Kumail Nanjiani once auditioned for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., turned down other Marvel roles
The Eternals star was playing the long game to get his dream Marvel role.
In a new cover story for Men's Health magazine — for which he poses as Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, and Christian Bale in American Psycho in a thirst trap photo shoot — Nanjiani recalls how he once auditioned for Marvel's first live-action TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but didn't get the part. He also says he turned down other supporting roles in various Marvel projects because he was looking for something bigger. More... eternal?
“It was a pipe dream. But I was very strategic about it," Nanjiani says of wanting to follow in the steps of Chris Pratt and Paul Rudd, comedians who landed leading Marvel movie parts. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to be just part of a Marvel movie; I want to be a Marvel superhero,'" he adds.
That time came with The Eternals, directed by Chloé Zhao. The film, set for release this Nov. 6, centers on the titular group of immortal aliens who came to earth long ago to defend it against enemies known as The Deviants. Angelina Jolie and Game of Thrones veterans Kit Harington and Richard Madden also star.
In the present day, Nanjiani says his character, the arrogant Kingo, is living life as a buff Bollywood star. The actor likens the role to Bruce Willis in Die Hard, a film he also emulates in the photo shoot. “That movie’s life-or-death, and Eternals is life-or-death, too,” Nanjiani explains. “I was like, ‘How can a character crack wise but still have tension, and not make it feel like you’re making fun of the whole thing?'"
Zhao tells Men's Health how she wanted her actor to have "the freedom to interpret his character, especially his physicality." So, he looked to Hrithik Roshan, a Bollywood star who played superhero Krrish in a series of films, for inspiration. “I went to my trainer and said, ‘I want to look like this guy,'" he says. And now he does.