‘Challengers,’ starring Zendaya, will skip Venice premiere due to actors strike, moves to 2024

21 July 2023

By JAKE COYLE (AP Film Writer)

NEW YORK (AP) — Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, has been pulled from the Venice Film Festival, where it was to be the opening night film, due to the actors strike.

The R-rated “Challengers,” in which Zendaya stars as a tennis coach involved in a love triangle, had been planned to kick off the Venice Film Festival on Aug. 30 before opening in theaters Sept. 15. But with actors striking from working or promoting their films — including walking any red carpets — distributor MGM, which is owned by Amazon Studios, will instead open “Challengers” in theaters April 26 next year.

“After thoughtful consideration with our partners, and given the parameters that SAG-AFTRA has outlined for its membership, 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 do so with our ensemble cast, director Luca Guadagnino and the filmmaking team at a later date.”

“Challengers,” which co-stars Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, is the first major fall festival film to drop out due to the ongoing actors and writers strikes. But many in the film industry are anxiously watching how long the strikes drag on and how they might disrupt the major fall film festivals. Venice, followed by the Telluride, Toronto and New York festivals, are hugely important launching pads for fall movies. But their premieres could be muted without stars in attendance.

Venice organizers announced Friday that Edoardo De Angelis’s “Comandante” will instead open the 80th Venice Film Festival next month.

Several films set for release in August have also been delayed due to the strike. A24’s “Problemista” has been taken off the release schedule. The film, by Julio Torres and starring Tilda Swinton, had been set to open Aug. 24. And Lionsgate is delaying Marc Foster’s “Wonder” spinoff “White Bird” from Aug. 18 until later in the year.

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