Video Interviews

The Challengers Cast on Intimacy Scenes and Training for the Film

Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O'Connor get real about working on Luca Guadanino's sexy sports drama.

by | April 25, 2024 | Comments

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Director Luca Guadagnino is already earning some of the best reviews of his career for his latest film, Challengers, and that’s thanks in large part to the three talented young leads at its core. Current It Girl Zendaya stars in the sexy drama as former tennis star Tashi, whose plan to get her struggling champion husband (West Side Story breakout star Mike Faist) back on track involves setting up a match between him and another washed up pro (The Crown’s Josh O’Connor)… who just happens to be her former lover.

Ahead of its release, Zendaya, Faist, and O’Connor sat down with Jacqueline Coley to talk about working on Challengers, sharing what it was like to film the intimacy scenes, describing the training involved, and digging into Zendaya’s role as producer.

Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: You called this “Codependency: The Movie.

Zendaya: Yes.

RT: I want you to explain that a little better.

Zendaya: Well, you’ve seen it. So I’m sure it resonated. [laughs] Yeah, “Codependency: The Movie” — I say that because all these characters are searching for something out of life that they can’t get on their own and ultimately ties them to each other. And I think that can be dangerous, it can be toxic, it can be many things, and we watch that kind of play out in their life. We watch them avoid dealing with their own pain, dealing with their — for lack of a better word — bulls–t. And in order to cover for that, they use each other, and they lean on each other or seek qualities out of each other that they don’t possess naturally themselves. That’s where the codependency stuff starts going. I really don’t think they can just be alone.

Mike Faist, Zendaya, and Josh O'Connor in Challengers (2024)

(Photo by ©MGM)

RT: I would love for y’all — and I’ll start with you, Josh — to expand on how tennis is part of the bigger themes in this movie. It’s kind of the perfect setting for it.

Josh O’Connor: Yeah, it’s so good. It’s like the perfect metaphor for their relationship. I also think, yeah, the dialogue… the way the dialogue’s written, the way Luca directed it, feels like some of those scenes — you know, me and Z, or Z and Mike — are just so back-and-forth. And what was interesting, we’ve talked about a few times, tennis players that have talked about being on the court before have talked about being very isolated on one side of the court, and it’s quite a lonely profession. And there were moments in some of these scenes where you feel so isolated and you feel very removed, and there’s different moments in this film where [Mike Faist’s character] Art feels very alone, or [Zendaya’s character] Tashi feels very alone or [my character] Patrick feels very alone, and then really, at the end, I feel like they’re all just reaching for each other and trying to be brought back together. So yeah, it was the perfect setting. It wouldn’t work with baseball.

Watch the video for the full interview with Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor.

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