‘Eternals’ Director Chloé Zhao Talks Salma Hayek’s Ajak & Representation

Lead Photo: Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage
Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage
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Only a powerhouse like director Chloé Zhao could take on a project like Marvel’s Eternals. This expansive and universe-defining film tells the story of a group of immortals who shape Earth as we know it, living for thousands of years among those they care for. Among these immortals are Sersei, Ikaris, Thena, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, and Gilgamesh — and they are led by Ajak, played by the talented Salma Hayek.

Zhao emphasized that when strength is present on screen, it’s usually masculine. And how having Ajak as a woman is a new opportunity to gain back something we’ve lost along the way when it comes to how strength is portrayed in blockbusters in this day and age. “At some point in history, I feel like we lost our mothers in the sense that only motherhood, compassion, and feminity are considered weak,” she adds. “We know that’s not true.”

That’s where Hayek came in. Having her support throughout the filmmaking process and her experience as a mother herself made it so Zhao found a natural leader in her. “Having her support and what she believes in and to be a mother and to not be afraid to love, to make mistakes, or to be vulnerable. These things are incredibly brave things and qualities a leader must have; a good leader.”

According to Zhao, Hayek was also a mother to the cast when the cameras weren’t rolling, which further cemented how perfect she was for this role. “She is not just a mother to her children but the whole cast and crew. That’s her. So, she really brought this character to life.”

Another crucial part of the Eternals puzzle, which has received mixed commentary from those who call this movie a PR stunt, is the representation. Hayek herself is one of the only Latine actors in the MCU as a whole. This movie also sees the talents of Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, and Don Lee join the fight in bringing representation to our screens as a means of making people feel seen.

So, what does Zhao have to say about people calling Eternals a “PR stunt”? The answer might surprise you because Zhao thinks they kind of have a point. And the key to it all is organic representation.

“I would say…they have a point. The key is organic. I think because… for someone like me it’s important to see myself in this world or just be even able to do what I do,” she tells us. “It’d be amazing to see people that look like me, come from where I come from, to be able to do this. At the same time, if it’s forced, it’s not going to do me good. So the key is organic.”

So, yes, the Eternals look, act, and love a certain way, and it does check certain boxes when it comes to representation. But at the end of the day, they are unique individuals who are human at their core and feel organic. Yes, they might be Celestials with powers, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. But when you peel that back, after everything else, they’re just like those who are watching Eternals. And that’s why this movie matters and why you should watch it when it hits theaters on November 5th.