‘Challengers’ Steamy 3-Way Kiss Scene Was Not In Original Script, Says Director Luca Guadagnino

A central scene in director Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers wasn’t in Justin Kuritzkes’ original script.

In the film, Zendaya plays Tashi Duncan, a force of nature who makes no apologies for her game on and off the court. Married to a champion, Art (West Side Story‘s Mike Faist), on a losing streak, Tashi’s strategy for her husband’s redemption takes a surprising turn when he must face off against the washed-up Patrick (The Crown‘s Josh O’Conner) – his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.

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Key to the film is the love triangle between the characters and its power dynamics. The scene in question has the trio relaxing in a hotel room, flirting.

“How often does this happen, going after the same girl?” asks Tashi.

“Not as often as you think,” replies Art, before Patrick explains, “We usually have different types.”

It ends with the three of them on the bed together, kissing.

“I don’t think that was in the script at the beginning. Not at all,” Guadagnino told Entertainment Weekly. “We discussed at length with Justin the concept that the triangle needs to flesh out the possibility that all the corners touch — that if you’re jealous of someone, you’re not jealous of your partner, you’re jealous also not to be picked by the rival. You want to be the object of the affection of the rival, so you’re jealous of not being part of it as much as you are jealous of your partner being chosen.”

RELATED: Zendaya Talks About Taking On More Mature Roles

Guadagnino and Kuritzkes developed the draft and that scene in particular, said Guadagnino, to enhance its “usefulness and fun.” The director was adamant that the moment should not be, shall we say, a quickie.

“For me, it was all about staying there, staying with them, staying with the jokes, staying with the moment of embarrassment, followed by the moment of excitement, and eventually to show the geometry the movie sets up in that moment, the power that she had over them.”

Zendaya confirmed the script’s ongoing evolution.

“Yeah, there were some drafts… Luca and Justin worked on the script in Italy before we even all got together. I believe [Kuritzkes] hadn’t really done a bunch of drafts of the original thing… and while it was absolutely brilliant, I know that Luca wanted to infuse his own things into it, and so that collaboration started quite early.”

At the film’s premiere, the actress expressed joy about the process of working with Guadagnino, which included the opportunity to rehearse the role.

“Luca is brilliant. I think he has such a beautiful understanding about the human experience and deeply understands characters on another level,” she told Deadline. “That was very apparent from the first time I spoke with him about this film and about these characters. He just knew who these people were in a deep sense and understood them, their hopes, their wants, their dreams, their desires, their fears.”

On a more meta level, the actress recently wondered why her kissing scenes get a lot of attention when she’s just doing her job.

“I have no idea. I don’t know if it’s because they want it to be, like, a viral thing, I don’t know. But I have noticed that, with me specifically,” Zendaya said during an appearance on Jake’s Takes after the show’s host brought on the “abnormal” amount of attention those particular scenes generate. “I feel like other actors don’t… if it was somebody else here, you probably wouldn’t [have] asked that question.”

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