Thank you, Disney, for hosting me during the Thor: Ragnarok press event. Some interview questions and responses have been edited to improve readability.
Normally on Disney press trips, we have exclusive interviews with the cast, just an actor or two along with 25 bloggers. On the Thor: Ragnarok trip we had a few of those interviews but were also able to attend the official Thor: Ragnarok press conference. The neat thing about the official press conference is that the entire cast is up on stage and you can see their interaction as a group. It’s almost like a sneak peek at what it must have been like on set. With Taika Waititi at the helm, it was no surprise the press conference was hilarious from start to finish.
The official Thor: Ragnarok press conference included Kevin Feige, Karl Urban (Skurge), Rachel House (Topaz), Jeff Goldblum (the Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Director Taika Waititi. I am sharing some of my favorite questions and responses below!
What makes this Thor different from the others?
Taika Waititi, basically. I think we all had a, a vision, and an idea, and a want to do something vastly different than what we’d done before, and take it to a different place. And that meant kind of doing away with what we knew, and just reinventing it, and it all came from his crazy, wonderful brain, and his inspiration, and him pushing us every day on set, and constantly encouraging us to improvise, and explore, and take risks. And it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had on a set, and a film that I feel the most proud of, just because of this – this whole team, and the collaboration, and fun we had.
Taika you kind of brought an independent sensibility to this monstrous film and gave it fun, and a little heart, too. What was the process like for you?
Well, when they first asked me to come and talk to them about making this film, obviously I thought that Marvel had lost their minds, so they’re just hiring anyone now. No – but I came in, and I guess I thought that – I knew my strengths were just like tone, character, and you know, relationships, and things, and I had to ignore the scale of this monster, this beast, you know. It’s a huge, huge film. And what can be distracting on set is if you look over your shoulder, and you see 300 people standing there. And you know, I just had to keep reminding myself what’s more important is what’s inside the rectangle, and usually, it’s two or three people trying to remember their lines. And so it doesn’t matter the scale of the film – that’s always the same, you know. So – so, I just focused down on what I was used to, which was what’s in front of the camera.
People are invested in these franchises, and they love these characters. So what made Taika and everybody else here the right fit?
Well, I mean, Chris sort of said it. We wanted a new sensibility. We wanted to take Thor – and if you look at everything Chris has done as this character, there have been moments of humor – moments of humor throughout. And we wanted to build on that. And if you look at the movie, it’s got the epic action. It’s got Thor arguably more powerful than he’s ever been in any of the films, with his powers going up against the Hulk, but at the same time embracing what Mr. Hemsworth does better than anyone up until now has ever been able to see, which is his acting chops expands to comedy in an amazing, in an amazing way. And Taika giving them the confidence to explore that, and to try things. And most of that is in the movie, because it was on the story, and yet at the same time expanded each of their characters.
I didn’t have to make lunch for the crew on this one.
Who decided on Led Zeppelin because there are like 20 rock songs you hear.
Taika, the first meeting we had, the first meeting, Taika came in. I asked somebody to ask you about your passport adventure, but that can be another day.But he had a sizzle reel. Often times, people come in -Filmmakers sometimes will say, using clips of other movies, ‘Here’s what I have in mind.’ And sometimes they’re not good. Most of the times, they’re okay. His was amazing, and was scored to that Led Zeppelin song. So from the beginning, that song kind of defined what Taika was going to do with this. That it’s in the trailer, that it’s in the film – all from that first meeting, and from one of his first instincts of this movie, is very impressive.
Mark if are you interested in all in doing a full Hulk movie, what aspect of the character would you be most interested in exploring?
I would love to do a Hulk movie, and I think we all would love to do one. But about a year ago, before I even had this part, or were talking about doing this – it was well over a year ago, Kevin had asked me to come over and have a script meeting. And basically he sat me down and he said, ‘What would you like to do if you had a stand-alone Hulk movie?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to do this, this, and this; and this and this – and then this. And then this, and this, and this, and then it would end like this.’ And he’s like, ‘I love that. Let’s do that over the next three movies, starting with Thor 3 and carry it on through Avengers 3 and Avengers 4.’ And so that’s my stand-alone Hulk movie. And Taika is gonna take all three of those movies and cut it into one movie. 😉
Jeff, You’ve been in so many iconic films – what was it like to come into the Marvel universe?
Hello – hello. Fantastic. Fantastic. I like the character, of course, and the opportunities in the character. Joining a group like this, a cast like this is a dream come true. Taika – working with Taika, that was my first, you know, connection point to the movie. We had a meeting, and hit it off, and he said what we were gonna do, and improvise, and have fun. But then, you know, Kevin Feige and Louis D’Espesito, and Victoria Alonso, and Brad Winderbaum – the whole upper tier of creative leaders, do something unique. They know how to make these epic productions, and popular movies, but they want to make good movies. And they somehow uniquely know how to do them, that feels to me like an actorly, workshop-y, character-y, improvisatory, delightful experience – and make a movie that I think skins the cat like this is just – I’m grateful, overwhelmingly grateful.
Cate, how was it fighting with Chris?
I didn’t do enough of it. I, I kept wanting to do more.
You wanted to hit me.
But no, I – look, it was, it was hugely enjoyable for me. And apart from working with these guys, obviously, the chance to finally, in my deep middle age, to get fit, and to wear that much lycra was really exciting for me.But I worked with Chris’ trainer, Zahki for 20 minutes a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but my god, it was intense. And Zoey Bell who is, I mean, an extraordinary actress in her own right, and director in her own right, but she was my – blessed every day with the fact that she was my stunt double, because when I started, I had to manifest these weapons out of my – I’m not spoiling anything by saying that – (Have I just lost my chance to be in the sequel?)
I had to – well, I manifest weapons, and I had to throw them, and I could see Taika’s disappointment as I threw it, I said, ‘Ha.’ And I had to stop making the noises, because I’d go, ‘Ha.’ And so I had to close my mouth. And so eventually Zoey suggested that I put some sugar, which was deeply humiliating – sugar packets in my hand so at least I could throw something and be real. And then – yeah, so Zoey helped me with little things like that. She was a great action director. So I moved from the humiliating to the exhilarating in a matter of five days.
I’m so glad you’re not the only person he looked at like that.
I know. It was the suit that you were wearing. It was really bad.
He looked disappointed in me a lot.
You know. Lucky they don’t have the Oscar category for throwing.
Cate, there’s always been a lot of Shakespeare running through the Thor movies, with scheming families and things along those lines. Do you think Hela would qualify as that style of character?
Well, yes, that’s quite a good comparison. I didn’t think about Shakespeare very much on this one. No, but it was great to, I think – just on a prosaic level, that the language had shifted, you know, enormously in this. It was just, just texturally, it was a huge departure, and as Jeff was referring to, how much improvisation there was, and I’m really upset that the line ‘Dumbos’ didn’t end up – it was one of the – Taika would just keep throwing lines. And there was one day when, when we’re on set, and I had, “I’m the Goddess of the Death, and what are you the God of, again?” And Chris had said, “I’m the God of…”and Taika said, “Dumbos.” That could make the cut in the movie.
The first cut.
It’ll be on the DVD.
Yeah, so the language was quite different. But I – but personally, I mean, I went back to two things, primarily. I went back to the extraordinary images that are there in the original comics, and then I went to the fan base, ‘cause there’s all these Hela fangirls who are doing these extraordinary make-ups online. And so when we were thinking about what she’d look like visually, I went to that. So I started with the visual, rather than the textural, I think.
What’s it like hearing a lot more dialogue from Hulk?
I loved it. I think, this is my favorite version of the Hulk- ‘cause we actually got to act together, you know. We’d only really fought one another on screen in the previous films. And this time around, we got to just sort of improvise our way through it, and sort of invent this chemistry that we hadn’t explored before, and – and to build this new version of the Hulk, which was a little bit more articulate and vocal than he had been prior. And there’s just so much more room for the humor and fun that the character then embodies, that – I think it’s fantastic. I loved it.
I did, too.
When I first talked to Mark about doing the film, the thing we connected on was, I said, ‘Ah, this is going to be – with Neil and I in space, with you and Chris.’ Just trying to get off this planet. You know – we’re going on holiday. And that’s the kind of thing – like those relationships. And I’m really happy about it in the film – is you know, I have the scene on the bed when you guys are making up after the argument
That shouldn’t exist, but it does, and it works. And that’s from – well, where I come from, that’s probably from where we all come from – that’s what, I think, grounds the film a little bit more for the audience, is going, ‘Yeah, that’s right. Superheroes do have to, you know, makeup after arguments, as well, you know.’
He’ll have to do the dishes. So yeah, but that’s what I love about being given the opportunity in this film, is to show that side of these, you know, these really crazy, big characters.
Is there any chance that we could see maybe you doing a Valkyrie solo movie?
Pretty – pretty good idea.
Very good idea.
Yeah – you heard, you heard that first. Recently, I marched up with a couple other women that work in Marvel, and we were like, to Kevin, ‘What about a movie with some female superheroes – just like, all of them.’
It was a pretty amazing moment to be somewhere and have your shoulder get tapped, and turn around, and every female hero we have was standing there going, ‘How about it? And I said, ‘Yes.’
Will chop that.
We’ve been improvising a lot. It’s really hit or miss.
Sometimes it’s good.
But there’s a precedent for it in the comics, right, because there are teams like the Lady Liberators, and –
Deep cut – Lady Liberators – deep cut.
That’s a deep cut, yeah.
There is a change in Thor. Could there be a change in Loki, also?
I did ask Taika if I could get a haircut, as well. But, his answer was a quick, ‘No.’ It’s interesting. I mean, in a way, in this film, it is about, I think – I’m not spoiling anything, but the development of the relationship between Thor and Loki, as brothers, is – Thor has evolved, and grown, and matured; and Loki in a way is stuck in his struggles of the past. And that’s, in a way, that’s the challenge for Loki in this, is that he’s got to confront the fact that time is moving on, and people change, and – so I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see. There’s room to grow, and I’m still here. And we’ll see where he goes next. I’m not going to spoil anything.
Karl, how did it feel working out getting ready to stand up to Chris?
It was intense. Yeah. The working out schedule was rather intense. In fact, Taika came to me and he said, ‘Listen, you need to tone it down. You can’t be bigger than Chris, okay?’ So I did, you know.
Yeah. Yeah. I just had the most amazing time working on this film. And you know, building upon what Jeff said, I feel very blessed to be a part of this family, and to have had the opportunity to work with Taika, and for him to be so well supported by the team at Marvel, and for them to have the courage and the bravery to allow him to just do his thing. And it was a real rarity. And you know, I really appreciated the environment that Taika created on the set. It was fun; it was focused. He would often play music. And there was nothing sacrilegious about a take. You know, he – quite often, you’d be in the middle of a take and he’d go, ‘Oh, try this, or try that.’ And it was just wonderful too – felt like everybody had your back, and we had fun.
Did you miss at all having your hammer as kind of a prop?
Yeah, what do you do with your hands?
That’s right. Where to put them? No, I mean, it was sort of good. It just helped kind of shed anything too familiar. You know, I feel like, well, holding the hammer, or even the wig in the previous costume, certainly just put me in a place, and set me on a path of what I already knew. And I wanted it to unfamiliar, and so everything from the hammer, to the costume, the hair – made me, and allowed me to move differently, and forced me to move differently, and so that was a great thing. And – I don’t really miss it, no. I’ve got one at home. It’s in the toilet, actually.