Luca Guadagnino’s sexy sports comedy “Challengers,” starring Zendaya as a former tennis prodigy turned coach entangled in a love triangle with two pro tennis players, played by Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, will open the Venice Film Festival.
“Challengers” will world premiere out of competition on Aug. 30 in the Venice Lido’s Palazzo del Cinema, providing a star-studded kickoff for the fest’s 80th edition.
The hotly anticipated film – which marks Guadagnino’s first full-fledged U.S. studio movie – will be distributed in the U.S. by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Amazon Studios, and internationally through Warner Bros Pictures.
A Sept. 15 U.S. theatrical release date has been set.
In the film, Zendaya stars as tennis prodigy Tashi Duncan, who is married to a champion on a losing streak named Art, played by Faist (“West Side Story”). Tashi’s plan for her husband’s comeback is for Art to enter the Challengers tennis tournament. But things take an intriguing twist when Tashi must face off against another washed up player named Patrick, played by O’Connor, who also happens to be Tashi’s former lover and Art’s best friend.
“As their pasts and presents collide, and tensions run high, Tashi must ask herself, what will it cost to win,” is how the provided synopsis puts it.
“It’s a modern bold story of youthful energy, love and power,” said Guadagnino in a statement.
“Zendaya, Josh and Mike are totally original and fresh, bringing a new energy like you’ve never seen before,” he added, further noting: “I can’t wait for the Lido audience to dance across the notes of the soundtrack of Trent and Atticus at the opening night of the 80th edition of the Mostra.”
“As a filmmaker, it is a dream come true and I am grateful to Alberto [Barbera] and the whole Venice family for this wonderful recognition for the film,” the director went on to say.
Guadagnino last year won the Venice Silver Lion for Best Director for “Bones and All,” which also scooped the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor that went to Taylor Russell.
The fact that Guadagnino scored Venice awards last year may help explain why “Challengers” is launching out-of-competition from the Lido this year.
“Luca Guadagnino is one of the few Italian directors who has always been accustomed to working with both Italian and foreign actresses and actors, getting top results from all of them each time. Even when he is filming abroad, as is the case with ‘Challengers,’” said Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera in the statement.
“With a light hand and sporting self-confidence, Guadagnino sets no limits to his creative energy in this film as he deals with topics such as love, friendship, and male rivalry, and brings to life an enthralling and affecting movie, full of irony, sensuality, and good nature. Cinema in its purest form,” Barbera added.
“Challengers” is written by American playwright Justin Kuritzkes and produced by Amy Pascal, Guadagnino, Zendaya, and Rachel O’Connor. Executive producers are Bernard Bellew, Lorenzo Mieli and Kevin Ulrich. The music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
The 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival will run Aug. 30-Sept. 9
“Challengers” Trailer below