Chloé Zhao's images and stories feel consistent across different genres and budgets.
I love watching what happens to directors after they win the Academy Awards. Usually doors open and they're able to use larger budgets to take some chances and pursue their dreams. When you look at Chloé Zhao, she was already working with Marvel after her breakout movie The Rider found audiences. In the time she had off after pre-production of the Marvel movie, she gathered a small crew and made her opus, Nomadland, which recently scored her Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture.
As Zhao prepares for The Eternals to come out this summer, she sat down with Variety to talk about how she stays true to herself and bounces from different budgets while finding consistency in her voice.
Obviously, Zhao is working in a Hollywood that has only recently come to terms with the way it treats women and people of color. When asked about how she handles being an Asian female director in the business, she said, "The one thing that I learned really early on is that you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people. Because you can’t change how people think—you can’t control how they’re going to think, how they’re going to behave. But what you can do is make sure the people that are around you not only protect you but want to be with you because of who you are as an individual. I’ve been lucky in my whole career so far. Every single film we’ve made, I’m surrounded by people like that."
Zhao has been a comic book fan and was approached to direct Black Widow but took herself off the list. Instead, she worked out a pitch on The Eternals. It's a movie that will contain a lot more practical effects than Marvel is used to, and is their first venture into a canonically gay character, a deaf character, and generally an incredibly diverse cast from all over the world.
"It’s just been such an incredible experience working with the team at Marvel," Zhao told Variety. "I want to be careful saying 'my vision,' even though I do want people to know they did support what I wanted to do. I want people to know that. But I also want to make sure they know that I got the support of this incredibly talented team, some of the most talented artists in the world. And it really is a village to make this film, but they did let me lead."
It's great to hear the kind of trust Marvel has put into her and her vision. She sounds like she stays grounded and has a dream for her future, which she says she hopes to continue to do movies and stories that inspire her.
"When you’re talking about the scope of films, Alfonso Cuarón and Ang Lee, what they have been able to do, making intimate films, smaller films, but also films on a bigger scale—but you can see that they were able to bring themselves and those two worlds kind of together in a way that still keeps them true to the type of film they are. But you see a throughline. I love that, and I hope I can do that."
Time will tell where Zhao's career goes from here, but she's definitely one of the most interesting and inspiring directors working today. Seek out her past films and get in line for the next ones!
I saw Nomadland and to me it looked like a documentary with a couple of Hollywood actors inserted on it. I will love to see the full documentary and forget the movie part. The real Nomads talking briefly their stories was more powerfull than Frances McDorman. I realised she was an actress, very good, but an actress in the middle of real people. I don’t know if anyone got this feeling? Good to hear
May 1, 2021 at 5:25AM