For his first project since 2022’s Bones & All, Luca Guadagnino has shifted his focus from overwrought teenage cannibals to the equally cutthroat world of pro tennis. Described by the Italian auteur as a “sexy comedy” with an R rating, Challengers stars Zendaya as Tashi, a one-time player who now coaches her husband, Art, played by Mike Faist, the West Side Story breakout currently starring in Soho Place’s Brokeback Mountain.
Following an injury that effectively ended her own career, Tashi has moulded Art into a Grand Slam champion over the course of their marriage, but when he suddenly begins losing match after match, she’s humiliatingly forced to submit him for a Challenger event, a significant blow to his ego. Facing off with Art on the second-tier court? Patrick, Tashi’s ex and Art’s childhood best friend, played by The Crown’s Josh O’Connor—with the sexual tension between the three resurfacing in between sets and swigs of Gatorade.
Given her Emmy wins for Euphoria, there’s a distinct possibility that the role might earn Zendaya her first Oscar nod following its release this September (Call Me By Your Name, after all, effectively launched Timothée Chalamet’s career overnight). The 26-year-old reportedly trained for a full three months ahead of the shoot, which took place in and around Boston last year. “She’s wonderful,” Guadagnino gushed at the Academy Museum Gala. “I mean, wow. We edited the movie, and we almost actually don’t use any of her double. She’s so good.”
Just as intriguing as the Louis Vuitton ambassador’s involvement, though, is the fact that Jonathan Anderson has masterminded the costumes for the project. This marks the Loewe creative director’s first time taking on such a role, despite his well-known love of cinema, referencing everything from Studio Ghibli to Carrie in his collections. Here’s hoping he found a way to work an anthurium or two in somewhere amongst the requisite athleisure.
If this is relatively new territory for Anderson, working with high-profile designers is par for the course for Guadagnino at this point. Raf Simons provided Tilda Swinton’s costumes for 2010’s I Am Love (while leading Jil Sander) and 2016’s A Bigger Splash (during his tenure at Dior), while Guadagnino’s short, The Staggering Girl (2019), features Julianne Moore and Mia Goth wearing a feast of Valentino Haute Couture designs. And in 2022? Guadagnino even created a film inspired by Fendi’s Peekaboo bag, having first collaborated with the Italian house as far back as 2005.