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An ‘Eternals’ TV Series Was Planned Before the Movie and It Was ‘So F—ing Weird’ and the ‘Good Version,’ Says Showrunner

In Entertainment
January 05, 2024

News broke in 2015 that John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years of Slave,” was joining the Marvel family to develop a mystery superhero project for ABC. The network was already home to Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” at the time, and a spinoff series had just been announced prior to the Ridley news. Ridley was already a favorite at the network thanks to the acclaim for his anthology series “American Crime.” Suffice to say, Ridley’s Marvel project never happened.

Flash forward eight years, and Ridley finally revealed on the “Comic Book Club” podcast that he was developing an “Eternals” television series for Marvel long before the studio decided to make an “Eternals” movie with director Chloé Zhao and a cast that included Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie and more.

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“It’s not in the works anymore,” Ridley said.. “It was a television version of ‘The Eternals’… But good. My version was the good version. It was so fucking weird. There was my version, a good version, which is good to me, which — that doesn’t mean anything. There was the version that [Marvel] ended up doing, which I don’t think that version was particularly good. I’ll be honest.”

Marvel’s “Eternals” film was widely viewed as a critical and box office disappointment. The film’s $402 million worldwide gross was far below the usual Marvel standard, although it did open in 2021 amid the pandemic and fell in between Marvel’s other 2021 releases “Black Widow” ($379 million, while also launching on Disney+) and “Shang-Chi” ($432 million). The film had the worst Rotten Tomatoes score (47%) for a Marvel movie until “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” opened this year to even more dismal reviews (46%).

“My version started with…the first thing you see is a young man, probably about 18 years old. And he’s sitting there and then he lifts his hands. He has a drill in it. And he turns the drill on and he puts the drill to his ear and he starts pushing it in. And then it goes from there,” Ridley said. “That’s the start, right? That’s how it starts. And then I think you see another kid…he sleeps in the bathtub, covers himself with foil. It’s just a really weird story about these people who are, I mean, it’s just weird.”

Ridley noted the “Eternals” comics are a “really hard property to develop,” and he totally understands why his television series never got off the ground given how polarizing it was.

“The best thing to happen for everybody was that it didn’t happen with me, because I don’t know that it would have been entertaining,” Ridley added. “And I do mean what’s entertaining to me is often not entertaining. Populist, which is great for a lot of the work I do, but this needed to be a little bit more popular.”

Listen to Ridley’s full appearance on the “Comic Book Club” podcast here.

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