Did director Luca Guadagnino unintentionally plant a Spider-Man shout-out in his new film Challengers, starring Zendaya? Because that’s what happened in the film. Released on 26th April, Challengers is a romantic sports drama centered around the world of professional tennis.

Zendaya as Tashi Duncan in Challengers

It centers around Art Donaldson (Mike Faist), who portrays a tennis champion on a losing streak, aiming for a comeback. Zendaya plays his wife, Tashi Duncan, a former tennis prodigy who retired due to injury.

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She takes on the role of his coach. The situation gets interesting when Art’s comeback match is against Patrick (Josh O’Connor), his former best friend, who also happens to be Tashi’s ex-boyfriend.

Zendaya’s Challengers Offers Adorable Spider-Man Nod Accidentally

Superhero: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
A still from Marvel’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

While Zendaya is known for portraying MJ in the live-action Spider-Man movies, Challengers takes her in a completely different direction. Here, she plays a fiery tennis prodigy.

However, fans can find a subtle Spider-Man moment in this movie, too. How? During a heated argument with her husband, Tashi and Art’s daughter Lily (A.J. Lister) disrupts the tension by asking them to watch the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse instead of the on-screen tennis match.

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Though the Dune star didn’t voice any character in the animated movie, isn’t it interesting how things work out sometimes? Many would think it’s a clever nod to her role as MJ in the Spider-Man movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), right? Turns out, it was just a coincidence!

Director Denies Intentional Spider-Man Nod in Zendaya’s Challengers

Luca Guadagnino
Luca Guadagnino (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Director Luca Guadagnino explained what is the true origin of the Spider-Man reference in the Zendaya’s movie. Guadagnino found out firsthand how tricky it can be to get permission to use movie titles within other movies.

When he wanted a title for the scene, he thought Spider-Verse would be perfect for a young girl’s choice, and it might be easier to get its rights as well. It was only later, after the movie was out, he realized the neat Easter egg he accidentally created. The 52-year-old told Entertainment Weekly:

“When you get rights for something to be used in a movie, it’s very complicated. Amy Pascal, our amazing producer, was of help there. I said, ‘Amy, can we use one of your catalog titles so it’s going to be easier to clear them?’ [Lily]’s a girl; she’s not going to choose to watch The Social Network or The Post, but maybe she’s going to watch a Spider-Man cartoon, so I said, ‘Why not Spider-Verse?”

This behind-the-scenes tidbit shows how powerful the subconscious can be in filmmaking! Even details that seem planned can have surprising beginnings.

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Challengers is currently screening in nearby theatres.

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