Tragic Details About The Cast Of Eternals

Marvel Comics, and by extension, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, loves a high-powered massive team-up of superheroes. Following up the otherworldly and fantastical adventures of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy come the Eternals, a timeless and probably immortal race of extraterrestrials from far away who have secretly lived on Earth and among humans for thousands of years. In 2021, the Eternals made their movie debut with the Phase Four MCU entry "Eternals," cast as the heroes who get back together to save the planet and its puny mortal residents from the Deviants, an equally powerful and immortal alien race but who are also evil.

One benefit of a movie with a big cast of characters: It gives filmmakers the opportunity to hire a large and varied swath of actors. "Eternals" features some of Hollywood and international cinema's biggest names as well as rising stars. They've all come together to play characters trying to avoid tragedy, while off-screen in their real lives, many have suffered unspeakable losses and endured trying and troubling situations. Here's a look at the personal tragedies among the cast members of "Eternals."

Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek signed on to her first Marvel Cinematic Universe film with "Eternals," taking on the showcase role of Ajak, the link between the Eternals and the ancient and musical Celestials, who herself possesses similar wisdom as well as the gift of healing others. Filming on "Eternals" began in late 2019, just before the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ensnared Hayek. In May 2021, the actor told Variety that she contracted the coronavirus back in early 2020.

"My doctor begged me to go to the hospital because it was so bad," Hayek said. "I said, 'No, thank you. I'd rather die at home.'" Hayek's condition deteriorated to the point where death was an at least outside possibility. She spent seven weeks self-isolating in a room of her London home, so as to not spread the virus to her husband or daughter. While Hayek never sought hospitalization, she was hooked up to an oxygen tank at one point. More than a year after recovering, Hayek noted she still hadn't reached her previous levels of energy, finding that she could easily wear out. "I had started doing Zooms at one point, but I could only do so many because I would get tired."

Angelina Jolie

In the late 1990s and 2000s, Angelia Jolie was one of the most photographed and talked about celebrities on the planet. After winning an Academy Award for "Girl, Interrupted" and gracing tabloids and gossip blogs because of her sometimes estrangement from famous father Jon Voight and high-profile romances with "Hackers" co-star Jonny Lee Miller, "Pushing Tin" co-star Billy Bob Thornton, and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" co-star Brad Pitt, Jolie also starred in smash hits like "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," " Wanted," and "Maleficent." Not acting as often as she once did, so as to focus on humanitarian work, Jolie has a featured role in Marvel's "Eternals" as Thena, an alien warrior who can turn pure energy into any weapon.

Off-screen, and over the course of many years, Jolie endured a host of mental health issues. According to a former caregiver who spoke to Radar Online, Jolie was briefly hospitalized for anorexia as a teenager. Characterizing herself as "unstable" to ABC News and fighting periods of mental darkness, in 2001, Jolie told IMDb (via The Herald) that she considered taking her own life, but tried to order a hit on herself instead, not wanting to leave her family members with "guilty responsibility."

Kit Harington

As "Eternals" begins, Dane Whitman is a regular human being, employed by the Natural History Museum of London and in a relationship with Sersi (Gemma Chan). In Marvel Comics lore, Dane eventually becomes a superhero operating under the name Black Knight, and in "Eternals," the character is portrayed not-so-coincidentally by Kit Harington, best known for HBO's epic fantasy series "Game of Thrones" where he played the knight-like Jon Snow, a.k.a. "The Black Bastard of the Wall."

Starring on an immensely and enduringly popular TV series rocketed Harington to mega-fame, as well as sex symbol status and earning him a couple of Emmy nominations. But during his "Game of Thrones" years and immediately after, his mental and physical health suffered greatly. In May 2019, according to Page Six, Harington enrolled at Privé-Swiss, a wellness facility in Connecticut to receive psychological coaching, cognitive behavioral therapy, and learn meditation to counter stress, exhaustion, alcohol abuse, and other mental health concerns. "I went through periods of real depression," Harington later told the Sunday Times. "Things that have happened to me since 'Thrones' ended, and that were happening during 'Thrones,' were of a pretty traumatic nature."

Gemma Chan

Model-turned-actor Gemma Chan is a star on the rise, and in the last few years she's broken out big with appearances in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" (Madam Ya Zhou), "Crazy Rich Asians" (Astrid), and "Captain Marvel" (Minn-Erva). Oddly, just two years after making her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, Chan returns to the world of celestial superheroes with a completely different and unrelated role in "Eternals," portraying primary character Sersi, a centuries-old empath and matter manipulator living on Earth and working as a museum curator in London.

Chan was born and raised in London, and that's also where she witnessed a horrifically violent and tragic event in 2012. According to courtroom testimony (via the Evening Standard), Chan was on her way to London's Putney Bridge subway station when she looked up and saw the accused, Frederic Russell, a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, stab 65-year-old Colin Hammond, a stranger, in the throat. "He looked directly at me and stepped towards me," Chan testified. "We stared at each other for about three seconds and then the road started to fill with other people." Chan yelled out for someone to snap a photo of the attacker and also to call an ambulance for the victim. The actor stayed at the scene of the crime until emergency personnel and authorities arrived. Hammond didn't survive the attack, while police arrested Russell a few blocks away.

Kumail Nanjiani

Kumail Nanjiani makes a big impression in "Eternals" as the comical Kingo, an extraterrestrial harvester of cosmic balls of energy who hangs out on Earth in the guise of a dashing Bollywood movie star. In 2017, Nanjiani's career reached a new peak. Previously best known for his stand-up comedy, supporting roles on "Franklin and Bash" and "Silicon Valley," and video game podcast "The Indoor Kids," he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for "The Big Sick," the film which he starred in and co-wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon. Additionally named AFI's Movie of the Year, Best Comedy at the Critics Choice Awards, and taking home a slew of festival prizes, "The Big Sick" is based on the very true story of the early months of Nanjiani and Gordon's relationship. In the film, Nanjiani's character, a comedian named Kumail, dates a graduate student named Emily, but they break up because he's too afraid to tell his traditional, arranged-marriage minded Pakistani parents that he's dating a white American woman. 

Shortly after the split, Emily is hospitalized with an infection and is placed in an induced coma. According to People, the real Emily fell ill, was put into a coma, and was diagnosed with the auto-inflammatory Still's disease, and during her long and serious hospitalization, Nanjiani remained at her side, although in reality they never broke up.

Brian Tyree Henry

Prior to being part of the ensemble cast of a big-budget superhero blockbuster — as tech wizard Phastos in "Eternals" — Brian Tyree Henry co-starred on "Atlanta." On Donald Glover's meditative FX dramedy, Henry portrays Alfred Miles, also known as rapper Paper Boi. In 2018, Henry received an Emmy nomination for "Woods," a showcase episode that found Paper Boi mugged, attacked, and lost in the woods. Throughout the ordeal, Paper Boi grappled with his grief over the loss of his mother, which paralleled Henry's real-life experiences. The episode was dedicated to Henry's mother, Willow Kearse-Rice, who, according to The BayNet, died in a traffic accident in Maryland in May 2016. "Stephanie Robinson, who wrote this episode, really just wanted to — I don't want to say force me to confront what these things were, but at the same time, at least acknowledge the fact that you may not know everything and there is a feeling of being lost," Henry told TV Guide (via The Destin Log).

Henry's grief persisted in such a way that it affected his approach to fame as well as his mental health. "What kills me is everyone's like, 'How do you feel about this Emmy nomination?' My mother's dead," Henry told GQ. "Every time I close my eyes, I hear my necklace bang on her casket. That's the last time I saw her. That's the only thing that gets me out of bed, and it's sometimes the thing that keeps me in it."

Barry Keoghan

Portraying the distant, mind-scrambling Eternal named Druig in Marvel's "Eternals" is the most high-profile role yet for Dublin-born actor Barry Keoghan, up to this point best known for his acclaimed work in Indies and dramas like "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" and "Calm with Horses" as well as bigger projects like "Dunkirk" and the HBO miniseries "Chernobyl." 

On the podcast "Ireland Unfiltered" (via Joe), Keoghan discussed the lack of home stability throughout his childhood. The actor's mother struggled with a heroin addiction, and when Keoghan was five years old, she was no longer able to care for the future star or his brother. Together, they entered Ireland's foster care system, where Keoghan remained until he was 12, living with a total of 13 different homes and families during those seven years. "It becomes one memory, it becomes a montage in your mind," Keoghan said. They'd see their mother once a week, on Saturdays. 

At the age of 12, Keoghan's mother died. "It was the worst day of my life," he said, remembering that he heard the news from his grandmother and aunt, who, according to The Independent, raised him together. Keoghan still honors his mother in his working life. "Before every audition I say a little prayer," to her, he told the Irish Mirror. "Because you want that little push before you go in."

Lia McHugh

A relative newcomer to Hollywood, Lia McHugh had less than a dozen credits to her name before she was cast in Marvel's "Eternals" as Sprite, a an ageless alien being (who takes on the appearance of a child) with the ability to mentally project highly realistic holograms. McHugh is part of a big family of performers, one of five siblings who have all dabbled in film and television, including Flynn, Logan, and Shea McHugh. Leading the way among the acting McHughs is Lia's younger brother, Gavin McHugh, who has appeared as on more than 40 episodes of Fox's procedural drama "9-1-1." 

Like his character, Christopher Diaz, Gavin lives with cerebral palsy. According to Ability Magazine, Gavin was adopted out of Latvia at age two, and after his family moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles so his brothers and sisters could go on auditions, he asked at age five to try out for a project, too, focusing on acting instead of his primary focus at the time: attending kindergarten and learning to cope with the sometimes physically debilitating affects of cerebral palsy.

Harry Styles

"Eternals" is an entry in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and as such, it follows its numerous predecessors in featuring a post-credits scene that teases future Marvel films. The "Eternals" sequence features pop star and international sex symbol Harry Styles turning in a cameo as Eros/Starfox.

Styles has been one half of several high-profile romances during his time as a celebrity, dating Taylor Swift, Olivia Wilde, and, in 2011 during his One Direction days, British TV presenter Caroline Flack. They split in early 2012, according to the BBC, ending a relationship that proved controversial for its age gap — Styles was 17 and Flack 32 when their coupling began.

According to The Sun, Flack was found dead in her London apartment in 2020, with authorities ruling the death a suicide. Hours before she died, Flack learned that she'd be tried for an assault on partner Lewis Burton, an incident captured on police bodycam which depicted her partially undressed and under severe emotional stress. Just after Flack's death, Styles attended the BRIT Awards and wore a black ribbon on his lapel in remembrance.