Zendaya explains how she sneaked in a Spider-Man reference in Challengers

By Abby Amoakuh

Published May 2, 2024 at 10:32 AM

Reading time: 1 minute

If you’re Gen Z, we’re just going to assume that you and your friend group have been talking about nothing else than Zendaya and Luca Guadagnino’s love child Challengers for the past few weeks. And if you’re amongst the lucky ones, who have already watched it, you’ll most likely also have noticed a little Spider-Man reference right at the beginning. Zendaya has now opened up about the story behind it:

The movie centres around Tashi Duncan, a promising tennis prodigy, who loses her ability to play professionally due to an injury early in her career. Caught up in a love triangle with fellow players Patrick Zweig and Art Donaldson, she first dates the former and then marries, and coaches the latter into a world-famous tennis champion. Being at the centre of this twisted triangle, she also becomes the subject of a match between the two thirteen years later.

In the beginning of the movie, when Tashi and Art are sitting on the sofa to discuss his latest losing streak, their daughter Lily enters and shyly asks if she can “watch Spider-Verse” in her hotel bedroom. Of course, this is in reference to the animated movies of the massive Spider-Man franchise.

You see, next to starring as the leading lady in Euphoria and Dune, Emmy award winner Zendaya also appears as Mary Jane or MJ in the hugely popular Spider-Man live-action movies next to Tom Holland.

The reference to the Marvel movies definitely wasn’t lost to moviegoers (during my presentation on the UK premiere date everyone burst into laughter as Zendaya told her daughter to “go watch Spiderman.”)

Luca Guadagnino previously revealed the reference wasn’t a deliberate one. Instead, it just felt like the most suitable film he could have used for a six-year-old girl to watch.

At the Los Angeles premiere for Challengers, lead actress and producer Zendaya also explained: “What’s funny is that I think it might have been something else, but that’s what we could get cleared.” Winking at the camera she added: “It’s a fun little callout.”

I guess you can take the girl out of Spider-Man but not the Spider-Man out of the girl.

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