Zendaya Is Playing A Villain In Her Next Movie

By Charlene Badasie | Published


Zendaya will play a “villain-esque” character in the upcoming romantic sports comedy-drama Challengers. Speaking to V Magazine with co-star Josh O’Connor, the pair described their roles as married couple Patrick and Tashi Duncan as “horrific” and “terrible.” While the role differs from previous characters she’s played, the actress said it was a fun experience.

“That’s what was so fun, right? I hate to say villain, but there’s a villain-esque quality there to all of the characters. And I think that was fun,” Zendaya told the publication.

In Challengers, Zendaya says she is playing a character with villain-esque qualities

“When I first read the script, my immediate thoughts were, ‘Patrick’s a villain, Tashi’s kind of a villain, and poor Art.’ All I could think was, ‘This poor guy,'” O’Connor added about their co-star Art Donaldson’s Mike Faist.

Zendaya also talked about how the true antagonist in the movie changes with every conversation she has with he co-stars. “Yeah, I’ve just enjoyed the conversations after the fact – Team Tash, Team Art, Team Pat. Who’s the bad guy? Who’s the good guy? And it changes every time,” she said, adding that it allows viewers to see people from an alternate standpoint.

“You can come back and see people from a different perspective, which I think is the point of what we do, you know? Hopefully, it makes people human,” Zendaya continued. “They’re messy, and they make bad decisions (or complicated decisions), and I think it’s our job to let people see different versions of themselves or people that they love in that way.”

Challengers is directed by Luca Guadagnino from a script by Justin Kuritzkes. The story follows a Grand Slam tennis champion who enrolls in a challenger competition where he will compete against his wife’s (Zendaya) former lover and ex-coach.

Challengers is directed by Luca Guadagnino from a script by Justin Kuritzkes

The project was announced in February 2022, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producing. In an interview that same year, Guadagnino credited Kuritzkes’ screenplay, Amy Pascal, and Zendaya as motivating factors for the film’s creation. Filming began on May 3, 2022, in Boston, and local residents were invited to audition as tennis players, extras, and stand-ins.

Zendaya underwent a three-month training regimen with former pro tennis player-turned-coach Brad Gilbert to prepare for her role. Shooting took place in areas like Back Bay and East Boston. The cinematography was managed by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, with costume design by Jonathan Anderson. The movie wrapped on June 26, 2022.

Post-production required Guadagnino to join Zendaya on the Dune: Part Two set to finalize additional dialogue recording for Challengers. The film’s score was composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who previously collaborated with Guadagnino on Bones and All in 2022.

Challengers was initially set to premiere on September 15, 2023. However, due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, its release date has been pushed to April 26, 2024. Interestingly, the Zendaya-led movie will skip a theatrical release in France and will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video instead.

Zendaya is also set to reprise her role as Chani in Dune: Part Two. Chani is a Fremen tribesperson and the daughter of the researcher/planetologist Liet Kynes. In Part One, she appears mainly in Paul’s dreams before finally meeting him at the end of the movie.

Challengers was initially set to premiere on September 15, 2023 but has been pushed to April 26, 2024.

However, Zendaya has promised that her role as Chani will be more substantial in Dune: Part Two as her relationship with Paul (Timothée Chalamet) will expand beyond daydreams. Part Two will also introduce the politically capable Princess Irulan, daughter of the Padishah Emperor, played by Florence Pugh, who will ultimately get in the way of Paul and Chani’s relationship.

Dune: Part Two, based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jon Spaihts. The story follows Paul Atreides as he teams up with the Fremen, a group of desert-dwelling people on the planet Arrakis. Their goal is to win the war against House Harkonnen.

Reprising their roles from the first film alongside Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya are Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Charlotte Rampling, and Javier Bardem. Newcomers include Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken, and Lea Seydoux.