Zendaya's Tennis Movie, 'Challengers,' Tests Friendship Bonds of Complex Trio

Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, has been pulled from the Venice Film Festival due to the actors strike. (AP)
Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, has been pulled from the Venice Film Festival due to the actors strike. (AP)
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Zendaya's Tennis Movie, 'Challengers,' Tests Friendship Bonds of Complex Trio

Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, has been pulled from the Venice Film Festival due to the actors strike. (AP)
Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, has been pulled from the Venice Film Festival due to the actors strike. (AP)

When Zendaya first read the script for director Luca Guadagnino’s romantic sports film “Challengers,” she immediately understood that the tennis player turned coach she would portray was unapologetic about her own power and how she wielded it.
“I also think that she isn't immediately dislikable, and she isn't perfect, and she isn't trying to be and we're not making any excuses for that either,” Zendaya said about her character, Tashi Duncan.
At the Los Angeles premiere of the film, Zendaya took to the stage in her neon green halter dress and urged audiences not to judge the characters in the movie too harshly, Reuters said.
For Zendaya, it is important to have complex characters like the ones in the movie, even if it means they are not necessarily likable.
The film focuses on Duncan, a former tennis prodigy who becomes a coach following a career-shattering leg injury.
She coaches her husband, portrayed by Mike Faist, who is a tennis champion facing a losing streak. Her strategy to help him win is a surprise tournament against his ex-best friend, who is also Duncan’s ex-boyfriend.
The movie explores the often-unpredictable bond between the three main characters and how it intersects with their joint passion for professional tennis.
The Amazon MGM Studios film arrives in theaters on Friday.
“We all are kind of very quick to judge characters,” said Josh O’Connor, who plays Duncan’s ex-boyfriend.
“But I think ultimately, the three of them have got this very complicated situation thrown upon them where they all kind of love each other," O'Connor said.
As Zendaya and her co-stars delved into their characters and built chemistry over 12 weeks, they began to understand more of the psychology of tennis players.
“It seems incredibly lonely, and it's just you out there," Zendaya said. "I mean, there's someone across from you, but really you feel very isolated on your own and there's so much mental fortitude to stay focused and there's so many people watching you and every point matters so much."
Adding to the layers of her character, Zendaya worked to learn more about the sport while filming, garnering a compliment from former tennis star Serena Williams.
She sported outfits inspired by the movie while attending premieres.
"I want to try to make it feel like it's still an extension of the creative process of the making of it (the film) too," she said.



Spanish Fan Shows Off His Taylor Swift 'Sanctuary' Before Madrid Gig

Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Spanish Fan Shows Off His Taylor Swift 'Sanctuary' Before Madrid Gig

Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Roberto Santos, 55, a Spanish superfan who is part of a select list of fans who receives exclusive gifts from the pop icon, poses in his "Taylor Swift shrine" in his home in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Roberto Santos, 55, stands out among other "Swifties" for his decades-long devotion to American pop icon Taylor Swift and a plethora of gifts the Spaniard has received from her team in recognition of that - enough to fill up an apartment room he calls a sanctuary.
As Swift, 34, was preparing to play her Eras Tour gigs in Madrid on Wednesday and Thursday, Santos, who runs a dental prosthetics lab in Spain's capital, solemnly displayed the items, including Swift's limited-edition platinum disk award, signed photos, recordings, and sneakers bearing both their names, said Reuters.
"Sometimes I wake up at night, turn on the light and look a little, and say to myself: 'What are you doing?'... I just look, it gives me calm, and I go back to sleep," Santos said in an interview.
"For me she means everything; I've been following her since before 2011... I had the gut feeling that she was going to be big. If I had the same intuition with the lottery, I'd be rich," Santos said.
He said going to see her perform in Dublin in 2018 made him the only person to have traveled twice from Spain for a Swift show. Her management team then added Santos and his wife Inmaculada to an exclusive fan list, and sent them gifts and invitations, including an all-paid trip to Los Angeles last year, Santos said.
"If I was 18 or 20, I imagine I could go a bit crazy... but now everything feels more mature and calm," said Santos, who has Swift-themed tattoos on his arms and ankle.
He has yet to meet her in person. A planned meeting in Oslo was canceled due to the pandemic.
Santos is particularly thankful to Swift and her team for thinking about older fans, and for "the values she has transmitted" through her art.
Swift's record-breaking Eras Tour has boosted local economies. In Madrid, hotel occupancy rates have climbed to 90% on average for the concert dates.