Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett and Tom Hiddleston Tell Us How ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Different and What’s Next for Marvel
Few superhero films in recent memory have been quite as fun as the latest Marvel offering, “Thor: Ragnarok.” This third Thor film sees the God of Thunder doing some intergalactic traveling, not always to places of his own choosing, while dealing with some pretty interesting family dynamics. Stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson and Mark Ruffalo, along with director Taika Waititi and producer/Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently sat down with us in Beverly Hills to discuss their experiences in making the film.
Bold choices were made in “Thor: Ragnarok” that differentiates it from the two previous films, specifically the injection of much humor and silliness to go along with the action and the heart. Hemsworth credits director Taika Waititi with this shift.
“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,” said the Australian actor. “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.”
Waititi, a New Zealand native who was best known for making quirky indie films such as “Eagle vs Shark” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” spoke about his first foray into the Marvel universe and incorporating his sensibilities into a superhero movie.
“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, yeah, it’s a huge, huge film,” the director recalled. “And what can be distracting on set is if you look over your shoulder, and you see 300 people standing there. And you know, so you – I have to – 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. [Laughs]. 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 of the camera.”
Added Feige, “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.”
Another newcomer to the Marvel world, Cate Blanchett, spoke about playing Hela, the Goddess of Death and Thor and Loki’s sister, who one can probably surmise from her title is the film’s chief villain.
“It was hugely enjoyable for me,” gushed the Oscar winner. “And apart from working with [Hemsworth and co-stars], obviously, the chance to finally, in my deep middle age, to get fit, and to wear that much lycra was really exciting for me.”
Blanchett went on about discuss how when it came to recreating Hela’s almost Gothic-inspired badass look for the silver screen, she went straight to the people who know best, the fans.
“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 fan girls who are doing these extraordinary make-ups online,” she recalled. “And so when we were thinking about what she’d look like visually, I went to that.”
Sibling rivalry is a major theme in “Thor: Ragnarok;” not just with Hela between Thor and Loki. Hiddleston spoke about the brothers’ evolving relationship.
“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.”
While there has been much controversy in Hollywood in recent years regarding the casting of white actors in film adaptations to play characters that were originally written as non-white in the source materials (i.e. Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell,” Tilda Swinton in “Doctor Strange”), “Thor: Ragnarok” goes against this trend by casting Tessa Thompson, an actress of Afro-Panamanian, Mexican and European descent, to play Valkyrie, a character who is white in the original comics. Thompson recalled how she was more concern with physical factors other than the color of her skin when she took on the role.
“You know, the things that I thought about the particulars of Valkyrie had more to do with, like mass and size,” she revealed. “For example, I thought, like ‘Oh, I’m – I’m short,’ you know. Or like, ‘I’m not buff enough.’ Or how – you know, she’s arguably as strong as Thor. How do I stand, you know, next to a person like Chris Hemsworth and feel, and feel like that’s true, you know.”
That’s not to say Thompson was able to completely tune out the bigots on the internet. “I remember someone online saying like, ‘You know, Tessa Thompson playing Valkyrie is white genocide.’ Which is just as mystifying as Norse mythology. “
Much of the aforementioned humor and silliness in “Thor: Ragnarok” takes place on Sakaar, a junkyard of a planet ran by dictator known as the Grandmaster played by Jeff Goldblum. How did it feel for the veteran character actor to enter the Marvel universe?
“Fantastic,” he said with a laugh. “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.”
With a trilogy of stand-alone “Thor” films now out there in the Marvel universe, which character will be the next to carry his or her own movie? According to Ruffalo, his starring in his own Hulk film is becoming less and less of a possibility.
“I would love to do a Hulk movie, and I think we all would love to do one,” explained the actor. “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.”
Added Hemsworth of the Hulk and working with Ruffalo, ”I think, this is my favorite version of the Hulk – is it two – ‘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 sort of 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, and fun that the character then embodies, that – I think it’s fantastic. I loved it.”
With the boys having been front and center in so many of these films, could it be time for the ladies of Marvel to shine? Thompson sure thinks so. “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?’” She revealed.
As for Feige, he does not seem totally averse to this idea of a female-driven Marvel film. “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?’” He recalled.
“Thor: Ragnarok” opens Nov. 3 nationwide.