Eternals: Chloe Zhao Talks Her Manga Influence and Creative Freedom
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has kind of messed up our movie schedules, and one of the ones that is particularly unfortunate was that the shifting of all the Marvel release dates means we aren't getting Eternals this year like we were supposed to. Eternals is going to be like Guardians of the Galaxy in that when your parents ask you to try and explain them, you kind of sit there and go, "well, so, this is going to get weird" because it does get weird. However, we have a really interesting mind bringing Eternals to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Chloe Zhao is a fascinating director whose new feature, Nomadland, is already generating potential awards season buzz. The Hollywood Reporter recently got the chance to talk to her, and she talked about what she wants to bring to Eternals and what influences are coming to the big screen. Zhao impressed Marvel Megaboss Kevin Feige right out the gate with her initial pitch.
"Her initial pitch to us was fascinating," says Feige. "And frankly one of the reasons we moved forward on the movie was because of the vision that she brought to it."
Zhao went on to explain that her roots lie in manga and is bringing some of that into Eternals. And I look forward to pushing more of that marriage of East and West," which is just awesome. It's always good to see Marvel movies really pushing the boundaries and incorporating different styles. Eternals sounds like it's going to do that while remaining, according to Zhao, a human story that also pushes the boundaries.
"How much further and bigger can we go after [Avengers:] Endgame?" asks Zhao. "Because I'm not just making the film as a director. I'm making the film as a fan."
There have been a lot of rumors over the years that Marvel doesn't let its directors shoot the movies they want to shoot. In a producing driven universe like Marvel, that wouldn't be that surprising, but it turns out that very much is not the case, according to Zhao. She had just as much freedom on a mega-blockbuster like Eternals as she did on a smaller production like Nomadland.
"I shot exactly the way I wanted to shoot," she says. "On location. A lot of magic hour. Three-hundred-sixty degrees on the same camera as I did on Nomadland. Same rigs. It's a bit surreal. I'm still waiting for the shoe to drop. It hasn't. I think I got lucky in that Marvel wants to take risks and do something different."
There has been a lot of lip service played to the fact that this could be one of Marvel's most inclusive films yet when it comes to the cast and representation across the board. Feige spoke about the LGBTQ relation and called it "always sort of inherent in the story and the makeup of the different types of Eternals. I think it is extremely well done, and I look forward to that level of inclusion in our future movies being less of a topic." One of the more buckwild things that western audiences are going to get to see in Eternals is a Bollywood style musical number with 50 people, which just thrilled star Kumall Nanjiani.
"When I walked onto the set and saw a huge group of brown people who were going to be in a Marvel movie, I felt such gratitude towards Chloé for creating the situation," says Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani, who plays an Eternal who also happens to be a Bollywood star. "The scene was full of joy."
Zhao went on to talk about what she wants her diverse cast to represent not just on a multicultural level but also on a human level, even if these incredible creatures that couldn't be less human.
"I wanted it to reflect the world we live in," she says. "But also I wanted to put a cast together that feels like a group of misfits. I didn't want the jocks. I want you to walk away at the end of the movie not thinking, 'This person is this ethnicity, that person is that nationality.' No. I want you to walk away thinking, 'That's a family.' You don't think about what they represent. You see them as individuals."
This movie sounds utterly bonkers in the best possible way. This seems like another good reason to hope that the end of 2020 gets here even faster; the sooner 2020 ends, the sooner we get to see Eternals.
Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao, stars Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kumall Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, and Kit Harington. It will be released on February 12, 2021.