Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, and Lauren Ridloff, four of the stars of Marvel’s Eternals, were supposed to attend and be honoured at the ELLE Women in Hollywood event the other night but there was a COVID exposure, presumably at the premiere on Monday, and their press schedule has now been modified.
All the women who were recognised at the ELLE celebration, including the Eternals, are featured on their own covers of the magazine’s November 2021 issue and the female Eternals participated in a joint interview.
I’ve not seen the movie yet but everyone I know who has seen it (full reviews are still embargoed) has told me that Lauren Ridloff is one of the best parts of the movie.
Lauren is Marvel’s first deaf superhero, Makkari, and her deafness is her superpower. This is a major move forward for inclusion in pop culture – there’s no bigger spotlight than a Marvel spotlight. As Gemma said:
“I love independent film, but the reality is that maybe a smaller indie film is not going to have that reach. There is something about the potential and the impact that these films can have, which is amazing.”
So for Lauren and her character, she says in conversation with her co-stars that:
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to show representation on the screen. It’s clear, it’s not hidden. Obviously our differences are apparent: our race, our culture, our values, our abilities. But I think our representation, it doesn’t carry the story. It’s not the point of the story, but it’s still refreshing. It’s new.”
On that point, Angelina also added:
“Yes, I agree. That just felt right and balanced. It was about how unique each person was—their soul and their unique force. And what we brought to the table to solve problems together, to work together, was then all the other aspects of who we were.”
It’s clear that all of these women became close on set and also with their director, Chloe Zhao. And closeness also means that they had the space to challenge each other, that they created among them the safety to disagree, sometimes at high volume – which is a point Salma drove home when she recounted a situation where she and Chloe argued over a scene:
“I had some problems with the script and we got into a serious fight at my house. We were both passionate. And [Chloe] was like, “No, but that’s not how I designed it.” The people outside my house were calling it a fight, because we were kind of screaming. We continued to talk and talk, and it went on for a long time. The people outside were so nervous that I was going to get fired. I came out and I said, “Wow, I’m in love with her brain!” That was the best creative conversation I’ve ever had with a director in my life, and she felt the same. She told me, “Wow! That was amazing.” It was just complete freedom. We found our middle ground. While finding it, we came up with other ideas. It was super exciting.
What happened there is that I realized, she’s super strong. She knows what she wants. She had a clear vision of the field. She’s open to hearing, but you have to really make a smart point.”
That’s a great story, and there was a time, maybe it’s still that time, when that story would have gone out and it would have been reported that these bitches were cat-fighting on set. My stupid, ignorant ass might have even been the one to report it that way back in the day. But, hopefully, we’ve learned that we can allow women the same creative space that is allowed for men, mercurial men in the industry known for their “genius” but high-key, combative energy who aren’t described as “hysterical” or “difficult” or “divas” the way women are. And these women are just as invested in the process, in getting to the best performance. Sometimes voices are raised. But as Salma says, it’s over the issue, it’s about the ideas, it’s not personal, and it’s still respectful.
Salma and Angelina became especially close during filming:
“I discovered a soul sister who is similar to me in so many ways. I felt like I’d known [Angie] for my entire life. I got to know her a little better than everyone else, and it’s very precious to me.”
Angelina Jolie has been famous a long time – and known to be famous for many things. But she has not often been seen among other famous women; Angelina has never been part of a celebrity “squad”. The whole “squad” thing has become performative and overplayed, but in this case, with Angelina, seeing in community with a group of female colleagues, it adds another dimension to someone we’ve been intrigued by for so long. For Angelina, it sounds like it’s a new experience for her too, at least on a film set:
“A lot of times as an actress, you’re that individual strong woman, or you have one sister; you don’t often have this family where you really get to know women and see all the different strengths. Gemma’s grace and elegance and the way she walks through the world. Salma’s motherhood and power, and Lauren’s connection and intelligence. Everybody came as themselves. Maybe there’s something to that, that the characters weren’t as far off [from ourselves]. I think there’s a secret that we don’t know that our director knows, because if you look at her films, she casts a lot of real people as their roles and it shapes her films.”
As for these pictures, this is probably, for me, the best Angelina Jolie photo shoot I’ve seen in a while. And we’re learning something that we may not have known about her before – has Angelina Jolie been training for Cirque du Soleil? She looks amazing in these shots and she looks like she’s having a great time. She’s sultry, of course, but also really chill, and playful. There’s one where she’s hanging upside down and her tongue is sticking out and she’s both cool and cute and as free as she’s ever been.
But you see she has that vibe in all of them, some of the most spectacular images of Angelina ever taken – and that’s saying something considering how much she’s been photographed over the years.
Head to ELLE to read the full story.