Marvel movies live and die on their characters, and Eternals is no exception. With 10 main characters, the new movie is juggling a lot as its heroes try to save the world while also grappling with the things they’ve let happen to it over the centuries. The ageless demigods go through a lot during the film, and while the movie is divisive, one thing most folks seem to agree on is that the cast really sells the family unit that these people become in their own weird way.
During an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, screenwriting duo Kaz and Ryan Firpo talked about how they and fellow screenwriters Patrick Burleigh and Chloé Zhao decided on the characters and their dynamics in the film. Broadly speaking, Kaz said it was important to find Eternals whose abilities and diversity reflected the current world. “Jack Kirby’s imagination is boundless. We took every Eternal that existed, of which there are quite literally hundreds.”
In a few cases, they knew who they wanted for the role, such as Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo. When it looked like the actor wouldn’t be in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, they quickly snatched him up, and Kaz is proud of how the character turned out. “He’s hilarious, but he’s coming from a place of insecurity. And all these things I think Kumail did perfectly.” Continuing with Kingo, he further revealed that originally, the actor’s valet would’ve been Don Lee’s Gilgamesh. Karun (Harish Patel) was still in the script, but at the time was the director of all Kingo’s films. If you like the character, you can thank Burleigh for that; Kaz gave a lot of the credit towards him, and said the writer “went gangbusters” with the character.
Kaz and Ryan also spoke on some of the other characters, but that will require spoilers, which means...
One pairing the pair agreed on pretty early was the one between Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Ajak (Salma Hayek). Ryan described it as “the foundation of the story,” and one that helped inform the movie’s overall dilemma of duty over freedom. It’s a choice that came in tandem with forging the love story between Ikaris and Gemma Chan’s Sersi. “All of those things were part of the early, early pitch stages...but it’s the twist that’s the impetus of everything.”
Another early development was the desire to kill off some of the cast, which Ryan said Marvel was “pretty bold” and open to. Death is a fate that Marvel’s top tier heroes have always managed to avoid unless it’s a big scale crossover, and it’s something Kaz admitted was a hurdle for a little while. “How do you make the stakes matter?” Kaz asked. “How do you make the audience fear for and love and be challenged by the adventure?” To him, killing characters made the movie feel more “alive,” and they were so into the idea that early script drafts had an Eternal die during the opening fight against the Deviants so the beasts could be seen as a real threat. That didn’t entirely happen in the film, but you can see how it led to the deaths of Ajak and Gilgamesh at the hands of the lead Deviant, Kro.
With Eternals being another box office success, Kaz is hopeful that he and Ryan will get to do more with these characters. Not only does he shout out Kit Harrington’s Dane Whitman, he also revealed that he and Ryan have joked about pitching a prequel show to Disney+. “I’d love to make that show,” he said. As hypotheticals, he threw out episodes about Thena in Greece and another in 1890 where Kingo grappled with being a movie star during Gandhi’s effort to peacefully dissolve the British empire in India.
Nothing’s currently in the works, but given who’s next up on the docket to receive their own shows, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for an Eternals-adjacent show on Disney+. If it meant seeing more Makkari or Gilgamesh, it couldn’t really be a bad thing, now could it?
Marvel’s Eternals is now in theaters.
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