Nanjiani made it clear that Marvel didn’t ask him to transform his body, and that director Chloé Zhao wasn’t too thrilled with his decision.
“Chloé got a little upset at me for getting in shape,” he said. “I shouldn’t say ‘getting in shape.’ For changing my body to look a certain way.”
“I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel like he had to do it for me,” Zhao told the mag about Nanjiani’s transformation.
Nanjiani did say that the physique of other Marvel characters inspired him to get in shape for his role. “If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people,” he said.
The actor admitted that a viral photo he posted of his new body, and the media attention it garnered, has weighed on him, and that it’s “become less and less and less comfortable” discussing his new physical appearance.
“I’ve found out over the last year and a half, since I did that picture, that I am very uncomfortable talking about my body — and it’s become less and less and less comfortable,” he said.
He also admitted that he doesn’t want his body to encourage messages of toxic masculinity either, which he feels might be the case.
“A lot of times, we are taught to be useful by using physical strength or our brain in an aggressive, competitive way. Not in an empathetic way. Not in an open, collaborative way,” he said. “That’s what the male ideal has been: Dominating. Defeating. Crushing. Killing. Destroying. That’s what being jacked is.”
Eternals is in theaters on November 5, 2021.