Eternals' Surprise Secondary Romance Came From The Chemistry Between The Actors

Don't ask me how this happened, but the prevailing notion among fans is that the secret sauce behind the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to do with the idea that every major detail was planned out from the beginning. Not only is this patently untrue — the first "Iron Man" movie entered production essentially without a completed script and relied heavily on daily improvisation! — but I would argue that such a rigid mindset would've actively done more harm than good. I could point to the almost universally-disliked ending of the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" as an example of how stubbornly adhering to a pre-planned conclusion at all costs ended up as the worst possible creative choice and, on the other side of the coin, look to "Breaking Bad" as the gold standard of how talented artists can write characters into corners and challenge themselves to find a way out of it in the moment to spectacular results.

So what's all this rambling a prelude to? Well, /Film's Hoai-Tran Bui recently attended a press conference that "Eternals" director Chloé Zhao and 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 all a part of. At one point, the topic of the film's secondary romance came up and it was revealed that this development wasn't as big an emphasis in the script. In fact, it came almost entirely on the strength of the chemistry between actors that the unexpected romance was subsequently played up in the final product.

For the sake of the spoiler-averse (but, you know, within reason), you can read all the details below.

'Sparks Everywhere!'

Those who've been following along already know that the central romance of "Eternals" is made up of a complicated love triangle between Gemma Chan's Sersi, Richard Madden's Ikarus, and Kit Harrington's Dane Whitman. What many may not have known is that the film features another love story between members of the Eternals. By all accounts, the way that Barry Keoghan's Druig and Lauren Ridloff's Makkari hit it off comes as a surprise to both the characters themselves and, as it turns out, the cast and crew as well. During the press conference, an interesting back-and-forth between Ridloff and Zhao gave some insight on how the romance came to be. According to Ridloff:

"First of all, I want to say that I think the relationship between Malkari and Druig really comes to a surprise for actually several people here on stage right, because within the scripts when you first go through it, it wasn't really something that was so apparent. But Chloe under her brilliant direction wanted us to imply that there was a lot more to Druig and Makkari. And I feel like that would actually brought them together, is that ... they're both very impatient, and they both have a lot of power, they're very powerful individuals, and they're told to hold back to hold themselves back. And I think that for Druig and Makkari, they're mischievous and they also have fun. They have this [relationship] on this fabulous planet, and their boss told them not to."

Zhao's perspective is also revealing, as she responds that she took her lead from the two actors and just ran with it.

"Lauren I don't know if you remember, it was your first time meeting Barry, the two of you started just riff. You know, you started to improvise. And I go, "What's happening, sparks everywhere!" So initially that was not the intention. I think really it was from that meeting that we saw that and go, maybe we should let [them] play into it."

Filmmaking is an incredibly tough art and having a plan is obviously important ... but so is the willingness to adapt and change course on a dime. Zhao proved how adept she was at this with "Nomadland" and it's reassuring that she was able to bring this skillset to Marvel.

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