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Zendaya will not be crossing the picket line in Venice, with the news that the film Challengers has been yanked from the Venice Film Festival in support of the SAG-AFTRA strike. The MGM/Amazon film was to have made its world premiere at this year’s Biennale.
Its U.S. release date has also been postponed from September 15 to the spring of 2024.
As a replacement, the Venice festival will instead open with Edoardo de Angelisis’ Commandante, a WWII film starring Pierfrancesco Favino.
According to SAG guidelines, actors are prohibited from promoting their projects during the strike, which includes participation in film festivals such as Venice. “We are the victims here,” declared Fran Drescher, president of the actors union said last week, before the Venice decision. She added, “We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us… It is disgusting; shame on them. You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change, too.”
The union leader derided the studios for pleading poverty while giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs: “If we don’t stand tall now, we are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines”
Directed by Luca Guadagnino, Challengers is a “sexy sports comedy” that stars Zendaya as a tennis star involved in a tryst with two men, her husband (played by Mike Faist) and her former boyfriend (Josh O’Connor).
It’s widely believed that, due to the strike, this year’s Venice festival will be showcasing fewer U.S. films than is typically the case. The full lineup will be announced next week.
Commandante, the replacement film at Venice, is based on the true story of an Italian submarine commander who saved the lives of 26 Belgian soldiers whose merchant ship had been sunk by the Italian submarine.
In announcing the shakeup to the lineup, Venice’s festival chief Alberto Barbera praised the choice of Commandante, saying in part: “The true story of Commander Salvatore Todaro, who saved the lives of enemy sailors who had survived the sinking of their merchant ship – endangering the safety of his own submarine and his men – is a powerful call for the need to place the values of ethics and human solidarity before the brutal logic of military protocol. I thank the author, the producers Nicola Giuliano and Pier Paolo Verga, and Paolo Del Brocco with Rai Cinema for having accepted our invitation to inaugurate the 80th Film Festival of the Biennale di Venezia.”
It’s being rumored that Warner Bros is also planning to delay the release of another Zendaya film, Dune 2. The studio is also reportedly thinking about moving the release dates for The Color Purple and Aquaman 2. Lionsgate also announced this week that it was postponing the debuts of White Bird and its Dirty Dancing sequel.