‘Challengers’ Press Conference

“Challengers”, an intense love triangle centered around tennis, opens in theatres on April 26, and journalist Kelley L. Carter hosted a press conference with Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, Mike Faist, director Luca Guadagnino, writer Justin Kuritzkes, and producer Amy Pascal.  Kelley and other journalists asked questions, but Art House Film Wire did not and enjoyed listening to the conversation.

The team revealed a ton of insight into the filmmaking process, preparing for the film, including tennis lessons!

Q:  The story is incredible.  Tell me where (the idea for the story) was born?

JK:   Prior to writing the script, I hadn’t been that massive of a sports fan, or a tennis fan.  And then around 2018, I just happened to turn on the US Open, and it was the final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.  There was this very controversial call from the umpire where he accused Serena of receiving coaching from the sidelines.  Immediately this struck me as this intensely cinematic situation where you’re all alone on your side of the court, and there’s this one other person in this massive tennis stadium who cares as much about what happens to you as you do, but you can’t talk to them. 

For whatever reason, it just clicked in my mind, “Well, what if you really needed to talk about something?  And what if it was something beyond tennis?  What if it (something was) going on with the two of you?” 

So, yeah, that was really where it all started for me.

Q:  Can you talk about your tennis training process for the role?

Z:  I call it summer camp.  It was great, because essentially, we got about almost six weeks before we actually started production to just work on tennis.  Truthfully, I had no idea about tennis.  I knew nothing.  All I really knew of tennis was Venus and Serena.  I think we were all incredibly nervous showing up on that first day, and so we did tennis training beside each other. 

I remember when I first started hitting the ball, it just would go off into the trees.  It was just never even close to the court, and I was like, “Damn, I got a long way to go.”

(So, I approached tennis) like choreography.  I’m a dancer, so let me dance this thing out, you know.  We had amazing tennis doubles, and I just wanted to sync up with her.  I wanted to understand her footwork, her patterns, her movements, and just try to make it as seamless as possible.  I wanted to look like her mirror. 

So, that kind of became my entryway into looking like a tennis player. 

Q:  Luca, can you please tell us about the making of the kinetic tennis sequence at the end? 

LG: It look a long time, the conception, the drawing, (the) shooting.  I think that sequence, the last 10 minutes, took us eight days to shoot, more or less, which is incredible.

Q:  Mike and Josh, How did you make the toxic bromance between your characters work so well?

MF:  We hate each other.

JO:  We don’t actually.  We’re great friends.  But in the UK last week, we did an interview where (Mike) committed so much to this joke that it sounded liked I bullied you.

MF:  Josh genuinely in the middle of the interview was screaming at me, “Please tell them you’re joking.”

When we got to Boston, we had six weeks of training and rehearsal and just getting to know each other.  Josh and I would just spend any other time that we had just running lines around Boston.  Just walking around, and we would run lines.  We’d go to the park.  We would just walk around the city and run the lines.

More or less, we knew each other’s lines like that.  As an actor, you’re given the opportunity to work with another amazing actor such as Josh with strong instincts and specific choices. Josh pings me something and that gives me something to actually play with to throw him back. 

Q:  Zendaya, have you learned to embrace (your character) Tashi being a bit of a villainess?  Or do you feel like she’s just misunderstood?

Z:  (She’s) a female character that doesn’t have to be likeable, doesn’t care about you liking her, and doesn’t ask for forgiveness.  I think that is probably refreshing to some people, and I understand that.  That was refreshing to me when I read her. 

Image credits: Amazon MGM Studios

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