Zendaya Breaks Down for Us How ‘Challengers’ Is So Sexy, Viewers Forget It Doesn’t Have Actual Sex Scenes

Zendaya is causing quite a racket — with racquets! — in Luca Guadagnino’s sexy tennis drama “Challengers.”

Chatter around the film’s steamy appeal started as soon as the first teaser dropped, which showed stars Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor engaging in what looked like the prelude to a threesome. We’ve since learned after seeing the movie that this ménage à trois isn’t exactly the fantasy some audiences have in mind.

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At the Los Angeles premiere, the trio served their own takes to IndieWire on what kind of story this film wants to tell about sexuality and the fickle game of love. Zendaya, who plays tennis prodigy Tashi Donaldson, explained further: “What’s really special about this movie is that it is incredibly sexy, but there surprisingly [are] no sex scenes,” she said. “I’ve been asked a lot about sex scenes from people who have seen the movie, and I’m like, ‘What sex scenes?'”

And yes, it’s true. The sex in question is not shown on film, but Zendaya went on to explain what kind of strokes we can look forward to. “We keep saying that tennis is the sex in the movie, and tennis, I think, holds a metaphor for a lot of things — desires, passion, pain, anger, frustration — I think they all use tennis as this way of communicating with each other when they just don’t have the words.”

CHALLENGERS, from left: Mike Faist, Zendaya, Josh O'Connor, 2023. © MGM /Courtesy Everett Collection
Mike Faist, Zendaya, and Josh O’Connor in ‘Challengers’©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

Mike Faist, who plays tennis champion Art Donaldson and Tashi’s husband, had a similarly wholesome take on what the film is about: It’s about the “connection with people, and this tie that certain people have with each other, and they’re constantly pulled back together. Even when they’re pulled apart, they come back together.”

But for co-star Josh O’Connor, he’s leaving it up for the viewers to decide when it comes to the subtext of this story. “I think that’s for the audience to figure out for themselves,” he said. “My job as an actor is to look at the script, analyze the texts, see what’s there, and show up to work and do my job, and then Luca runs with it and does his thing.”

O’Connor added, “At a certain point, we have to kind of let go of our baby and our darling, and then it becomes the audience’s, and it’s for you guys to kind of live with, and now you’re kind of the co-creator of it. That’s kind of the joy of what we do.”

Don’t expect explicit sex scenes in “Challengers“; it’s plenty sexy without them, and a perfect match for cinematic senses regardless.

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