Warning: Minor Eternals spoilers ahead.
The film's romantic storyline involving two extraterrestrial, Earth-protecting immortals was inspired by The Notebook, the popular 2004 weeper starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Only the tortured on-off relationship between Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Gemma Chan (Sersi) in Eternals spans a good 5,000 years.
“There's this feeling of characters that were in love and now they have to reunite [after] they have changed,” director and co-writer Chloé Zhao recently confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment (watch above), while also citing the 1942 classic Casablanca and Ang Lee’s acclaimed 2007 drama Lust, Caution as influences. “And how they can find each other again.”
While Moore and Zhao used The Notebook as a reference point in the development process, that detail was was never relayed to its cast.
“They didn’t tell us that,” longtime friends Madden and Chan responded almost in unison.
“I'm just going to come straight out there and say, I've never seen The Notebook,” said Kit Harington, whose Dane Whitman is the third cog in the film’s love triangle involving two former Stark brothers from Game of Thrones.
Chan sees the similarities, though: “They've been through everything together,” she said of Sersi and Ikarus. “They've seen everything, [so we talked about] what keeps bringing them back together.”
We’ve documented how much ground Eternals breaks when it comes to representation in the MCU. But the film also surprised early viewers by including the Disney-owned Marvel’s very first sex scene in 26 movies — albeit one that’s decidedly PG-rated.
“You can't tell a love story [without it],” Zhao said. “I mean, you can, but it's always a plus to see how these two characters relate to each other physically. … It's a very mature romance that they have.”
The Oscar-winning director of acclaimed indies Nomadland and The Rider has frequently discussed how much freedom she was given entering the MCU. But including the studio’s first love scene wasn’t her idea.
“It was written into the treatment when I read it, it remained in the script,” she said. “Gemma and Richard did a wonderful job, [filming it during] the last light of the day. [It was a] very sort of intimate moment they had and we captured it. We edited together. We did show the folks at Disney and they loved it. They thought it was really beautiful. So there was not really a discussion. It just stayed in the film.”
Chan, who previously co-starred as the Kree sniper Minn-erva in 2019’s Captain Marvel, admits she was surprised to find out about the boundary-pushing sequence.
“But I feel that, with the characters, to me it’s more intimacy between them,” she said. “They’ve been around so long and they’ve been living among humanity. That’s part of it.”
Eternals is now playing.
— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Watch Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and more talk about the power of the film’s diversity: