The Untold Truth Of The Eternals Movie

Nearly five decades after they first debuted in the comics through the writing and art style of Jack Kirby, the cosmic superheroes the Eternals are making their silver-screen debut through the motion picture "Eternals." Despite being relatively obscure figures in the history of Marvel Comics, "Eternals" isn't a low-budget affair. It's a massively expensive project with a star-studded cast and helmed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Chloe Zhao. Marvel Studios is going all-in on this property and with the idea of this team having a sizeable presence in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe mythos. Given how many resources are being put into "Eternals," it shouldn't be a surprise, then, that the project has a similarly sizeable untold truth concerning its trip to the silver screen.

These facts cover a wide variety of topics, including how often the "Eternals" characters have appeared in other non-comics mediums as well as the creative inspirations for Zhao when it came to bringing this project to life. "Eternals" is an epic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it's only fitting that the feature's untold truth is a similarly dense affair that spans years and years. 

This is the first appearance of the Eternals outside of the comics

For many superheroes headlining Marvel Cinematic Universe titles, it's not their first time starring in media properties outside of comics. Even the Guardians of the Galaxy showed up in the "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" cartoon before they got their 2014 solo film. Meanwhile, Black Panther got his own MTV animated program nearly a decade before his first solo feature. For almost all superheroes getting solo adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a live-action blockbuster is just the latest example of a beloved character stepping outside of the confines of their comic book origins.

However, that's not true for the Eternals. Save for one motion comic adaptation of the Neil Gaiman Eternals comics, these characters have never appeared outside of the world of comics. No animated TV shows, video games, or any other forms of media have featured the likes of Sersi, Ajak, and the rest of the Eternals. This means the Eternals characters are obscure even by the standards of MCU leads, making it, conceptually, a difficult property to market. However, there are advantages to adapting such a low-profile element of the Marvel comics mythos. Namely, it means there are fewer classic pop culture incarnations of these superheroes to live up to. There are no Christopher Reeve or Tobey Maguire performances that Chloe Zhao's take on the Eternals need to exceed. They can just exist on their own terms as the first live-action appearance of these characters.

How Kevin Feige responded to Chloe Zhao's Eternals pitch

Throughout the years, some of the pitches filmmakers have made for potential Marvel Cinematic Universe directing gigs have become legendary. Taika Waititi's initial "Thor: Ragnarok" pitch, for instance, has become famous for how it used Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," a bold musical cue that would stick around to the final cut of the eventual movie. For "Eternals," Chloe Zhao also delivered a memorable pitch, one that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has had nothing but positive things to say about.

Talking to Rolling Stone, Feige declared Zhao's pitch for "Eternals" the greatest pitch he'd ever heard at that point in Marvel Studio's history. He also observed how Zhao's first comments on the potential project nailed the mixture of intimate humanity and expansive sci-fi spectacle that Marvel Studios wanted to achieve with this particular project. Zhao would later reveal that her pitch to Marvel Studios got off on an unorthodox note. Rather than starting with a description of an action sequence or references to other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Zhao's pitch began with a picture of sand and her quoting a poem by William Blake. With such distinctive flourishes, it's no wonder this pitch left such a massive impression on Feige and company.

Who else almost directed Eternals?

Thanks to her Oscar win for directing "Nomadland," Chloe Zhao's name has been plastered over much of the marketing for "Eternals." Her influence on the project has included embracing unique forms of camerawork and practical shooting locations that separate "Eternals" from other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, despite being a prominent part of the project, Zhao wasn't always the first, or even only, choice to direct this production.

When Zhao was first announced for this project, it was revealed that Marvel Studios had been looking at an assortment of names to helm the first "Eternals" project. Among those also in contention for the production were Nicole Kassell, Travis Knight, as well as Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra. It's an eclectic collection of talent, particularly the duo Gallego and Guerra, who had previously never done an English-language film. However, one can see why Marvel Studios would be looking at these individuals circa 2018. Kassell, for instance, had just helmed the buzzy pilot for the TV show "Watchmen," so the idea of her directing further superhero projects sounds logical. Meanwhile, Knight was also coming off an Oscar nod for directing "Kubo and the Two Strings" and was finishing his work on the live-action tentpole "Bumblebee." 

Despite contending against some impressive names, many of them carrying experience with genre fare rooted in familiar brand names, Zhao ended up scoring the "Eternals" directorial gig, in the process cementing a massive follow-up project to "Nomadland."

Chloe Zhao's inspirations for Eternals

"Eternals" is the 26th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which gives the project a lot of creative influences to draw from in the broader franchise. However, Chloe Zhao wouldn't just be inspired by prior "Avengers" movies when it came time to make "Eternals." Zhao had a wide range of projects to draw from in broader pop culture when it came to molding the vision for her superhero movie blockbuster.

"Jack Kirby and his imagination, his incredible work, is really the foundation of it," Zhao explained to Variety. However, she wasn't looking to build the film on just Kirby's take on the Eternals. She was also aiming to craft a feature that could expand upon the mythos established through prior Marvel Cinematic Universe titles, which Zhao considered herself a fan of. On top of all that, Zhao was also looking to incorporate influences from material that had inspired her as a youngster, namely "sci-fi and manga and fantasy films." As if these influences couldn't get more eclectic, Zhao also remarked that "The Revenant" served as a guiding light for how she would frame the visceral action sequences in "Eternals." It's not every day a blockbuster comes along that takes as many cues from Alejandro González Iñárritu as it does from manga, but that's just what Zhao was attempting to create through channeling unique creative influences on "Eternals."

Who initiated the diverse cast of Eternals

If you're familiar with the original "Eternals" comics, you'll be conscious that the movie versions of these characters look decidedly different from the source material. While the principal "Eternals" characters carry over the superpowers and even costume colors of their comic counterparts, several of these superpowered cosmic beings have, in this incarnation, been overhauled in terms of ethnicities and genders. Makkari, for example, in the comics is a white guy with blonde hair, whereas the film version is portrayed by Lauren Ridloff, a performer whose both a Black woman and deaf. Other characters from the comics that have undergone some tweaks when translated to the silver screen include Sersi, Phastos, and Ajak, all of whom were white in the comics but are now portrayed by performers of color.

This concept of playing fast and loose with the genders and races of individual "Eternals" characters was set in stone from the earliest stages of the project. According to Variety, "Eternals" producer Nate Moore was critical in encouraging the production to embrace a more diverse collection of performers and characters compared to the comics. Using this approach on this particular property makes a lot of sense given the obscurity of the original "Eternals" characters. Alterations to these figures won't be at risk of "angering" a fanbase used to one version of these superheroes. Plus, it allows the titular superheroes of "Eternals" to reflect the variety of the real world even when they're fighting otherworldly monsters.

The Nomadland camerawork parallels in Eternals

Like many Marvel Cinematic Universe directors, Chloe Zhao was not an expert in superhero movies before embarking on a solo movie in this franchise. Before she tackled "Eternals," Zhao was known for indies with varying degrees of influence from the Western genre, like "The Rider" and "Nomadland." To transition to a much different form of filmmaking, Zhao didn't rewrite her style of directing. In fact, she was adamant in maintaining cinematography continuity with her prior efforts as a filmmaker.

"I shot exactly the way I wanted to shoot," Zhao explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "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." Part of keeping a consistent sense of style across these projects was maintaining critical crew members from earlier Zhao works. In an interview with Collider, "Nomadland" cinematographer Joshua James Richards noted that he worked as a camera operator on "Eternals" with the production's cinematographer, Ben Davis. He also observed how one particular scene in this superhero blockbuster was shot in exactly the same restrained way as a sequence from "Nomadland." "Eternals" was big project for Zhao, but, in terms of camerawork, the film's director would be the same old Zhao that had garnered so much acclaim.

The release date struggles of Eternals

Not even Marvel Studios was impervious to how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic upended the worldwide film industry. Just look at how often their titles have shifted release dates to accommodate this global health crisis. Titles like "Black Widow" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" went through several different release dates in the pursuit of perfect slots where their theatrical runs wouldn't be impeded by the pandemic.

For "Eternals," its initial November 6, 2020 debut was meant to make this feature only the second Marvel Cinematic Universe project of 2020 and follow in the footsteps of prior Marvel Cinematic Universe titles that launched in early November, such as "Doctor Strange" or "Thor: Ragnarok." However, those plans got scuttled just a few weeks into the pandemic. It was then shifted to a February 2021 launchpad. Though any delay would be disappointing to fans of this expansive franchise, the new date wasn't a death sentence. On the contrary, February had been kind to movie adaptations of Marvel properties in the past, as seen by the record-breaking debuts of "Deadpool" and "Black Panther." However, "Eternals" wouldn't stick to that promising slot for long. It would soon receive yet another delay, this time taking it to its final release date of November 2021. The Eternals are capable of fighting countless monstrous foes but even they couldn't defend their release date from the horrors of COVID-19.

That moment it looked like Millie Bobby Brown was in Eternals

The process for filling out the ensemble cast for "Eternals" was a slow one, with Angelina Jolie being the first person to get officially settled there. In the ensuing months, performers like Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, and Kumail Nanjiani would all join the eclectic collection of performers. On the eve of the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, where Marvel Studios would show off this cast officially for the first time, Variety reported that a new famous face had been added to the mix in the form of "Stranger Things" headliner Millie Bobby Brown.

Though the publication didn't specify who she'd be playing, being a teenage performer it's reasonable to assume Brown was expected to play Sprite, the eternally young member of the Eternals team. However, shortly after this report went out, Brown took to social media to clarify that, while she wasn't opposed to joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she had not joined the cast of "Eternals" at that time. Though plenty of unexpected iconic performers ended up a part of "Eternals," Brown was not one of them, with the role of Sprite eventually going to Lia McHugh instead.

Kumail Nanjiani didn't think he'd dance in Eternals

After scoring an Oscar nomination for writing "The Big Sick" and headlining comedies like "Stuber," Kumail Nanjiani took his film acting career to the next level through portraying the Marvel superhero Kingo in "Eternals." Such a prominent role would seem like the kind of thing an actor would leap at without any hesitations. However, in tackling this part, Nanjiani did have some significant hesitation centered on the dancing Kingo would have to engage in.

While talking on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Nanjiani revealed that Chloe Zhao first told him that Kingo would have the job of being a Bollywood movie star, which would require him to dance on-screen. Nanjiani considered himself totally clueless when it came to dancing and insisted that the occupation be changed. Zhao then reassured Nanjiani that Kingo would be introduced in Bollywood engaging an action scene instead. But when Nanjiani went to London to prepare for principal photography, he learned that he would have to do an elaborate dance sequence after all. This required Nanjiani to engage in a large amount of practice and dance lessons to ensure that he wouldn't trip on his own two left feet in executing the critical role of Kingo.

Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek's Eternals friendship

When you're working on a massive superhero blockbuster for months on end, you'd hope you'd connect with your co-workers. Otherwise, that's going to be a torturous shoot devoid of any real human connections. Luckily, the cast of "Eternals" saw several friendships blossom between artists during its lengthy principal photography. This includes famous performers Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie, who formed an especially tight bond during their time filming this expansive blockbuster.

"I discovered a soul sister who is similar to me in so many ways," Hayek explained to Elle in an interview. "I felt like I'd known her for my entire life. I got to know her a little better than everyone else, and it's very precious to me." In that same interview, Jolie explained that it was Hayek's "motherhood and power" that especially fascinated this performer and served as the bedrock of their friendship. With this kind of shared fondness, the shooting of "Eternals" was doubtlessly a pleasant one for both actors.

Gemma Chan's experience returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

In "Captain Marvel," Gemma Chan made her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut playing the Kree soldier Minn-Erva, who served as one of the film's antagonists. It was a brief role that didn't have much in the way of dialogue and Minn-Erva bit the dust by the end of the runtime, seemingly ending Chan's role in the sprawling MCU. However, not only did Chan return to the franchise, she did so as a lead, taking on the role of Sersi in "Eternals." Nobody could've ever imagined Chan would make such a quick return to this cinematic universe, let alone the performer herself!

Talking to Vogue UK, Chan explained that she "never expected" to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after her work on "Captain Marvel." "So that was a surprise," Chan said on getting the chance to play Sersi. "And then to be working with an East Asian female director — I would never have dreamt of that, even just a few years ago." Kevin Feige, after seeing "Crazy Rich Asians," had an encounter with Chan where he promised her that Marvel Studios would find a way to incorporate Chan into future Marvel Cinematic Universe projects. Chan was pleased by the prospect but didn't think the opportunity would come so soon. Thanks to her delivering strong screen tests while auditioning for the "Eternals" role of Sersi, though, Chan got to make a splashy return to a franchise she previously seemed destined to no longer be a part of.

Why Chloe Zhao has two screenwriting credits

During "Eternals," you're bound to see strange visuals, including human beings running at super speed, peculiar-looking spaceships, and monstrous Deviants. However, for film buffs, one of the most unusual sights in "Eternals" will come during the credits, specifically, when the film flashes who wrote the project. Like other Marvel Cinematic Universe filmmakers such as Shane Black and Ryan Coogler, Chloe Zhao served as both a writer and a director for her entry in this franchise. However, unlike other writer/directors in this series, Zhao is credited here as a screenwriter not once, but twice. It's such an unorthodox experience that one can't help but ask how this Oscar winner managed to snag so many writing credits.

Screenwriter Zack Stentz took to Twitter to clear up this unusual phenomenon, explaining that Zhao was credited once for writing the screenplay on her own and scored another credit for also doing a pass with screenwriter Patrick Burleigh. This pair of artists also shared the screenwriting credit with Matthew and Ryan Firpo, the duo who wrote the very first draft of "Eternals." In the end, this is a rather mundane explanation for what will doubtlessly be, to those not in the know, a puzzling sight to spot in the credits.