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Challengers’ Josh O’Connor says ‘the tennis is the sex’ in new LGBTQ love triangle sports movie

The new film from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino looks set to take another frank look at sexuality

By Jamie Tabberer

Josh O'Connor (Image: ITV)
Josh O'Connor (Image: ITV)

Josh O’Connor has teased the queer sex appeal of his upcoming sports drama film The Challengers… But if you’re expecting raw and powerful sex scenes as per his breakout film God’s Own Country, think again.

Why? Because in Challengers, grunting sexual tension is mainly depicted via the playing of tennis. Go figure.

(Then again, as the movie is directed by Call Me By Your Name‘s Luca Guadagnino, an imaginative approach to sexuality is to be expected!)

“The sex they’re all desperate for is on the court” – Josh O’Connor on Challengers

In Challengers, Josh plays Patrick, a tennis player who gets drawn into a bisexual love triangle with Tashi (Zendeya) and Art (Mike Faist).

“The tennis is the sex,” Josh explained of Challengers an a recent interview with film magazine Empire. “Those moments are so sexy.”

The star furthermore added that the film deals with “the tension before and after. The sex they’re all desperate for is on the court.”

A grand slam indeed!

Added Zendaya: “What Luca’s really good at is finding sensuality and desire. There’s so much in just glances. The tension builds. Not having the release is a good thing sometimes.”

Meanwhile Faist – currently acting opposite Lucas Hedges in the stage version of Brokeback Mountain in London – told the outlet of Guadagnino: “He had no knowledge of tennis going into this. And I think he had only a vague interest in certain tennis specificities. He was more interested in the bodies and sweat.”

Josh and Zendaya in Challengers (Image: MGM)

Challengers is due for release in April 2024.

The plot of the film, according to its official synopsis, follows “tennis player turned coach Tashi, [who] 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).