Eternals (in theatres on Nov. 5), the 25th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introduces us to a whole new world of superheroes, an opportunity star Salma Hayek called a “really humbling experience” after expressing some feelings that, at the age of 55, she had missed out on being part of a film like this.
“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,...but it didn't happen for me,” Hayek said at press conference in advance of the movie’s release. "It’s very humbling when, in the middle of your 50s, a brilliant director gives you the opportunity...to do something that goes from a deep place that is also a big blockbuster.”
“You fight for it in your 20s, in your 30s and in your 40s you go, ‘oh screw them, they don't get it, they missed out, I would have been great in the art films and I would have been a great superhero and they didn't see it. Screw them I'm going to go do something else, let's have a baby,’...and you give up."
Ultimately, Hayek has one core message from entering the MCU, “everything is possible.”
When you think about it, in your 50s, Mexican, I mean I'm short with big boobs, it's not the normal superhero. They were not afraid of the insurance that grandma was going to break in the middle of it, and it's just beautiful.”Salma Hayek, actress in ETERNALS
Eternals introduces 10 new immortal superheroes, all with different strengths and powers, created in Jack Kirby’s original Marvel comic books of the same name, first published in 1976. Living among humans, hiding their powers, their mission is to protect humanity from predators called Deviants. They’ve been absent from the rest of the Marvel stories we’ve seen because they’ve had very specific instructions from Celestials to only get involved in threats pertaining to Deviants.
Hayek plays Ajak in the movie, the leading matriarch who is the only direct connection to the Celestials, guiding the other Eternals through their mission.
The other nine Eternals are:
Sersi (Gemma Chan) who uses her cosmic energy to transmute objects
Ikaris (Richard Madden) who has incredible strength and laser beams blast from his eyes
Thena (Angelina Jolie) who is so powerful she can can create weapons with her cosmic energy alone
Druig (Barry Keoghan) who has the power of mind control
Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who blasts his cosmic energy from his hands
Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) a master inventor
Gilgamesh (Don Lee) the strongest Eternal who can create an exoskeleton that intensifies his strength
Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) who has super speed
Sprite (Lia McHugh) who creates illusions
The movie also features Game of Thrones star Kit Harington as Dane Whitman, who we meet at the beginning of the film in present-day London, where he works at the Natural History Museum, and has a close relationship with Sersi.
Many of the characters in Eternals were actually swapped from men in the comics to women in the movie, including Hayek’s character Ajak, a decision that director and co-writer Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) revealed made her particularly interested in joining this project.
“When I came to the process at the beginning I read a treatment that I believe Kevin [Feige] made and the team at Marvel Studios put together, and those decisions were made and it's probably one of the reasons that really drew me to it,” Zhao said. “It was very specifically chosen, like the leader of the team, to be a mother figure.”
Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, added that the goal was to authentically represent humanity.
You can't do the history of humanity without the heroes looking like a cross-section of humanity, and that was really what the goal was.Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios
'This is how things should always have been'
Actor Kumail Nanjiani praised Zhao’s approach to tackling this story, being recognized for the diversity of its cast and storyline, but executing the production in a very “natural” way.
“Obviously, the diversity of the cast in this team is something we talk about a lot but the way she approached it was so interesting,” he said. “It wasn't as if to make a point, it's as if to say, ‘this is how things should always have been,’ it felt extremely natural.”
Eternals also features Marvel’s first Deaf superhero, Makkari played by Lauren Ridloff, using American Sign Language throughout the film, also showcasing a particularly special, natual bond between Makkari and Druig (Barry Keoghan).
“Chloé, under her brilliant direction, wanted us to imply that there was a lot more to Druig and Makkari, and I feel like that what actually brought them together is that...they're both very impatient and they both have a lot of power,” Ridloff explained at a press conference for the movie.
Zhao added that Ridloff and Barry Keoghan actually naturally started to riff a lot on set, educating the on-screen development of those two characters.
“You started to improvise and I go, ‘wait what’s happening, sparks everywhere,’ because initially that was not the intention,” Zhao said. “I think really it was from you guys meeting that we saw that and go, maybe we should play into it.”