Eternals' Gender-Swapped Characters Is Partly What Drew Chloé Zhao To The Project

Sometimes, all you need is a woman's touch — in the form of a smart director and a gender-swapped lead, that is. Yesterday, director Chloé Zhao and the cast of her upcoming Marvel film "Eternals" sat down alongside Marvel studio president and producer Kevin Feige for a virtual press conference following the film's Los Angeles premiere one day prior. According to /Film's correspondent on the ground, Hoai-Tran Bui, the "Nomadland" director opened up during the chat about the decision to make Salma Hayek's character, Ajak, the leader of the Eternals, instead of Richard Madden's Ikaris, who leads the group in the comics.

"When I came to the process of the beginning I read a treatment that I believe Kevin 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. I thought it wasn't just, you know, 'Let's swap a bunch of characters,' it was very specifically chosen for the leader of the team to be a mother. You know, it's a very easy decision [that was] made on purpose."

Feige also noted, "As Nate [Moore] was advocating for this project, you can't do the history of humanity without the heroes looking like a cross section of humanity. And that is really what the goal was." Moore is the VP of Production & Development at Marvel Studios, as well as producer on Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther" and several Captain America-centric Marvel films as well as "Eternals."

Cast members Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyre Henry, Lauren Ridloff, and Kit Harington were in attendance to promote the highly anticipated film via the press conference.

The early buzz for the film was, generally-speaking, off the charts following the LA premiere not long before the press conference — so, needless to say, I'm excited to finally experience the film for myself. There has been lot of discussion about Zhao's approach to the Marvel world and I think that is what has me most curious. I adored her sweeping landscapes and vast meditations on the natural world in "Nomadland" — and considering the focus on the collective galaxy in "Eternals," I'm sure we are going to see some incredible visuals if nothing else.

Marvel Loves the Direction Eternals Is Going In

It's clear the Marvel braintrust behind the scenes is also really into the direction Zhao has taken the franchise. When questioned about the more "mature" lane the film drives down, Feige said, "Nate Moore, the producer who is not up here with us, really had that driving vision for what this could be. And when Chloé came in and pitched it to us and took sort of these very general ideas that we had — and obviously the Jack Kirby spectacular source material — it felt like a very new special step for us."

In fact, Zhao certainly seems to be the most unique creator to ever sit in a director's chair on a Marvel set. She revealed that she originally pitched her version of Jack Kirby's 1976 saga via a poem by the legendary poet William Blake — which I can pretty much guarantee no superhero director has ever done, Marvel or DC.

"Eternals" arrives in theaters nationwide on November 5, 2021.