The Challengers Sex Scene Is So Far From What You’d Expect

It’s been touted as the steamiest release of the (almost) summer, but the Challengers sex scene is so far from what you’d expect. Starring Mike Faist, Zendaya, and Josh O’Connor, the complicated relationship drama, which follows a tennis-fueled love triangle, hit US cinemas on April 26, 2024.

During a press conference for the film, the actors explained how they were able to achieve such intimacy and chemistry. “We had a very luxuriant time six weeks prior to actually shooting. When we got to Boston, we had six weeks of training and rehearsal with Luca and Justin and Amy,” Mike Faist explained. “And just getting to know each other. And then on top of that, Josh and I would just spend any other time that we had just running lines around Boston. Just walking around. And we would just run lines. We’d go to the park. We would just walk around the city and we would just run the lines.”

Zendaya attends the Australian premiere of

Speaking with Variety, Zendaya explained how it’s not your typical sports movie. “It’s much deeper,” she said. “Tennis is just a metaphor for a lot of bigger shit. For power. For codependency. They’re using tennis as their device to get these things out of their system. It’s the only way they know how to communicate.” And actually, tennis is the key to the Challengers sex scene. Read on to find out what we mean.

The Challengers sex scene is not what you think

While the movie is super horny, the Challengers sex scene is not what you think. In fact, it’s the build-up of sexual tension that makes it so steamy. “We were asked about the sex scenes, and Z [Zendaya] was like, ‘there aren’t any’,” O’Connor told the press in Australia when the film opened on April 18, per Elle Australia. “It wasn’t a stupid question. It’s a reasonable question because it feels so on the edge of that at all times. And actually, the tennis is the sex scene. That’s their intimacy.”

The steamy three-way kiss

The most talked-about scene is when Patrick (O’Connor), Art (Faist), and Tashi (Zendaya) gather in a hotel room and share a three-way kiss. Then, Tashi sits back while the other two continue. The interesting thing is that the kiss wasn’t in the early version of the script. “It wasn’t,” filmmaker Luca Guadagnino confirmed to the New York Times.

“Tashi sees it and makes it happen. For many ways, it’s for her own amusement, which is not just erotic amusement but pushing them to be a better person in general,” he continued, with Zendaya adding. “When they’re younger, you see that it’s about amusement, it’s joy. As she gets older, the need for power and control is now a means of survival. She is vicariously living through someone else and she needs it to feel hope, to feel like she has anything left of her own.”

CHALLENGERS, from left: Mike Faist, Zendaya, Josh O'Connor, 2023.

Indeed, speaking with the Australian press, O’Connor explained: “We were talking about one of the early scenes where Tashi comes to the hotel room and the three of them sit on the floor, which is such a teenage feeling, and I think it’s captured very well. And from that moment, the three of them are bound. That scene with the three-way kiss, and [then] Tashi is enjoying the view of them, I think that puts them all in this tornado together. The love and attraction and lust they have for each other is unanimous. The three of them are bound from the start.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t a need for an intimacy coordinator. “We had an intimacy coordinator which was fantastic and very helpful,” Zendaya told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was important that we felt safe. I spoke with my colleagues so that we could find a way to feel at ease. We played tennis together, we went out together, we rehearsed together. We got to bond and feel good with each other.”

Zendaya told AP the reason she gravitated towards the film was how different it was from anything she’d done before. “Because it sounded like a challenge. Because it is so different from me,” she said. “Sometimes when you’re a little afraid to tackle something like that you’re like, ‘Oo, maybe I should do it.’ I don’t want to walk into something and be like, ‘I got this. This is going to be easy.’”

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