Richard Madden and Gemma Chan don’t quite remember how they met.
“I think we met through some mutual friends and we ended up together and just got along,” Madden said.
Longtime Friends star as lovers in Marvel’s epic “The Eternals,” about an ancient race of powerful beings who fight against interference in matters affecting humanity.
After Madden was first cast as Ikaris, a Superman-like hero with superpowers and laser vision, director Chloe Zhao struggled to find an actor to play his romantic counterpart Sersi.
“I always try to use as much of real life as possible,” the director said. “We read so many women for Sersi, but we still couldn’t make up our minds. And then Richard says, “You should read my friend Gemma Chan. We’re really close. ” So we invited Gemma to read with Richard, but also with her. Immediately we thought, “My God, this is our Sersi.” She just walked in and she was Sersi.
Chan’s casting also passed despite her role as a completely different MCU character, Minn-Erva, in Captain Marvel’s 2019.
Sersi, an empathetic hero with the ability to change matter, and Ikaris have a romance that spans over 5,000 years, an intimacy that the actors were easy to get into due to their real connection.
“I think that the two of them have ten years of marriage, and then they will play these difficult lovers, on whom the weight of the world rests on their shoulders, and then they can still find love for each other – I am very grateful for the time that they spent in real life because I’m sure they brought it with them in a way that I could never have predicted, ”Zhao said.
The Times contacted Madden and Chan to discuss working with Zhao, their superhero mes-ups of their dreams, and joining the MCU at this point in the game.
Spoiler alert: This interview is about the Eternals’ ending and the fate of some key characters. There will be one more warning before discussing these details.
Have you become your personal favorite of Eternal?
Richard Madden: Absolutely. And the best suit I think [laughs]…
Gemma Chan: Everyone had been abandoned before me, so I had no choice.
What attracted you in particular to Sersi and Ikaris?
RM: This is the concept of a person who is 5,000 years old. For me, as an actor, it was a really fascinating concept, when I got into the free space of a person who lived a thousand lives, saw and did everything, but still tries to find some kind of joy and purpose in every day. I think this is one of the reasons why Ikaris is so attracted to Sersi, the beauty she sees in the world that he sometimes does not see. I think that’s part of what he likes about her.
GC: Around the time I was chosen, because of everything that was happening in the world, I also sometimes felt quite jaded and cynical. So I really enjoyed being able to [embody] a character who looked at the world with more hopeful eyes. It was interesting to imagine that we have existed for thousands of years, seeing the worst in humanity and still deciding to believe in the best that we can do.
Sersi [comes] from a place where she is completely unsure, in fact not aware of the extent of her abilities, does not have the strongest convictions and the loudest voice in the room, but by the end of the film she has turned into herself and is learning to trust her instincts and show her strength. It was a really interesting arch. And then also exploring her relationship, how does it feel if you’ve been with someone for millennia? How do you play it?
What was it like working with Chloe Zhao, especially in the scenes you shared where her artistic flair seems most evident?
RM: Something really great about Chloe is that she lets the camera linger on you before and after the scene. And she manages to capture the quieter moments between these characters before you think the camera is rolling, or after you think the cutting was caused. She digs in those moments and really gets a subtle picture of these people, which with 10 different characters is difficult to do in the time we have.
GC: It’s hard to find very intimate moments in a film of this magnitude. We were encouraged to improvise and the camera just followed us and it was actually a really useful way to discover the dynamics between these characters. Most of the time we tried to make each other laugh and found joy in those moments that are rare in films of this size, where there is so much spectacle.
Gemma, how did it feel to return to the MCU and how was the experience different from Captain Marvel?
GC: I am very lucky to be back. I certainly didn’t expect to be back so soon. It was great not to be dyed blue this time, spending four hours in the makeup chair every morning. It’s just fun to go back to a completely different project and tone and get started with an amazing group of people. I was very lucky.
And Richard, you’re no stranger to being part of a franchise with a built-in fanbase. How was it for you to join the MCU?
RM: It was really exciting. As for Game of Thrones, I didn’t know much about it before I started, but I knew a lot about the MCU. I saw and loved every movie, so it was unrealistic to join something that you watched from the outside. To get into scenes where we mention Thanos or the events that happened, you say, “I know this from the movie!” But now, being part of this universe is truly special. I’m such a big fan of what Marvel has done, so I’m honored to participate.
How do you feel when you enter the MCU at this stage, when the universe is a huge, sprawling, interconnected web?
RM: It’s a really exciting opportunity to appear in this film as characters who have been there and have experienced it all. It really adds another dimension to this world that we already know and love.
GC: It felt like a unique opportunity to tell a story like this, which is a bit of a departure from Marvel. Having made one film already, I jumped at the opportunity to come back and make a film that is so epic, intimate and has truly character-driven moments, but also takes place on such an epic time scale. It’s exciting and a little risky not to know how the public will react to it.
Do you think the Eternals could take over Thanos?
RM: I do not know. I mean, I would like to try [laughs]…
GC: I think we would do it well.
Which Marvel character or team would you most like to see the Eternals crossover with?
RM: I’d love to see a bit of Ikaris and Iron Man. I would love to see them fly and do some damage, that would be fun.
GC: I would say Thor and Valkyrie. I think Sersi and Valkyrie could get drunk together, stay up all night and laugh.
You two share the most memorable sex scene in the MCU. What was it like filming, and did friendship make it easier or harder for so long?
RM: I would say a little easier, because Gemma and I are at ease and trust each other. Often these scenes happen to actors you’ve only known for a week or a month, and it’s really unsettling. Since we’ve been friends for so long, we know how to take care of each other in a situation that neither of the participants likes. We were also on the street, so there were a lot of elements. [baked in] that run counter to comfort.
GC: I’m glad Richard was there because he can be very vulnerable and it’s important that this trust be there.
One final warning: spoilers for the Eternals finale follow. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, come back as soon as you watch.
After everything that’s happened, Ikaris is definitely dead, right? How poetic do you think his decision to fly to the sun was?
RM: I think this was the only way out. It was his release and release from responsibility, at last, after all this time he had borne all this burden. I felt that this was the fairest way to end his story because I think he is heartbroken for disappointing those closest to him. For the first time, he admitted that he has a heart and he did wrong, so he punishes himself.
GC: I don’t think he’s necessarily dead. Everything can happen. The Eternals store their memories in the World Forge so they can create another Ikaris.
Richard, could you do this role? Or follow the path of Gemma and return as a completely different character?
RM: I don’t know what the future holds. Let’s see what happens.
Times staff writer Tracy Brown contributed to this report.