Everything Zendaya touches seems to turn to gold, so fans are ready to see her shine in Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming romantic tennis comedy-drama, Challengers. The buzz began in February 2022, when reports revealed that she’d star in the MGM film alongside The Crown’s Josh O’Connor and West Side Story’s Mike Faist. It only grew louder when the steamy trailer dropped in June.
Described by director Guadagnino as a “sexy comedy,” the film centers on Tashi (Zendaya), Art (Faist), and Patrick (O’Connor), three professional tennis players whose careers evolved very differently. Tashi, once the next big thing, has coached her husband, Art, to Grand Slam success. To get him out of a losing streak, she makes him play a lower-level event on the Challenger circuit, where he’ll face off against Patrick, a washed-up rival whom they both have a complicated history with.
“It’s a modern bold story of youthful energy, love and power,” Guadagnino said in a statement released in early July 2023, when it was set to open the 2023 Venice Film Festival. “Zendaya, Josh and Mike are totally original and fresh, bringing a new energy like you’ve never seen before.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the hotly anticipated film.
Challengers Release Date
When the Challengers trailer dropped in June, the wait for the film’s release date seemed manageable. The movie was on track to have its world premiere at the 2023 Venice Film Festival on Aug. 30, and then it was going to arrive in theaters on Sept. 15. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
The SAG-AFTRA strike began on July 14, meaning actors who are members of the major union must largely put their work on hold until there’s a new contract in place with film and TV companies. It’s not just acting that’s off-limits; the actors’ strike also affects the promotion they can do for projects they’ve already shot, such as giving interviews, appearing on red carpets, and posting on social media about them. Given Zendaya’s reach, it’s in the studio’s best interest to wait and release the film once the strike is over, as Deadline points out. Sure enough, MGM has opted to move opening day, and it is now slated for April 26, 2024.
“After thoughtful consideration with our partners, and given the parameters that SAG-AFTRA has outlined for its membership, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw ‘Challengers’ from this year’s Venice International Film Festival,” Amazon, one of the distributors, said in a statement, per IndieWire. “We look forward to celebrating the film when we can do so with our ensemble cast, director Luca Guadagnino, and the filmmaking team at a later date.”
Challengers Cast And Filming
The leads in the film are Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist as a tennis-playing threesome, as mentioned above. “I think those three characters in that movie are beautifully complex and really f*cked-up people that I love very much,” Guadagnino told IndieWire in October. “And a sports film, why not? It’s hyperkinetic, and I do films, so it’s great.”
All that tennis required some body doubles, but the stars learned to play tennis for their roles, too. They trained with former pro Brad Gilbert, who served as a consultant, per Variety. “They spent like three months working very hard,” Guadagnino told the outlet, also in October. “Everybody — technically, athletically.” He noted that Zendaya was “wonderful” and they “almost actually don’t use any of her double” in the final film.
Production took place in the spring of 2022 and wrapped in June. Sadly for fans who’d hoped to see Zendaya at the Met Gala that year, filming conflicted with the annual fashion event. Ahead of the gala, the Euphoria star told Extra, “Your girl’s got to work and make some movies,” adding that she’d be “playing tennis” instead of attending.
Knowing that Zendaya was starring in Challengers was enough for some fans to have it on their “to watch” lists, and the trailer dialed up the excitement. It went viral as fans got their first look at the love triangle in action.
This post will be updated as more details about Challengers become available.