Challengers director Luca Guadagnino is opening up about the accidental Spider-Man reference in Zendaya’s R-rated romantic tennis drama.

This article covers a developing story. Continue to check back with us as we will be adding more information as it becomes available.


  • Zendaya’s appearance in the
    trilogy is slyly referenced in
    , adding a fun Easter egg for fans to enjoy.
  • Director Luca Guadagnino chose
    as a movie within the film, creating an unintentional connection to Zendaya.
  • The inclusion of the
    reference was not a deliberate inside joke but rather a coincidence guided by the unconscious.

Director Luca Guadagnino accidentally inserted an inside joke into Zendaya’s Challengers. Zendaya famously starred in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man trilogy, where she played the clever student MJ. Challengers is fairly removed from the Spider-Man trilogy, as it revolves around three tennis prodigies, rather than a superpowered hero swinging through New York City. The R-rated movie has a reference to Zendaya’s previous role, as one character watches Spider-Verse during the movie.

While the Spider-Man reference is a fun nod to Challengers‘ impressive cast, the inclusion was actually completely unintentional. In an interview with EW, Guadagnino explained that he was merely looking for a movie already available through their producer. He happened to choose Spider-Verse, viewing it as something that a typical girl might watch. By sheer coincidence, it tied into Zendaya’s previous work. Check out his full explanation below:

“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
The Post
, but maybe she’s going to watch a Spider-Man cartoon, so I said, ‘Why not
?’ Now I realize that it sounded like an in-joke, which, you know, the unconscious guides us all the time.”


Source: EW

Challengers Poster


Challengers is a romantic sports comedy film by director Luca Guadagnino. The film stars Zendaya as a retired Tennis legend who, while trying to coach her husband and lead him to victory in an upcoming Tennis match, discovers his coming opponent is her ex-lover.

Luca Guadagnino

Release Date
April 26, 2024

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer , Pascal Pictures

Amazon MGM Studios

Justin Kuritzkes

Zendaya , Josh O’Connor , Mike Faist

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