Director Luca Guadagnino discusses Spider-Verse reference in 'Challengers', clears supposed 'Call Me by Your Name' nod

BAFTA Hosts Los Angeles Special Screening Of "Challengers"
Challengers cast at a BAFTA screening of the movie (Image via Getty)

Challengers director Luca Guadagnino set the record straight on the alleged Spider-Verse reference and the Call Me by Your Name (2017) nod in the movie. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the director discussed the two Easter eggs.

A romantic sports drama, Challengers revolves around a love triangle between professional tennis players. It features Zendaya (who stars as MJ in the MCU's Spider-Man franchise), Mike Faist, and Josh O'Connor in the lead. The flick dropped in the United States on April 26.

With the movie receiving positive reviews and grossing over $25 million total, fans have recently zeroed in on a Spider-Verse reference and two moments in the film where peaches pop up on the screen, allegedly referring to Guadagnino's 2017 film Call Me by Your Name.

"I think nods never should be gratuitous"— Challengers director clears up confusion on alleged Easter eggs

In Challengers, Tashi (Zendaya), a former tennis prodigy turned coach who turned her husband Art (Mike Faist) into a champion, signs the latter up for a Challenger event after a losing streak. At the event, Art must face off against Patrick (Josh O'Connor), his former best friend and Tashi's ex.

During the second half of the film, when Tashi and Art are having an argument, their daughter Lily (A.J. Lister) interrupts them, asking if she could watch the animated Spider-Verse movie and not the tennis that was playing on the TV. Fans were quick to point out Zendaya's Spider-Man connection on social media platforms.


Notably, animated Spider-Verse is a reference to Sony's Spider-Verse franchise, and Zendaya, who is part of the MCU movies, does not voice any characters in the films.

Referring to the abovementioned sequence, Luca Guadagnino told Entertainment Weekly that it was his idea to include it in the movie. However, he explained, Zendaya's connection had nothing to do with the line but rather related to getting rights to using a title in a movie, stating,

"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.

Guadagnino elaborated,

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?'"

While the director did admit it took him a while to realize the hidden meaning, he added,

"I realize that it sounded like an in-joke, which, you know, the unconscious guides us all the time."

Eagle-eyed fans also spotted peaches in two separate scenes in Challengers, leaving many to wonder if it was a nod to the popular scene from Call Me by Your Name featuring Timothee Chalamet's character.

In Challengers, a bowl of peaches appears for the first time when Art is waiting to play an important game. In a separate scene, Lily enters a hotel room holding a furry peach. However, Guadagnino tells Entertainment Weekly,

"I think nods never should be gratuitous, But they were a nod because we are in Atlanta, and the symbol of Atlanta is a peach."

Both scenes occur when the characters are in Atlanta, Georgia. Per Institute of Culinary Education, the state is known for its peaches and is even referred to as "The Peach State."

Challengers is currently running in theaters in the United States.

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