Chloé Zhao Turned Down ‘Black Widow’ to Pitch MCU’s ‘Eternals’ Instead

Chloé Zhao Turned Down ‘Black Widow’ to Pitch MCU’s ‘Eternals’ Instead
Director/Writer/Editor/Producer Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand on the set of NOMADLAND. Photo by Joshua James Richards. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Fresh off double Oscar wins for directing and producing Nomadland, Chloé Zhao, the second woman ever to win the Oscar for Best Director, is talking about her next project, the highly-anticipated Eternals. The latest installment of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following Disney Plus’ WandaVision and the long-delayed Black Widow, is now scheduled to be released on November 5th. It boasts a terrific cast led by Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Brian Tyree Henry and Kumail Nanjiani, and will also featuring the first LGBTQ and deaf superheroes to appear in the MCU.

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In an interview with Variety, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige spoke about Zhao’s talent and involvement with Eternals. He confirmed that she had expressed interest in working with the MCU as a fan, and while she was originally considered to direct Black Widow, she removed herself from the list before coming back with a pitch for Eternals with Marvel executive Nate Moore. According to Feige, Zhao was only able to make Nomadland when she did because production on Eternals was shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Feige had only glowing things to say about Zhao. “How she looks at the world is very unique, and that’s what you want in your storytellers and your filmmakers as we’re approaching our 30th MCU movie, and we just wrapped our seventh or eighth Disney Plus series.

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I’m in my 20-plus years at Marvel. We only want to keep doing this so that we can keep evolving it and changing it and growing it, and doing things we hadn’t done before. And that’s what many filmmakers like Chloé for.

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Not just for Marvel, by the way, but for the business — and for the theatrical business, and for the quote unquote blockbuster business. You want those filmmakers coming in and continuing to evolve and adapt what it means for genre film — or certainly for Marvel Studios film.”

Zhao echoed those kind words, reaffirming what a positive interaction it has been with Marvel. “It’s just been such an incredible experience working with the team at Marvel. I want to be careful saying ‘my vision,’ even though I do want people to know they did support what I wanted to do. I want people to know that. But I also want to make sure they know that I got the support of this incredibly talented team, some of the most talented artists in the world. And it really is a village to make this film, but they did let me lead.

Among the influences on the film are the casting choices, which, per Feige, suggest that the lead of the film is Sersi, who will be played by Gemma Chan, an actress known for Crazy Rich Asians, Raya and the Last Dragon, and the TV series Humans. Discussing the diversity in casting and character development, Feige explained that “the notion of switching up the genders, sexualities and ethnicities of the characters from the comics, was baked in initially… There were some characters that we change from male to female, there were some characters that we knew how we were altering them from the books.

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