That makes her the first woman of color to direct a Marvel film and only the second woman after Cate Shortland was hired in July to direct the long-in-the-works "Black Widow" movie.
Comic legend Jack Kirby created "The Eternals" in the '70s: It's about cosmic beings called Celestials who create a race of super-powered humans, including the evil Deviants.
According to The Wrap, the movie will likely focus on the Eternal known as Sersi, aka Circe, the mythic enchantress who turned Odysseus's sailors into pigs in "The Odyssey." In modern times, she's a NYC socialite who has served as a member of the Avengers.
Zhao's "The Rider" has received several international awards and was nominated for Best Director, Editing, Cinematography and Best Feature at this year's Independent Spirit Awards.
At the Istanbul Film Festival, it won a top prize "for its touching portrayal of the fragility of masculinity within an aesthetic style which combines realistic storytelling with subtle visual poetry."
Director Werner Herzog presented it with the Golden Puffin award at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, praising its "uncommon sensitivity, exceptional camerawork, heartbreaking performances from non-actors and its remarkable ability to re-examine the concept of American masculinity."
According to Variety, Marvel execs were so impressed after their meeting with Zhao, they rushed to book her before she could be hired elsewhere.