Chloé Zhao is hopeful that countries overseas will not censor her upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe tentpole “Eternals,” which features the MCU’s first openly gay hero in Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos. In an interview this week with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn (more of that discussion to come closer to the film’s release), the “Nomadland” Oscar winner had the following to say about potential censorship of her film’s gay moments: “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.”
According to Zhao, introducing the MCU’s first openly gay superhero was already “written into the story” before she signed on as director. “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. 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.'”
That Zhao had the chance to tell this particular narrative thread of the movie with a gay character made it all the more special. “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.”
A gay superhero isn’t the only MCU first in “Eternals.” Following the movie’s world premiere this week, film journalists were buzzing over a brief sex scene between two main characters. Marvel movies have been infamously sexless up to this point, making a sex scene all the more noteworthy. Like the openly gay Phastos, the “Eternals” sex scene was already in the treatment Zhao read before she signed on to direct.
“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.”
“Eternals” opens nationwide November 5.
Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.