HNS is thrilled to share that we attended a press conference for Luca Guadagnino’s new film, “Challengers”. During the conversation, we heard from cast members Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, Mike Faist, director Luca Guadagnino, writer Justin Kurtzkes, and producers Rachel O’Conner and Amy Pascal.

The film combines elements of a thriller, sports drama, and love triangle to craft a story as unique as this. Writer Justin Kurtzkes says that the, “2018…US Open (final) between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka” that was the catalyst for the story’s development. The tension associated with point calls, the passion involved in the competition, and the psychological games being played during the match all seemed to seep into the screen writing.

Cast member Zendaya opened up about the complex story, admitting she, “…couldn’t define what kind of movie it was”. The film tackles athletic competition, toxic romance cycles, and power dynamics. The cast seemed to enjoy the rich layers woven throughout the story. Director Luca Guadagnino shared that, “The characters were amazing. The structure was so cinematic that…the artistic endeavor we could all gather together…would’ve been fantastic”. Adding to the character complexity, producer Amy Pascal explained that, “(the characters) do unspeakably terrible things to each other. And you love them…you understand them.” The backstabbing and mind games being played added tension throughout the story. The unpredictable nature of the relationship these three characters had made for an experience that was quite memorable.

Cast member Mike Faist revealed what drew him to his role, explaining that his character is a, “…craftsman who’s fallen out of love with his craft. That place of…flow…when you actually love the process of doing it”. Faist also explained that he connected on a personal level with the “ebb and flow (in) our artistic endeavors…(trying) to find projects that (compel) us to…conjure the things for ourselves.” Zendaya added that she,”…knew nothing (about tennis) and…we did tennis training beside each other”. She admitted that tennis is, “…not a game you (can) just pick up.” The training and dedication to transform into a tennis player physically and mentally was difficult but rewarding for each cast member. Admittedly, as a former tennis player myself, I can attest to the difficulty of crafting a skillset that keeps you competitive. So it was refreshing to see the cast members give credit to the sport of tennis where it’s warranted.

The film is a complex, morally ambiguous ride that challenges audiences on some surprising levels. It’s clear the filmmakers and cast were committed to bringing a unique film to audiences that has twists, turns, and a captivating vibe to it.

Challengers opens in theaters 4/26/2024!