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SYFY WIRE Eternals

'Eternals' director Chloe Zhao used shots from 'Arrival' and 'Blade Runner 2049' to pitch

By Josh Weiss

As we mentioned in our coverage of the first trailer for Eternals (out in theaters November), the next MCU film looks like it will be one of the most visually stunning and director-driven projects Marvel Studios has ever made. To convince Disney to bankroll her unique vision, Oscar-winning writer/director Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) looked to another uncompromising filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve, for inspiration. 

Speaking with the Dune director in a conversation facilitated by Harper's Bazaar, Zhao revealed that she brought production stills from Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 — two science fiction titles with incredibly profound, striking, and memorable imagery — to her Eternals pitch meeting.

"I had stills from your films as references," she recalled. "I’m naturally drawn to filmmakers who have a very strong hand in world-building. When I watch your films, even though they’re of different genres, from Sicario to Arrival to Prisoners and then Blade Runner 2049, you managed to build such visceral worlds I can feel and almost touch."

"I think it’s genius that Marvel approached you because you’re the radical opposite of it aesthetically," Villeneuve told her. "When I saw The Rider for the first time, I was blown away. I wrote a note to you — an artistic love letter. What touched me was your insane skill to be able to approach life. Life is so afraid of the camera. When I saw The Rider, I cried because I was like, 'She did it. She was able to go in that zone that I thought was not possible.' I wonder how you can invite life in a Marvel movie."

The film also boasts one of the most impressive MCU casts outside of an Avengers team-up movie: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, with Kit Harington, with Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. Zhao shares screenplay credit with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo.

Eternals is scheduled to hit theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 5.