Luca Guadagnino has set himself quite an ensemble for his next film with Zendaya set and Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist in final negotiation to star in Challengers. MGM recently acquired rights to the package with Amy Pascal, Guadagnino, Zendaya and Rachel O’Connor of Pascal Pictures producing. Justin Kuritzkes penned the script.
The story follows Tashi, a tennis player-turned-coach who has taken her husband, Art, and transformed him from a mediocre player 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 tournament on the pro tour — where he finds himself standing across the net from the once-promising, now burnt-out Patrick: his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.
While the project is eyeing a March start, the package has been coming together since late last year, with the ever-busy Guadagnino zeroing in on it as his next film after reading the recent draft. The package began to heat up when he was able to meet with Zendaya for the Tashi role; she instantly was intrigued and soon attached herself to the package that began making the rounds to various studios who loved the combo of the two. MGM was the front-runner to land it at the top of the year, and while deal points were being worked out, O’Connor and Faist — who are industry’s fastest-rising stars — began talks to join Zendaya on the project.
Guadagnino is in post-production on hotly anticipated Bones and All, starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell. His credits include the Oscar-, Golden Globe- and BAFTA-nominated box office hit Call Me by Your Name and Suspiria. He is repped by WME, Range Media Partners and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher.
Emmy winner Zendaya has been on quite the roll over past several months, most recently co-starring in one of the biggest box office hits of all time with Spider-Man: No Way Home, reprising her role of MJ. She also starred in the box office hit Dune, which is recently nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture. On the TV front, she has earned rave reviews for her role as Rue in Season 2 of Euphoria, a role she already won an Emmy for. She is repped by CAA, Monster Talent Management, and Granderson Des Rochers.
O’Connor has been on his own roll after winning the Emmy for portraying a young Prince Charles on Netflix’s The Crown. On the film side, his drama Mothering Sunday premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. He is represented by CAA and Independent Talent Group.
Faist most recently starred as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, receiving his first BAFTA Award nomination for the performance. The film just received a Best Picture nomination for this year’s Oscars. He was nominated for a Tony Award for originating the role of Connor Murphy in the hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen. A3 Artists Agency and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.
Kuritzkes is developing a half-hour comedy based on the book Picking Up by Robin Nagle. Strong Baby Productions’s Jonah Hill & Matt Dines will produce and Wiip is the studio. He is also developing an original series at Amazon with rapper Rich Brian. He is repped by CAA, Ziffren Brittenham, and Dianne McGunigle at MGMT.