that hadn’t been made yet. And then he wrote a screenplay and we went out and tried to get it set up and all that rigmarole. It’s just exhausting, I mean, the whole thing is exhausting. I wasn’t sure it was worth all the effort, and I know when we finished the film I was definitely like, “I don’t know, if A, it was worth it or B, I want to do that again.” But now talking about it, I feel some pride and I feel proud of the people involved and proud to be involved with them
Just the challenge of filming an actual athletic effort sounds exhausting.
I’m kind of like a kid, if there’s a ball and a hoop and a goal, I’m over there getting sweaty and pissing off makeup, so to be able to do it and not piss off makeup was pretty much a dream. But yeah, the first couple of days out there, me and David, we would continue playing when the cameras weren’t rolling, so by the end of the day we were spent. So we decided that probably wasn’t a good idea for the rest of the shoot.
Not a lot of longevity in that.
No, but playing in front of people is not something I was used to at all, so that definitely took some getting used to. I didn’t play a lot of sports as a kid, so I didn’t have that comfort level, but I think that added a lot of grit to the feeling of us out there. There was a tension every shot, and that’s how it feels to be a professional tennis player. It’s a super difficult sport, where if every part of your body isn’t working just right with the right syncopation, then boom, ball’s going out and you’re losing points, and so there is a real intense mental component to the game.
When you play a tennis player with a temper, is there this specter of John McEnroe there the whole time? He’s kind of cornered the market on that.
Yeah, totally. The difference is, there’s a lot etiquette rules in tennis and the idea is this guy, Jimmy, he really enjoys crossing those. He enjoys making people uncomfortable. John McEnroe was so angry and so emotionally unhinged at those moments that he couldn’t not go after someone. Whereas with Jimmy, he’s almost doing it to amuse himself to some degree, it’s almost that he’s not taking the game as seriously as everyone else is. When he’s smashing his racket, that is a true sign of someone’s inner rage, and that rage for Jimmy comes from not being able to be in that life that he enjoys — that childish, that youthful, whimsical world that is professional tennis.