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Angelina Jolie Says Making Eternals Was ‘Therapeutic,’ Allowing Her To Engage With Past Struggles

In Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, Thena – the heroine played by Angelina Jolie – must deal with some notable issues. Without giving too much away, she has a condition that results in her becoming overwhelmed by the thousands of years of memories in her mind, and it leads to stints when she is utterly out of control. It creates a key duality in the character, as she has very dynamic strengths and weaknesses, and it was material that the actor ended up deeply appreciating on a personal and therapeutic level.

As captured in the video above, I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek together recently during the virtual press day for Eternals, and one aspect of the film I specifically asked about was Jolie’s experience playing Thena in the scenes where the character becomes overwhelmed by the past and violently lashes out at her friends and teammates. The Oscar-winner explained that there was actual a fair amount of catharsis in the performance, as it allowed her to access struggles in her own past – but what she appreciated was that the “weakness” doesn’t at all define the character. Said Jolie,

Well, you know, like many people, I have my own struggles with different traumas or things that have happened, and so many of us become overwhelmed by the weight of our lives or our memories. And in some way it was therapeutic to let it come through. And what I liked about her is that she is both – she's also very strong.

In Eternals, Angelina Jolie’s Thena is one of the 10 titular beings who are sent to Earth at the dawn of mankind with the job of shepherding the population to grow and thrive (without direct interference or input). Living on the planet for over 7,000 years and possessing incredible and unique powers, humanity winds up incorporating them into the many myths and legends that are still told today – with Thena specifically inspiring the creation of Athena, the Greek God of wisdom and war.

You can probably guess from that designation that Thena is a spectacular warrior, and she has the ability to conjure/create weapons of pure energy based on a single thought. In Angelina Jolie’s own words, she is very strong – but she also has to deal with key issues that make her vulnerable, and that was a particular complexity that the actor enjoyed the opportunity to play. She explained,

You know, sometimes we present people, 'This is a strong person, and this is a person who's very emotional and broken,' or 'This is a person who's vulnerable, but this...' We are all all of these things. I found her stronger than most people I've ever played. Not because she's a superhero, but because she's actually trying to overcome what she's struggling with.

It’s an emotional and exciting journey that audiences will be able to take with the character in just a few short days. Eternals, which co-stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Kit Harington, and Salma Hayek, arrives in theaters everywhere this Friday – and between now and then we’ll have much more for you from my interviews with the stars and director Chloé Zhao here on CinemaBlend. Be on the lookout for stories, and to discover everything coming up on the big screen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, be sure to check out our Upcoming Marvel Movies guide.

Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.