Zendaya’s Tennis Film ‘Challengers’ Teases Sexual Tension: ‘There’s So Much in Just a Few Looks’

The actress has spoken out against the sexual undertones of her upcoming sports comedy-drama ‘Challengers.’ A score of zero is known as “love,” but who knew tennis could be so passionate? Following the debut of the Challengers trailer in June, the film’s star Zendaya spoke out about the sexual tone of the sports comedy-drama, which was directed on set by Luca Guadagnino. “What Luca’s really good at is finding sensuality and desire,” Zendaya, 26, told Empire in an interview published on August 1. “There’s so much in just a glimpse. The strain mounts. Not having the release is sometimes beneficial.” MGM’s R-rated Challengers follows Tashi, played by Zendaya, a former tennis pro turned coach who pushes her husband Art, played by Mike Faist, to become a Grand Slam champion. Tashi encourages Art to battle for courtside dominance in a match against his old best buddy — and Tashi’s former boyfriend — Patrick, played by Josh O’Connor.

“The tennis is the sex,” British actress O’Connor, 33, told Empire. “Those are such sexy moments.” The film deals with the tension both before and after. “The sex they’re all after is on the court.” Those sensual moments were made abundantly clear in the June teaser, which was matched to Rihanna’s song “S&M.” The three rivals share a bawdy throuple entanglement on a hotel bed in one scenario. “He had no knowledge of tennis going into this,” Faist, 31, said of Guadagnino’s filming approach to Empire. “And I believe he had only a passing interest in certain aspects of tennis.” He was more interested in the perspiration and the bodies.” Due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes in Hollywood, the release date of Challengers has been pushed back to April 26, 2024, from September 15, 2023. Never miss a story again — subscribe to PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to receive the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to intriguing human interest stories.

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