After Chloe Zhao won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director for her acclaimed masterpiece of “magic hour” wanderlust Nomadland, audiences are going to be chomping at the bit more for the upcoming Marvel Studios pic The Eternals.
Marvel Cinematic Universe boss Kevin Feige spilled some tea with the forthcoming pic in a recent interview with Variety. Seeing as though “Chloe Zhao” is on everyone’s lips as of late, it only seemed appropriate.
In the interview, he addressed the international cast and how this could possibly be the most inclusive cast ever which It will includes the MCU’s first queer superhero in Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos as well as the first deaf hero Makkari played by Lauren Ridloff — who was also gender swapped and is now Black. Feige said that switching genders, sexualities and ethnicities of the characters from the comics, was baked into the development of the film. He said that co-producer Nate Moore was instrumental in that. With that said, some characters were changed from the books. Kingo is Japanese in the comics, but in the film Kumail Nanjiani, who is South Asian, plays him. Salma Hayek plays Ajak, who was also gender swapped for the movie. Lia McHugh’s Sprite is now a young woman instead of a man while Don Lee will step in for an Asian iteration of Gilgamesh.
It’s clearly a rainbow coalition when it comes to The Eternals.
Feige also admitted that Gemma Chan’s Sersi is the lead in the ensemble pic. “We looked at and read all sorts of women for that part. And ended up really believing that Gemma was best for it. And thankfully, she’s proven that to be the case in the final movie.”
The film also features Kit Harington, Barry Keoghan, Richard Madden, and, of course the lovely Angelina Jolie.
Feige also revealed that newly-minted, history-making Oscar winner Zhao could have been part of the MCU family earlier as the helmer of Black Widow. However, she took herself out of the running before Cate Shortland ended up sitting in the director’s chair.
When Moore was putting together a wish list for the director of The Eternals, Zhao came back into the MCU orbit and she made a presentation “about a very bold and very ambitious sprawling 7000-year story of humanity and our place in the cosmos.”
And then later, Nate Moore was beginning to put his list together for filmmakers on “Eternals,” and she was been on the list for that reason: because we knew she was in our world. The two of them started working on something that they then brought to me, and it was an absolute spectacular pitch that Chloé put together. A presentation that Chloé put together about a very bold and very ambitious sprawling 7000-year story of humanity and our place in the cosmos.”
I guessed that solidified her place as The Eternals director.
Feige said that during production of the movie Zhao would “drive to South Dakota to make this little movie she was working on” — which was Nomadland.
With her Oscar-winning pic and her gorgeous movie The Rider, Zhao has shown she has a very specific visual style. She does wonders with the “magic hour”.
“What she talked about was really fighting for practical locations, for practical elements — yes, in a movie that is full of visual effects and characters with extraordinary powers, but doing as much as possible on far-flung locations. And that starts to reap benefits visually immediately,” said Feige.
He continued, “We cut a little sample reel together, I remember, to show [Disney higher-ups]. And it was so beautiful, and I had to keep saying, ‘This is right out of a camera; there’s no VFX work to this at all!’ because it was a beautiful sunset, with perfect waves and mist coming up from the shore on this giant cliffside — really, really impressive stuff.”
Nomadland was shot before The Eternals and was completed when the MCU pic’s release date was delayed because of COVID. So when you watch The Eternals, you may just see flecks of Nomadland in there.
Speaking of, the first-ever footage of The Eternals was shown during CCXP in São Paulo in December 2019. According to Deadline, the footage was incredible:
He surprised the crowd (and everyone squealed with ear-piercing delight) with raw footage from the upcoming comic book pic starring Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Barry Keoghan and Gemma Chan.
The footage starts with Keoghan’s Druig welcoming Sersi (Chan), Ikaris (Madden), Kingo (Nanjiani), Makkari (Ridloff), Sprite (McHugh) and Thena (Jolie) to some sort of ranch. “Make yourselves at home,” he tells them.
From there, it cuts to various scenes which are woven together in an epic tapestry that Feige said will “redefine and change” the MCU. We see various members of the group in different parts of the globe, showing the film’s diversity. We see brief glimpses of the characters using their power as well as what seems to be a romance developing between Chan’s Sersi and Madden’s Ikaris; Nanjiani’s Kingo in some sort of Bollywood scene McHugh’s Sprite clearing dust and, of course, Jolie’s Thena (as a blonde) kicking some major ass.
We get more glimpses of the other character with no defining narrative, but close to the end Hayek’s Ajak says, “This world has changed us. We must protect it.”