Kumail Nanjiani Began Counselling to Address Trauma from Marvel’s Eternals Backlash

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Marvel Star Kumail Nanjiani began counselling after Eternals was released to middling reviews from critics.

Speaking on the Inside of You podcast, Nanjiani said Eternals made him realise he was approaching his acting career in the wrong way, by being too focused on other people’s response instead of his own experience. Marvel had expected the ensemble film to be a big success, Nanjiani said, so the backlash was “very, very tough” for him and other cast members.

“I realised that the way I was evaluating what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do was all completely messed up,” Nanjiani said. “I was looking at like, ‘Okay, if I do this, this movie’s going to come out in theatres, it’s going to be a big hit, and I’ll get more.’

It was really, really hard and that’s when I was like, ‘This is unfair to me. It’s unfair to [my wife] Emily. I can’t approach my work this way anymore.

“Then I realised… I did stuff that should’ve been a home run and then it wasn’t, like Eternals. It was an Oscar winning director, one of the craziest casts. You had legends, you had Salma Hayek, you had Angelina Jolie, you had new people who were amazing, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan, who have both been nominated for Oscars.”

Nanjiani therefore expected the film to be a “slam dunk”, especially because he understood the genre and he genuinely enjoyed making it.

“However, when that movie came out and the reviews weren’t good, that was very, very tough for me,” he said. “I realised that too much of how I’m evaluating what I want to do is based on the result or what other people think of it.”

Marvel expected the film to be very well received too, which only added to the pressure of the backlash for Nanjiani.

“It was really, really hard, because Marvel thought that movie was going to be really, really well reviewed,” he said. “They lifted the embargo really early, and they also put it in some fancy movie festivals, and they sent us on a big global tour promoting the movie right as the embargo was lifted.”

Nanjiani continued: “It was really, really hard and that’s when I was like, ‘This is unfair to me. It’s unfair to [my wife] Emily. I can’t approach my work this way anymore, some s**t’s gotta change.’ So very intentionally I did start counselling.

“I still talk to my therapist about that. Emily says that I do have trauma from it. Emily and I just got dinner with someone else from that movie and we were like, ‘Man, that was tough wasn’t it.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah that was really tough.’

“I think we all went through something kind of similar, and this guy that I’m talking about is truly one of the best actors of our generations and has been nominated for an Oscar since then. So I realised I can’t be so results based in my work anymore cause I can’t really control it. I can control my experience. I can control how I am to the people around me. I can control what I learn from it. I can control how I work. I can’t control what people are going to think of it.”

Eternals arrived in November 2021 in an already struggling Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has continued to dwindle since as its latest release, The Marvels, had the franchise’s worst box office performance to date.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.

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