With “The Eternals”, Chloe Zhao breathes new life into the MCU by introducing ten superheroes. A feature film to which she has infused all her sensitivity. For the release of the film, meeting with the Oscar-winning director.
The Eternals: Chloe Zhao arrives at Marvel
In three feature films, Chloé Zhao has become one of the new faces of American independent cinema. Awarded at the beginning of the year by the Oscar for Best Director for Nomadland, also crowned with the trophy for Best film, the filmmaker changes register by joining the imposing Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With The Eternals, epic fresco with sci-fi accents, Chloé Zhao introduces ten new superheroes, interpreted in particular by Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Richard Madden. Mythical beings who, if they are not human, are treated with the same sensitivity as the characters in The Rider Where The songs that my brothers taught me. On the occasion of the release of the blockbuster, the director spoke with us about the challenge of this project, the difficulty of managing such a production and the direction of a prestigious casting.
Meeting with Chloé Zhao
After The Songs My Brothers Taught Me, The Rider and Nomadland, The Eternals differs from your previous projects in many ways. Did you approach the film with the same approach or in a different way?
Chloe Zhao: With the same. I think it’s the same in the sense that I developed it with my heart. It’s the only way I know how to do things. Of course, I learned new techniques, new ways of working, I broadened my imagination. But everything comes from the heart and I like to think that everything starts from the same place.
What has been the biggest challenge for you on The Eternals ? Manage the multitude of characters? Special effects ?
CZ: The special effects are the best part! I loved working on it because I grew up wanting to be a facilitator. So to be able to imagine something and create CGI scenes, I loved it. I would like to do more. The biggest challenge for me was patience because when you make a decision on a smaller film, the result can happen very quickly. But when you want to change the lens on a monster that doesn’t exist, it takes about 500 people and two weeks. (Laughs) You have to be patient and concise with what you want.
The Eternals brings a singular emotion, which belongs to you, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe …
CZ: I think it was important to Marvel. I think that’s why they hired me, that they hired Destin (Daniel Cretton, editor’s note), Taika (Waititi, editor’s note), Ryan (Coogler, editor’s note) and James (Gunn, editor’s note). Kevin Feige understands that with this identified genre, you have to perpetually renew yourself so as not to collapse. During production, he constantly pushed me forward. When, for example, I tried to hang on to familiar characters, maybe to make a cameo, he would say to me all the time, “No, no. We have to try new things.”
Are the specifications and production of an MCU movie scary?
CZ: There are obviously some scary moments. I’m going to give you an example. When we find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere and you have 10 actors – some of the biggest stars in the world – and 700 people waiting, it’s 2 p.m., they look at you and you say: “No, we won’t shoot before 5:30 pm”. (Laughs) And everyone is there: “Okay, we’re not filming. But the money goes up in smoke.” And there, they come to me to ask: “Can we please shoot at 4:30 pm?” “No.” Because then we only have an hour and a half to finish a big scene, and all the actors have only one or two takes to do, but the light is perfect. This is scary. But we always respected the deadlines!
So far, you have mostly directed non-professional actors. What does it change, directing a cast like the one in Eternals ?
CZ: I think one thing people don’t know about working with non-professional actors is that they’re the superstars in their own lives. (Laughs) If Brady (Jandreau, the main actor of The Rider, editor’s note) needs to go take care of a horse, we all have to stop. The big difference, what I learn with the actors, is that sometimes they need me more, my attention. Non-professional actors, not so much ….