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Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, Luca Guadagnino
Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, Luca GuadagninoVia Instagram/@zendaya, Twitter/@gocfilm, IMDb

Challengers: everything we know about Luca Guadagnino’s new film

Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist will star in a tennis-themed love triangle with queer overtones

Luca Guadagnino has so many projects in the pipeline that it’s often hard to keep track. With his new cannibal thriller, Bones & All, on the horizon, we’re also waiting to hear more about his Scarface remake, his Audrey Hepburn biopic, and his take on Lord of the Flies. That’s not to mention all the films that haven’t been confirmed but floated as rumours, from his impossible sequel to Suspiria, to his on-again, off-again adaptation of Call Me By Your Name follow-up Find Me.

What we do know is that Guadagnino is currently working on a sports-themed film titled Challengers, which has been coming together since late last year and is reportedly in the final stages of production. Surprising nobody, the film comes with a star-studded cast, revolving around a love triangle between three professional athletes.

For now, many details about the plot are still being kept under wraps, though the filmmaker has described it as a “fairly fizzy, sexy movie”, which sounds… good? Below, we’ve gathered everything that we know about Challengers so far.


As reported by Deadline, the story of Challengers follows Tashi, a tennis player-turned-coach who has helped to transform her husband, Art, from a mediocre player into a world-famous Grand Slam winner. However, he’s hit a losing streak, and to jolt him out of it she makes him play a “Challenger” event (which, for those who know nothing about sports, like us, is on the lower end of tournaments on the pro tour). At this event, Art finds himself looking across the net at the once-promising but now burnt-out Patrick, who just happens to be his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.


Zendaya was apparently involved in the film early on, after meeting Guadagnino for the role of Tashi. Partly thanks to the involvement of the Euphoria and Dune actor, the production picked up speed and added rising stars Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist to star alongside.

Having previously starred in 2017’s God’s Own Country and 2019’s Only You, O’Connor is also lined up to star alongside Paul Mescal in an upcoming WWI-era gay romance titled The History of Sound. Faist, meanwhile, has recently received critical acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for his role in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.


Given Guadagnino’s back catalogue, and those stories about what elite athletes get up to during their downtime in the Olympic Village, it’s pretty clear that we can expect the promised love triangle between Tashi, Art, and Patrick to get pretty intimate. In a recent conversation with John Waters (reported by IndieWire), the director also hinted at a queer storyline. Unfortunately, it really was just a hint – asked directly whether Challengers would have queer elements, he simply replied with a twinkle in his eye: “It’s me, so…”


In that same conversation with John Waters, Guadagnino suggests that we won’t be seeing Challengers – or, in fact, any Guadagnino film – premiering on Netflix anytime soon. “I don’t want to be rude to the people at Netflix,” he says. “It’s not exactly my cup of tea.” 

Expanding on his distaste for debuting films on the streaming service, he adds that it’s like a return to the straight-to-video days. “The problem is how the movie becomes something that stays in time. My only fear about the streamers is that if there is not a theatrical release of it, that makes the movie something that exists in actual reality, it gets lost.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we’ll never be able to watch Challengers on our laptops, just that a streaming-only or simultaneous release looks very unlikely.


Back in March, Jonathan Anderson announced his involvement in his “dear friend” Luca Guadagnino’s film via Instagram. The project marks Anderson’s first time as a costume designer, but not his first time working with O’Connor, who has long been the face of his Eye/Loewe/Nature collections.

Rounding out the film’s main crew is playwright and first-time screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes, with Amy Pascal (of Little Women, Madonna’s upcoming biopic, and seemingly endless Spider-Man films) on board to produce.


Yes, before we see Zendaya, O’Connor, and Faist in Jonathan Anderson tennis whites, we’ll get to see the former’s Dune co-star Timothée Chalamet roaming the US alongside Waves’ Taylor Russell, a cannibalistic young woman who lives on the fringes of society. 

Expected to premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival in September, Guadagnino’s Bones & All has an even bigger cast than Challenger, also starring Chloë Sevigny and Michael Stuhlbarg (who played Elio’s wholesome dad in CMBYN), plus Francesca Scorsese, Jessica Harper, André Holland, Mark Rylance, and Halloween filmmaker David Gordon Green.

Unsurprisingly, Guadagnino says the cannibal odyssey is a “completely different film” from his upcoming tennis romance.