What Eternals’ Kumail Nanjiani Learned About Hollywood Icons Like Tom Cruise While Prepping For His MCU Debut

Kumail Nanjiani in Eternals
(Image credit: Disney)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe recently expanded in a major way with Chloé Zhao’s Eternals. The story spanned hundreds of years and introduced a ton of new characters, including Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo. And Nanjiani recently explained what he learned about Hollywood icons like Tom Cruise while prepping for his MCU debut.

Eternals marks a possible career-changing gig for Kumail Nanjiani, who also put on pounds of muscle to portray his massively powerful character. He did a ton of research to play Kingo, including reading Marvel comics and simply watching badass movie stars in action. Nanjiani spoke to his history with the film industry, saying:

I grew up watching Bollywood movies, and I knew all the people I was a big fan of [including Hrithik Roshan] and that I wanted to base him on. I watched a lot of their interviews, not necessarily their performances. For the action stuff, I watched Zorro, Errol Flynn, and old school swashbuckling movies. And I watched a bunch of iconic movie stars in their iconic roles: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Denzel, etc., to try and see what it is about these guys that makes them movie stars.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a decidedly modern franchise, it is also inspired by some classic cinema of the past. And before Kumail Nanjiani suited up as Kingo alongside his fellow Eternals, he wanted to take some time to see how action stars did their thing in iconic movies. And those efforts really paid off, as Nanjiani was a scene-stealer throughout the movie’s lengthy runtime. 

Kumail Nanjiani’s comments to United Hemispheres helps to show some of the non-Marvel work that the Silicon Valley alum put into his Eternals role. In addition to learning fight choreography and transforming his body, Nanjiani also watched a ton of movies outside of the comic book genre. 

Later in that same interview, Kumail Nanjiani explained what he learned from re-watching those iconic performances. It seems the Eternals actor has categorized classic leading men in two distinct categories. As Nanjiani went on to put it,

What I found was how often these movie stars have a big piece of themselves, or that persona, in every performance. With Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix—unbelievable actors—they’re completely different each time, whereas with someone like Tom Cruise or Will Smith, there’s always a Cruise or Smith essence. To be able to watch Independence Day at 10 in the morning because it was research was pretty great.

Well, there you have it. Despite Eternals being a very unique cosmic story set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kumail Nanjiani was still able to take some lessons from greats like Daniel-Day Lewis, Tom Cruise, and Joaquin Phoenix. And since his character Kingo was a Bollywood star in-universe, the research was doubly effective. 

As previously mentioned, Kumail Nanjiani got to be a real scene-stealer throughout the course of Eternals. In addition to his bloated ego, his relationship with valet Karun (Harish Patel) was a particularly delightful running joke. 

From the looks of Eternalscredits scenes, Kumail Nanjiani is going to have an important role in future storytelling. It should be interesting to see how the cosmic heroes interact with other MCU characters, especially Nanjiani’s Kingo. One thing is clear: they need to give Karun a spinoff on Disney+.

Eternals is in theaters now and the next installment in the MCU is Spider-Man: No Way Home on December 17th. In the meantime, check out the 2021 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.