The R-rated “Challengers,” in which Zendaya plays a tennis coach involved in a love triangle, had been planned to kick off at the Venice Film Festival on August 30 before opening in theaters on September 15. But with actors on strike to work on or promote their films, including walking down the red carpet, distributor MGM, which is owned by Amazon Studios, will release “Challengers” in theaters on April 26 next year.
“After careful consideration with our partners, and given the parameters that SAG-AFTRA has defined for its members, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw ‘Challengers’ from this year’s Venice International Film Festival,” MGM said in a statement Friday. “We look forward to celebrating the film when we can with our cast, director Luca Guadagnino and the filmmaking team at a later date.”
In “Challengers,” Zendaya stars as tennis prodigy Tashi Duncan, a self-possessed rising star with her sights set on two fellow players who are also best friends. The film’s story follows Duncan as he arranges a messy meeting between her, hers her husband Art (Mike Faist) and hers her old flame Patrick (Josh O’Connor). Art joins the “Challengers” tennis tournament after Duncan talks him into it, only to realize that he will be competing against his old rival and best friend Patrick.
The romantic drama is the first major fall festival film to be pulled due to ongoing strikes by actors and writers. But many in the film industry are anxiously watching how long the strikes drag on and how they could disrupt major fall film festivals. Venice, followed by the Telluride, Toronto and New York festivals, are very important launching pads for fall films. But their premieres could be muted without star attendance.
Venice organizers announced Friday that Edoardo De Angelis’ “Comandante” will open the 80th Venice Film Festival next month.
Several films due to be released in August have also been delayed due to the strike. A24 “Troublemaker” has been removed from the release schedule. The film, by Julio Torres and starring tilda swintonit was scheduled to premiere on August 24. And Lionsgate is delaying Marc Foster’s “Wonder” spin-off “White Bird” from August 18 until later in the year.
Contribution: Joy Ashford, USA TODAY