“Challengers” stars and director reveal that scandalous 3-way kiss was not originally in the script

"The [love] triangle needs to flesh out the possibility that all the corners touch," Luca Guadagnino tells Entertainment Weekly.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Challengers.

The best part of Challengers almost didn't happen.

Director Luca Guadagnino's sizzling tennis drama stars Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O'Connor in a scandalous love triangle that plays out at center court. It all begins when best friends Art (Faist) and Patrick (O'Connor) meet ace tennis prodigy Tashi (Zendaya) and instantly become obsessed with her. Their dueling adoration intrigues her, and when they ask which of them she would be interested in, she raises the stakes and initiates a three-way make-out in their hotel room. The hookup sets all three on a complicated, messy path for years as they vie for love and tennis greatness.

But it turns out that the three-way kiss wasn't originally in Justin Kuritzkes' script.

<p>MGM /Courtesy Everett</p> (L-R) Mike Faist, Zendaya, Josh O'Connor in 'Challengers.'

MGM /Courtesy Everett

(L-R) Mike Faist, Zendaya, Josh O'Connor in 'Challengers.'

"I don't think that was in the script at the beginning. Not at all," Guadagnino tells Entertainment Weekly. "We discussed at length with Justin the concept that the triangle needs to flesh out the possibility that all the corners touch — that if you're jealous of someone, you're not jealous of your partner, you're jealous also not to be picked by the rival. You want to be the object of the affection of the rival, so you're jealous of not being part of it as much as you are jealous of your partner being chosen."

"The script did change," Faist confirms. "The script that I think we all initially read before actually signing on and agreeing to the project is different than once we agreed to do it."

Zendaya agrees, adding, "Yeah, there were some drafts... Luca and Justin worked on the script in Italy before we even all got together. I believe [Kuritzkes] hadn't really done a bunch of drafts of the original thing... and while it was absolutely brilliant, I know that Luca wanted to infuse his own things into it, and so that collaboration started quite early."

As Guadagnino and Kuritzkes worked together on the script, the director wanted to build upon the "usefulness and fun" of the hotel room scene. "The idea [is] that Tashi can see what they don't want to see or they cannot see, which is this incredible attraction that they have not only for her but also for one another," Guadagnino says. "And so Justin made the very funny scene, wrote beautiful dialogue, and I thought that the mundanity of this hotel room in Queens was quite touching in portraying youth."

<p>MGM /Courtesy Everett </p> Zendaya in 'Challengers.'

MGM /Courtesy Everett

Zendaya in 'Challengers.'

Once they honed in on the main purpose of the kiss scene, Guadagnino didn't want to cut away from it too early because of its impact on the rest of the film. "For me, it was all about staying there, staying with them, staying with the jokes, staying with the moment of embarrassment, followed by the moment of excitement, and eventually to show the geometry the movie sets up in that moment, the power that she had over them," he says.

Faist recalls how the trio of actors got together with Guadagnino and Kuritzkes for six weeks of rehearsals in Boston. They worked together on the script and discussed "the characters and the scenes and the arc and everything."

He continues, "Luca had very firm ideas in terms of what should change, how it should change, why it should change in certain aspects, how to add things, how to add layers and complications of aspects of the story and these characters without actually changing dialogue so much, but putting them in situations that allow the characters to show themselves in how do they react within a certain kind of situation, and as to why they do that as well. So it did evolve; it did change. And that's not abnormal. But there were definitely things that were added and shifted."

— Additional reporting from Gerrad Hall

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Related content:

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.