Chloé Zhao is hopeful that other countries will not censor her upcoming Marvel Studios’ film, Eternals, because of the decision to include an openly gay hero, Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos, who is married to an unnamed character, played by Haaz Sleiman. In a recent interview with IndieWire, the Marvel Cinematic Universe director addressed concerns about the precedent of gay moments being removed or banned in other countries. Zhao said she hoped the film won’t be banned anywhere in the global market, and she expressed her “desire” that theaters show the film intact so that audiences can have the full experience when it premieres on November 5th, 2021.
Zhao is no stranger to overseas censorship. When the Nomadland director made history at the 2021 Oscars, becoming the first woman of color to win Best Director in the award show’s 93-year history and the second woman to win the accolade, she spoke about her memories of growing up in China, but that speech was censored by the Chinese state media. Even though the Chinese state media has initially praised Zhao as “the pride of China” for winning Best Director at the 2021 Golden Globes, when a 2013 interview from Filmmaker Magazine emerged, in which Zhao criticized China, reports of censorship of the director’s success begun to surface. In fact, organizers of a live-stream event in Shanghai were blocked from streaming the Oscars ceremony, and news of Zhao’s win.
This time, however, Chloé Zhao has kept her comments on censorship focused towards a more general global audience. According to the Eternals director, Marvel Studios had already come to a decision to include an openly gay couple when she first signed on as the film’s director, noting that the gay relationship is an essential component of the storyline. In an interview with IndieWire, the Oscar-winning director had some comments about the potential censorship of the film’s gay moments, saying that, “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.”
In the IndieWire interview, Zhao also added that introducing the MCU’s first openly gay superhero is an integral part of the film’s story. She said:
“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.'”
Zhao also said that she was particularly excited to tell this part of the narrative, noting that it was important to her to situate Phastos and his family in a way that felt “authentic.” She added that there is “no point” in putting representation onscreen if it wasn’t authentic.
An openly gay superhero isn’t the only MCU first in Eternals. After the film’s premiere last week, journalists who saw the film were excited for the brief sex scene between to the two of the characters, as well as the first onscreen gay kiss in a Marvel movie. About these MCU firsts, Zhao said:
“From that moment to what you see onscreen there was definitely a lot of discussion about how to do it. 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 premieres in theaters on November 5th, 2021. This comes to us from IndieWire.