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Image for 00 Challengers Zendaya Temp Hero

Challengers: Zendaya Stars In A Sexy Tennis Rom-Com

11/4/2022 • 4 min read

Between filming seasons of the hit HBO drama “Euphoria,” Zendaya immersed herself in the world of tennis for her next movie, CHALLENGERS. Directed by Luca Guadagnino (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME and BONES AND ALL), the new film stars Zendaya as a former tennis player now coaching her husband to victory against… her ex. Keep reading to learn everything we know so far about the new movie, which the director has described as a "sexy comedy."

What Is Zendaya's Challengers About?

Part rom-com, part sports drama, CHALLENGERS centers on Tashi Donaldson (Zendaya), who leveraged her skills as a tennis pro to coach her husband to victory. On the court, Tashi’s husband Art is an unexceptional player. Under her tutelage, however, he ascends to tennis stardom and wins the Grand Slam championship—the ultimate achievement in tennis.

When Art falls into a slump, Tashi decides to enroll him in a series of international men’s tennis tournaments known as the Challenger Tour. Although the pros think of it as relatively minor in comparison to other professional tournaments, the Challenger Tour is a high-stakes event for Art, who has found himself in the midst of a devastating losing streak.

Enter Patrick Zweig. Like Art, Patrick is also going through something of a slump and hopes the Challenger Tour can turn things around. He also happens to be Tashi’s ex-boyfriend… and Art’s former best friend. That dynamic drives the stakes even higher, setting the stage for a pivotal tennis match between these former friends-turned-rivals.

Who Are The Players In Challengers?

CHALLENGERS has a relatively small cast, which is perfect for keeping the focus squarely on the key players. Zendaya headlines the cast as Tashi, and the role required three months of training with a professional tennis player. In a recent interview, director Luca Guadagnino praised Zendaya’s commitment to the role and her performance in the movie, revealing that he hardly used any footage of her double for the tennis scenes.

In addition to being the youngest actor to receive two Emmy awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of teen drug addict Rue in HBO’s “Euphoria,” Zendaya has appeared opposite real-life boyfriend Tom Holland in the recent SPIDER-MAN movies and is set to reprise her role as Chani in the upcoming sequel to DUNE.

Mike Faist plays Tashi’s husband, Art Donaldson. An actor with an extensive musical theatre background, Faist starred in Broadway shows like “Newsies” and “Dear Evan Hansen” before landing a role in Steven Spielberg’s big-screen adaptation of WEST SIDE STORY, in which he was terrific as Riff.

Rounding out this love triangle is Josh O’Connor as Patrick, Tashi’s ex and Art’s former best friend. O’Connor’s breakout came in 2017 with a leading role in the acclaimed drama GOD’S OWN COUNTRY. He has since appeared in EMMA with Anya Taylor-Joy, and he won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor for portraying Prince Charles on Netflix’s “The Crown.”

Pairing Zendaya With A Grand-Slam Filmmaker

CHALLENGERS was written by playwright and novelist Justin Kuritzkes and directed by Luca Guadagnino, the Oscar-nominated director of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, starring Timothée Chalamet. The Italian filmmaker is known for his collaborations with actress Tilda Swinton, including I AM LOVE, A BIGGER SPLASH, and SUSPIRIA—a remake of the classic 1977 horror film.

More recently, Guadagnino reunited with Chalamet and SUSPIRIA screenwriter David Kagjanich for the new film BONES AND ALL. Based on the novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis, BONES AND ALL is a real doozy: a romantic coming-of-age road trip film about a pair of cannibals. (As a nice bonus, the score for CHALLENGERS also comes from the BONES AND ALL composers: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.)

Guadagnino has proven himself to be a master of genre mashups, which is just one more reason to get excited for the rom-com sports drama of CHALLENGERS.


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All images courtesy of HBO.

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