Salma Hayek playing Ajak in Marvel Studios’ upcoming superhero movie Eternals almost didn’t happen. The veteran Latina actress renowned for her beauty had misgivings about why she was chosen for the role of the matriarch of the MCU’s cosmic immortal race.
What were those misgivings about and were they justified for almost missing out on being part of the Marvel Phase Four film? Read on to find out more.
Salma Hayek has always been regarded as one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood, in any generation. Of Lebanese and Mexican descent, the actress’s exotic and stunning good looks helped launch her career in the 1990s.
After playing bit parts in low budget film, her first big break came after director Robert Rodriguez cast her in the action film Desperado (1995) opposite Antonio Banderas. She would later play the memorable vampire queen Satanico Pandemonium in the cult classic action horror movie, From Dusk till Dawn (1996). After several years playing different roles, she truly made her mark as an actress in the 2002 biographical drama Frida, playing the title role of surrealist Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Hayek would continue to be active in Hollywood over the succeeding two decades. She has established her own production company, Ventanarosa, which has recently signed a partnership with HBO Max. She has also been active in charitable and philanthropic work.
It was during the San Diego Comic Con 2019 that Salma Hayek was confirmed to be included in the cast of Marvel Studios’ Eternals for the role of Ajak.
But the Eternals casting was not exactly a smooth discussion. Hayek had apprehensions, and for an amusing reason, at that.
— Eternals (@TheEternals) August 18, 2021
In the interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress shared her initial reaction and thoughts to the casting call for the role of the Eternals’ Ajak:
I said, 'Forget it,’ I said, 'God knows what kind of grandmother they want me to play.' I'm used to being told I'm going to be the extra or the old prostitute. And then they said the director was Chloé Zhao, and I said, 'Okay! Let's have the meeting!
It’s interesting to think that Hayek, with her gorgeous looks and well-maintained figure would be considered for the role of a grandmother. More so, that it would be the actress herself who would think this to be the case.
But just as Hayek relates, the appeal of having Chloé Zhao being in the director’s chair was too good an opportunity to pass up. The Oscar award winning director of Nomadland (2020) has been building a reputation for culturally rich filmmaking with diverse casts. This reputation is likely the main attraction and motivation for Hayek to finally take the role of Ajak in Eternals.
Who is Ajak?
Created by the legendary Jack "The King" Kirby, Ajak first appeared in Eternals #2 (August 1976). In the original comic book story, Ajak is a male Eternal who was mistaken for the Greek hero Ajax.
Ajak was the Eternal that had a direct communication with the space-faring cosmic gods, the Celestials. He spent a long period of time in the South American region, with the Aztecs who worshipped him as the god Quetzalcoatl while the Incas mistook him to be the god Tecumotzin. Ajak would later reconnect with his fellow Eternals to deal with the return of the all-powerful Celestials.
Ajak would play different roles in the course of the Marvel Comics history, sometimes as an ally of superheroes and other times as the pawn of malevolent forces. Ajak has been seemingly killed and resurrected multiple times.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it appears Ajak will be taking the role of Zuras, who was the leader of the Earth-bound Eternals. Based on the description as spiritual leader of the Eternals, Hayek’s Ajak will be the guide of these immortal superhumans in dealing with their ancient enemies, the Deviants.
So far, Salma Hayek's Ajak has been portrayed as being ambivalent toward the decision made by the Avengers, particularly Tony Stark/Iron Man, to bring back the population that Thanos snapped away during the course of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. This is mainly due to the consequence of igniting an event called the "Emergence" that may be even worse.
Final trailer reactions
The first trailer for Marvel Studios’ Eternals was released only this May 24, 2021. But the newest trailer is reportedly the official final trailer for the film.
With over two months still away from the theatrical release of the movie, fans have continued to show mixed reactions as to what has been revealed so far. With no new trailers potentially coming, there are concerns that the marketing for Eternals is rather thin.
This is concerning in light of the fact that the Eternals film had an initial targeted release of November 2020 and moved to February 2021. With only two full trailers, there does not seem to be a lot of hype for the film about MCU’s godlike race.
But based on Hayek’s enthusiasm and faith in the script and the direction of Zhao, Eternals may prove to be a surprise hit in the making.
Marvel’s Eternals stars Salma Hayek as Ajak, Gemma Chan as Sersi, , Richard Madden as Ikaris, Angelina Jolie as Thena, Kit Harington as Dane Whitman/The Black Knight, Barry Keoghan as Druig, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, and Don Lee as Gilgamesh.
Directed by Chloé Zhao, Marvel’s Eternals will land in theaters on November 5, 2021.