Josh O’Connor Thinks “Tennis Is the Sex” in ‘Challengers’

Luca Guadagnino’s buzzy tennis ménage à trois film, Challengers, briefly broke the internet after releasing a sexy trailer that contained a sensual scene between Zendaya, The Crown’s Josh O’Connor, and West Side Story breakout Mike Faist. However, in a new interview with Empire, O’Connor makes it sound like most of the action in the film happens on the court: “The tennis is the sex,” he said.

Challengers stars Zendaya as Tashi Duncan, a rising tennis star who gets intimately familiar with fellow tennis prodigies Patrick (O’Connor) and Art (Faist), both on and off the court. In interviews conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike, the three stars shared their experience working with Guadagnino, who apparently was far from a tennis superfan. “He had no knowledge of tennis going into this,” said Faist. “And I think he had only a vague interest in certain tennis specificities. He was more interested in the bodies and sweat.”

The steamy trailer for Challengers certainly depicts a healthy mix of bodies and sweat via a sensual hotel scene of the threesome, as well as plenty of terrific tennis shots. “What Luca’s really good at is finding sensuality and desire,” Zendaya told Empire. “There’s so much in just glances. The tension builds. Not having the release is a good thing sometimes.”

But for those expecting a film rife with carnal scenes between Zendaya, Faist, and O’Connor, you may want to temper your expectations a bit. “The tennis is the sex,” said O’Connor in the story. “Those moments are so sexy. The film is dealing with the tension before and after. The sex they’re all desperate for is on the court.”

Challengers was initially scheduled to premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where Guadagnino won the best-director prize last year for his cannibal romance Bones and All. However due to the strike—which prevents actors from promoting their films via press tours, social media, or attending festivals—distributor MGM withdrew Challengers from Venice and pushed its release Date to April 26, 2024. So we’ll all have to wait a bit longer to see whether Guadagnino aces his next project. 

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