'Eternals' Director Chloé Zhao Hopes Gay Content Will Not Be Cut Overseas

Tuesday October 26, 2021
Originally published on October 22, 2021

Chloé Zhao
Chloé Zhao   (Source:Associated Press)

Whatever reason Marvel president Kevin Feige had for selecting Chloé Zhao to direct the upcoming "Eternals," it turned out to be an inspired choice after she won the Oscar for Best Director earlier this year for "Nomadland." Deadline said that it was likely her work on "The Rider" that caught Feige's eye, since her "Nomadland" shoot overlapped with her early work on "Eternals."

As the film heads to its much-anticipated November 5 release date, Deadline spoke with Zhao about her fears that the film, which features the first openly gay hero in Brian Tyree Henry's Phastos, will face censorship overseas.

Earlier this month, Feige expressed his feelings about LGBTQ representation. "It is more than past time in the movies," Feige acknowledged in recent comments.

"I don't know all the details but I do believe discussions were had and there's a big desire from Marvel and myself — we talked about this — to not change the cut of the movie. Fingers crossed."

Brian Tyree Henry and Haaz Sleiman in a promotional image for "Eternals"  (Source:Marvel)
Brian Tyree Henry and Haaz Sleiman in a promotional image for "Eternals"  (Source:Marvel)  (Source: Marvel)

Zhao explained the Phastos' narrative, which was already written in the script prior to Zhao's signing on. "The way Phastos' story plays out in the film is that he's someone who only sees humanity as a whole and believes that technology's going to solve the problem," she told Deadline. "Obviously, he lost faith in us for some very tough things that we've done. And then he had to stop looking at us as a whole and look at one person he falls in love with, and one child, to regain the face of humanity. It's like us turning on the news and thinking it's completely hopeless and then going home, looking at our lover and our child and going like, 'Well actually this is worth fighting for.' "

She added how important it was for her to have a family unit central to the gay narrative. "To position that family in that specific situation and to have that moment feel authentic and real... the audience has to feel that to care. Otherwise, there's no point in putting that onscreen because they don't feel it."

And there's one scene — the first gay love scene in the Marvel Universe — that had journalists talking after the film premiered earlier this week. Like the out character itself, it was in the script prior to Zhao's involvement.

"From that moment to what you see onscreen there was definitely a lot of discussion about how to do it," Zhao said. "But I think the desire to do something different is a very natural desire for where Marvel Studios is right now. I think it's like Westerns coming into the revisionist period of the '70s. I think it's happening to superhero films — or at least we're on the edge of that. And so these scenes just started to happen naturally."

Zhao added: "For us to be able to show two people who love each other, not just emotionally and intellectually but also physically, and to have a sex scene that will be seen by a lot of people that shows their love and compassion and gentleness — I think it's a really beautiful thing."