Vital Thrills got a chance to join the Eternals press conference to learn all about the latest offering from Marvel Studios. The anticipated film opens exclusively in theaters on November 5.
Directed by Oscar winner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), Marvel Studios’ Eternals welcomes an exciting new team of Super Heroes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The epic story, spanning thousands of years, features a group of immortal heroes forced out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s oldest enemy, The Deviants.
The Eternals cast includes Richard Madden as the all-powerful Ikaris, Gemma Chan as humankind-loving Sersi, Kumail Nanjiani as cosmic-powered Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as the super-fast Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as the intelligent inventor Phastos, and Salma Hayek as the wise and spiritual leader Ajak.
The movie also star Lia McHugh as the eternally young, old-soul Sprite, Don Lee as the powerful Gilgamesh, Barry Keoghan as aloof loner Druig, Angelina Jolie as the fierce warrior Thena, and Kit Harington plays Dane Whitman.
Marvel President Kevin Feige, who produced Eternals, said that the international feel “felt like a very new special step for us.” He also called the source material from Jack Kirby “spectacular.”
In terms of why this was the right time, Feige added, “It was a post-Infinity saga world, we wanted to make a bold new step and say you don’t know everything about the universe yet, and that there are these 10 spectacular heroes who you haven’t met who’ve been here the whole time.”
Director Chloe Zhao spoke about the first meeting she had with Feige. “Well, it started with me showing him a macro photo of sand. And then quoting a poem from William Blake,” she laughed. “I still was allowed to stay in the room, so it was really nice. In that poem, Blake was trying to convey that you could see endless beauty and the meanings of the cosmos within the smallest things you can find on Earth.
“So the vision of the film was set up to capture that scale. Something as large as the creation of the sun and as intimate as whispers of lovers. I think going on location and doing this kind of immersive shoot and having the supportive understanding of this amazing cast was kind of how we got here today.”
Angelina Jolie plays the role of Thena. She said of the role, “I was attracted to [Eternals] for many reasons; I’m a fan of the MCU, was a big fan of Chloe’s, and when they first talked to me about the story, it was the cast. It was the idea of what this family would be. I just wanted to be a part of this family before I even knew very much about who I was going to play.
“As I learned about Thena, and that’s one of the special things that Chloe brings to this, is she’s known for bringing reality to film. To somebody’s true self. So a lot of us were cast to bring out something from our own lives, something within ourselves, that maybe we weren’t even aware of, and then let it live and let it grow within the film. She [Thena] is the most fantastic I’ve ever played in a superhero [film], and yet my children said they thought it was the most like me.”
Gemma Chan plays Sersi in Eternals and said of her character, “Sersi is a superhero but her powers are not kind of the most obvious or the flashiest. She’s not the best fighter, but what she does have is empathy and a real affinity for humankind and the Earth. She’s a free spirit, I loved that.”
Chan called this a coming of age film for Sersi because, “even though she’s probably thousands of years old… she learns to trust herself and to grow into her own power.”
Richard Madden plays Ikaris and talked about the internal conflict he goes through. “I really loved it. I’m kind of used to playing lovers often. And to play someone who’s such a soldier, but is completely driven by love, all his decisions are driven by love, and it’s actually him that’s wrestling with that, I’m used to characters who are very focused on their love, and that comes out.
“And with Ikaris, it’s the opposite of that. He’s kind of trying to bury that love because it gets in the way of his duty and is constantly wrestling the two. And that’s kind of what made it really interesting for me to pull out that relationship with all the characters from Sprite to Sersi, and kind of work out what this relationship is when you’re trying to stick to duty, but your feelings get in the way. It’s this kind of eternal soldier wrestling that.”
Salma Hayek plays the leader of the Eternals, Ajak. She talked about getting a superhero role at this point in her life. “I dream big. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten here at all. But in my big dreams, I wanted to be a superhero. And I wanted to work with the best directors in the world, and have big blockbuster movies, and also movies that are art, that are made from a very deep place with great directors.
“You cannot ask for more, but it didn’t happen for me. Didn’t happen that much for me. And so, you fight for it in your 20s, in your 30s, and in your 40s. You go, ‘Oh, screw them, they don’t get it.'”
Hayek added: “You know, ‘They don’t-they missed out. I would’ve been great,’ you know, ‘in the art films.’ And, ‘I would’ve been a great superhero and they didn’t see it. Screw them. I’m gonna do something else. Let’s have a baby.’ They’re dumb. They see her. And you give up.
“Because now, you know. It’s very humbling when, in the middle of your 50s, a brilliant director gives you the opportunity to do both. To do something that comes from a deep place. That it’s also a big blockbuster. I was wrong. Everything is possible.”
Kumail Nanjiani plays Kingo, whose cover for his superhero persona is that he’s the latest in a long line of Bollywood stars. He said, “Oh, by far the hardest thing was the dancing. I’m going to put Chloe on the spot. I can’t swear, so put in a swear word here. Chloe lied to me,” he laughed.
“When we first talked about the movie, she was like, ‘There’s a Bollywood dance sequence,’ and I was like, ‘Chloe, I don’t think I can do that.’ She’s like, ‘Okay, we’ll make it a Bollywood action scene.’ And then soon as I got to London, she’s like, ‘It’s a dance sequence.’
“And I was like, ‘get me a dance teacher right now then.’ And Nileeka who did the choreography was wonderful. Worked with me for months and months to do that because it was so outside my comfort zone. But really, you know, ultimately, for me, all that came down to trust.”
Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Phastos in Eternals, agreed. “Well, and I truly, wholeheartedly trusted Chloe. The thing that really attracted me to this part was that I just think about all the images of Black men and how we are portrayed. And what I love the most about Phastos is that, one, he’s an ancestor. All of us are ancestors technically.
He added: “So Phastos predates everything and had to do probably go through all these things, which could actually make someone lose faith in humanity very quickly. And I remember when I was coming to this project that I, Brian, had kind of lost faith in humanity, just looking at all the things that we’ve been through. And just what the images of Black men were and how we were being portrayed and how we-like, the power was taken from us.
“The lack of power or feeling powerful. And what I really love the most about Phastos is that through all of that, him being eternal, him never being able to die, he still chose love. He still decided to have a family even though he may have to watch them perish.”
Kit Harington plays Dane, a human, in Eternals. He talked about what his character represents. “You know, it’s me and Phastos’ husband and kid who are representing humanity, and I felt that from the beginning, I had to represent something that was worth saving, maybe. And I think a hope that Dane comes across as a nice, standup guy.
“And one thing I really respect him for is that a man flies out of the sky and shoots lasers out of his eyes and steals his girlfriend, and he’s kinda cool with it.”
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.