Luca Guadagnino: Zendaya and Josh O’Connor Play ‘F*cked-Up People’ in ‘Challengers’

The "Bones and All" director teased the "hyperkinetic" tennis drama also starring Mike Faist.
Zendaya, Josh O'Connor
Zendaya, Josh O'Connor

After directing Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell in a cannibal love story, it’s clear Luca Guadagnino doesn’t shy away from messy romances.

Guadagnino’s upcoming film “Challengers” stars two-time Emmy winner Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and “West Side Story” breakout Mike Faist caught up in a love triangle set in the elite world of professional tennis. While the plot remains under wraps, Guadagnino previously hinted it’s a “completely different film” from “Bones and All” and is a “fairly fizzy, sexy movie about the world of tennis.”

During the “Bones and All” red carpet premiere for the 2022 New York Film Festival, Guadagnino gave IndieWire another hint at what’s to come: a portrait of “fucked-up people,” like we’d expect anything less from the “Suspiria” and “Call Me By Your Name” auteur.

“I don’t want to think much about ‘Challengers,'” Guadagnino admitted. “I think those three characters in that movie are beautifully complex and really fucked-up people that I love very much. And a sports film, why not? It’s hyperkinetic, and I do films, so it’s great.”

“Challengers” wrapped in June 2022. “Euphoria” star Zendaya plays Tashi, a tennis player-turned-coach who oversees her husband Art’s (Faist) career. But when Art winds up on a losing streak, he is forced to play against his childhood best friend and Tashi’s ex-boyfriend, Patrick (O’Connor), igniting a tense love triangle with queer undertones.

Director Guadagnino called “Challengers” his “first comedy,” with production set in Boston.

He also told IndieWire at the Provincetown Film Festival that the film is “completely different” from “Bones and All.” He called it “a fairly fizzy, sexy movie about the world of tennis.”

As for straight actors playing queer characters (and there is some of that in “Bones and All”), he earlier told IndieWire, “I try not to be part of any part of any kind of mainstream discourse. If you are not part of it then you can do whatever you want. I think the topic is idiotic. Because actors are asked to act.

“Challengers” is currently set for an August 11, 2023 release date with United Artists distributing.

Guadagnino is also helming “An Even Bigger Splash,” a recut of his 2015 psychological drama starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson.

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