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Challengers writer Justin Kuritzkes on creating a ‘homoerotic’ love triangle

Exclusive: "It was important that the jealousy not just be [in] one direction," Justin Kuritzkes has told Attitude

By Alastair James

Challengers Zendaya
Mike Faist, Zendaya, and Josh O'Connor in Challengers (Image: MGM Studios)

The writer of Challengers, Justin Kuritzkes, has opened up about creating the upcoming film’s central love triangle.

The film sees Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor star as rising tennis pros caught in a love triangle. At first, Tashi Duncan (Zendaya) and Patrick Zweig (O’Connor) date before breaking up. Tashi later marries Art Donaldson (Faist).

Speaking to Attitude on the red carpet at the film’s London premiere on Wednesday (10 March) Kuritzkes said one of the first conversations he had with director Luca Guadagnino was about the love triangle.


@Challengers Movie writer #JustinKuritzkes explains crafting the film’s love triangle and making it “plausible that there was love between all of them.” The film starring Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist is in UK cinemas on 26 April. #ChallengersMovie

♬ original sound – Attitude Magazine

“In a love triangle all the corners should touch,” was Guadagnino’s view. “That’s a really beautiful way to talk about the complexity of a love triangle in cinema,” Kuritzkes said. “And it was really important to [Guadagnino] and me that it be plausible there was love between all of them. Whatever kind of love that looks like. That’s up to the audience and the actors. It was important that the jealousy not just be [in] one direction. They could all plausibly be jealous of each other in different ways.”

In the past, O’Connor has described the tennis scenes in Challengers as the sex scenes. This echoes the film’s trailer where Tashi can be heard saying tennis is “a relationship.” With the film focusing on a tennis match between Art and Patrick, the trailers are positively brimming with homoeroticism if not outright queerness.

Elaborating on those themes Kuritzkes said “Tennis is really homoerotic, as are sports in general. But there’s something very homoerotic about being alone on one side of the net and another person on the other side of the net and hitting a ball very fast.”

A synopsis for Challengers reads: “Tennis player turned coach Tashi (Zendaya) has taken her husband, Art (Mike Faist), and transformed him into a world-famous grand slam champion. To jolt him out of his recent losing streak, she makes him play a “Challenger” event — close to the lowest level of pro tournament — where he finds himself standing across the net from his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend (Josh O’Connor).”

Challengers is in UK cinemas from 26 April.