The Nomadland filmmaker, who this week made history as the first woman of colour to win Best Director at the Oscars, will be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe later this year directing Eternals.
The film, whose star-studded cast includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry and Gemma Chan, is set after Avengers: Endgame and follows an immortal alien race who must protect the Earth.
Speaking to Variety, Marvel president Kevin Feige revealed that Zhao was originally in the running to direct the soon-to-be-released Black Widow film, but took herself off the list.
Instead, Zhao, along with Marvel’s Nate Moore, worked on a “spectacular” pitch for Eternals.
“[It was] a very bold and very ambitious, sprawling 7,000-year story of humanity and our place in the cosmos,” Feige said.
He also revealed that Zhao “was really fighting for practical locations” over greenscreen when it came to filming, with the president describing showing a sample reel to Disney bosses.
“I had to keep saying, ‘This is right out of a camera; there’s no VFX work to this at all!’ Because it was a beautiful sunset, with perfect waves and mist coming up from the shore on this giant cliffside – really impressive stuff,” he recalled.
Eternals comes to cinemas on 5 November 2021.