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Everything We Know About ‘Challengers’ Starring Zendaya

Everything We Know About ‘Challengers’ Starring Zendaya

Luca Guadagnino’s Follow-Up Film to "Bones and All" is a Sexy Sports Drama Starring Zendaya as a World-Famous Tennis Star

As of late, Zendaya cannot miss on TV or on the big screen. Spider-Man fans know her as the newest iteration of MJ, Euphoria fans know her for two-time Emmy-winning performance as Rue Bennett on the controversial HBO teen drama. After a small role in Dune Part I, she is now expected to play a major part in Part II. Her star is only growing, and as a part of two huge franchises and a polarizing TV show, Zendaya has cemented herself as a Hollywood mainstay. Her new film Challengers, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is a bit of a new test. Guadagnino is known for Call Me By Your Name, Bones and All and A Bigger Splash. All are very sensual, dramatic, and thoroughly lived in. You can feel the heat and the texture in his movies, and his actors are always extremely physical and play extremely emotionally worn-out characters. Not that Zendaya’s roles have not been “deep” or her films and TV projects have not been as “intricate” as Guadagnino’s, but they have just been different kinds of projects. She is certainly no stranger to the big stage, and Challengers is just another opportunity for her to strut her stuff. Her Italian director has made a name for himself in Hollywood in the last five years. His film Call Me By Your Name was nominated for just about everything, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. His previous film Bones and All was well reviewed, and holds an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also stars Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, good actors who will definitely benefit from starring in a movie with an established director and superstar actress. 


Challengers is being described as a “romantic sports comedy-drama film” that was written by playwright, novelist, and screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes, who is known for his prior Youtube stardom and is also writing Guadagnino’s next film, Queer. From what we know, Challengers will follow Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), a former grand slam tennis champion who is now coaching her husband against her former lover and his former best friend in a challenger tennis event. Mike Faist plays Art, the husband and now coaching student of Zendaya, and Josh O’Connor plays Patrick, Zendaya’s former lover and Art’s former best friend. The film was scheduled to release on September 15th, 2023, but was delayed to April 26, 2024 due to SAG AFTRA and the WGA still not being offered improved pay, working conditions, and job security by the majority of big studios. 

Zendaya’s Co-Stars

Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor star as Art and Patrick, respectively. They are the two men who vie for the attention and love of Zendaya’s Tashi Donaldson in the film. Faist is a quickly rising actor who got his start in the theater, first in a regional production of Newsies and then on Broadway. He has since went on to star in 13 movies, gaining a lot of attention and praise for his role as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story adaptation. He received numerous nominations from different award ceremonies for his supporting role in the film, and it seems to have been a big boost for his career. Before Challengers releases, Faist will star in the upcoming Jeff Nichols movie, The Bikeriders, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hardy. O’Connor has also had a very deep history in acting, with contributions in TV, movies, and the stage since 2011. Most famously, he has starred in Peaky Blinders and was the lead in seasons 3 and 4 in The Crown as Prince Charles. He was nominated for and won numerous awards for his role in The Crown including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a TV Series. These are two established actors who haven’t necessarily blown up globally yet but are extremely talented, and, with this role, should be receiving more public recognition for their talents.

Everything We Know About ‘Challengers’ Starring Zendaya

The Challengers Trailer

In the trailer, we are first introduced to Tashi, Art, and Patrick in their youth and just before the height of Tashi’s talent. The two men are fawning over Tashi’s talent and beauty, and both do not hide their lust for her. We are quickly introduced to the love triangle aspect of the film when we see Tashi flirting and kissing both Patrick and Art in the same room, hinting at a more sexual nature of this film, something Guadagnino never fails to touch on. The trailer then tells us that years have passed, and that after an injury, Tashi is now married to Art and she is his trainer. We are obviously heading towards a showdown between Art and Patrick, but much more seems to be at stake than just tennis bragging rights. One of the most interesting things about the trailer is how what we see of Zendaya paints her in a mysterious and almost conniving light. She seems like she is up to something in this movie, and there is more to this film that meets the eye than just a sports romance drama. 

What’s Next for Challengers?

Due to the film’s delay, we will likely not hear anything more about this film for about seven more months, which is very unfortunate, because with the hype that was building around this film and the US Open triumph of Coco Gauff, it would’ve been a great time to watch. This film seems destined for greatness, though, and it has all the pieces to back it up. A fantastic director with a proven cast of actors and a really enthralling plotline that sees Zendaya at the center of it all. Zendaya will have this, and Dune: Part II coming out next year which will be a huge year for Zendaya, and her fans. If all goes well, we could be talking about Zendaya as Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe winner in 2025. Mike Faist’s steady rise will surely be helped by his appearance next to Hardy and Butler in The Bikeriders this December and he will keep going strong when Challengers releases (hopefully) in April 2024. Josh O’Connor is relatively new to movies as big as this, but it would be odd if that impacts his performance in any way. He will be expected to be true to form alongside great actors with his great talent. Guadagnino really hasn’t missed in his career and keeps pumping out really good movies with really good actors. It’s exciting to see how he’ll use these three together and how he’ll use tennis especially, as he hasn’t really touched on sports in the past. Expect Challengers to be every bit as good as Call Me By Your Name was, and maybe even better.

Everything We Know About ‘Challengers’ Starring Zendaya

Challengers (2024) Official Warner Bros. Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Leonard studied English at Loyola Marymount University where his short story "Hero in Blue" was published in the 2022 edition of LA Miscellany. He hopes to one day write and direct his own feature films.
Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.