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Trip sponsored by Disney but the opinions/experience are mine. Some interview questions and responses have been edited to improve readability.
While in town for the #ThorRagnarokEvent our group had the opportunity to sit in on the big press conference with Kevin Feige (the President of Marvel), Taika Waititi (Director), Karl Urban (Skurge), Rachel House (Topaz), Jeff Goldblum (the Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and of course Chris Hemsworth (Thor). They were SO much fun all in a room together! I absolutely loved interviewing Taika and he brings his fun and silly personality wherever he goes. It is obvious that this team loved working together. Here are just some of the highlights from the interview, if you want to get a feel for the atmosphere and/or to watch the whole thing, this video runs through the entire press conference (there are some small spoken spoilers the video)!
HOST: Everybody, let’s all sit down together, and enjoy this experience. I want to start – I want to start with Chris. And Chris, what makes this Thor different from the others?
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: 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.
CATE BLANCHETT: We love you, Chris.
TAIKA WAITITI: I love you more now, you see.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Right.
HOST: And 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?
TAIKA WAITITI: 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.
MALE SPEAKER: And they were.
TAIKA WAITITI: But [laughter]
TAIKA WAITITI: 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. [Yeah.] 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. [LAUGHTER] 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.
HOST: I’ll ask Kevin. People are invested in these franchises, and they love these characters. So what made Taika and everybody else here the right fit?
KEVIN FEIGE: 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 story, and yet at the same time expanded each of their characters.
HOST: It really was a fun movie. It’s a fun movie. You sit there and you’re like, ‘Kevin, you guys have done it.’ [Um-hmm.] You’ve worked with Taika before, Rachel, right?
RACHEL HOUSE: Yeah.
HOST: So what’s the difference between ‘big movie’ and ‘little movie’ like?
RACHEL HOUSE: Well, he’s a lot better dressed – [LAUGHTER] – because usually we’re running around in the mud, and the snow, and the rain. So it was wonderful to come in each day and see Taika in a suit, and Italian leather shoes.
TAIKA WAITITI: I didn’t have to make lunch for the crew on this one.
RACHEL HOUSE: No, it’s been wonderful to see Taika so calmly and easily step into the helm of such a big, awesome film. Yeah.
PRESS: Okay. My question is for Taika. This film very early establishes that every shot in the movie could have been a heavy metal album cover.
TAIKI WAITITI: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely.
PRESS: And I would love to know to what your thought process was, and how Kevin reacted when you’re like, ‘I want this to look like a heavy metal album cover.’
TAIKA WAITITI: Well, you know, and to these guys’ credit, you know, they were very supportive right from the beginning. You know, they – yeah, they supported me in this – if you look at all the elements in the film, it’s pretty crazy, you know. If you would describe all of the characters in this film to someone, it’s – it just – yeah, it deserves to have all of that color, and you know, and all of those crazy, curvy designs, and yeah, it’s a bombastic concept that just – you can’t hold back from this thing. So you’ve got – you know, it’s either all in, or nothing.
HOST: Who decided on Led Zeppelin, because there are like 20 rock songs you hear, and everybody gets high – black, yellow, red – whatever.
KEVIN FEIGE: 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.
TAIKA WAITITI: Okay.
KEVIN FEIGE: But he had a sizzle reel. Often times, people come in –
TAIKA WAITITI: I almost didn’t make the meeting because I lost my passport.
KEVIN FEIGE: Right – almost didn’t take – almost didn’t get to the meeting. But he came 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.
TAIKA WAITITI: Yeah.
KEVIN FEIGE: 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.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: I didn’t know that.
TESSA THOMPSON: I forgot that.
PRESS: Mark, this is a question for you. First of all, my wife is extremely jealous that I’m just in the same room as you. [LAUGHTER] But if – are you interested in all in doing a full Hulk movie? This is the first time we’ve seen the Hulk this much. And if so, what aspect of the character would you be most interested in exploring?
MARK RUFFALO: 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.
MARK RUFFALO: And Taika is gonna take all three of those movies and cut it into one movie.
MALE SPEAKER: Yeah.
RACHEL HOUSE: Probably.
MARK RUFFALO: Will you do that?
KEVIN FEIGE: Yeah.
MARK RUFFALO: And that’ll be on the DVD. And me and Taika can own that, right? No.
HOST: Have you thought about that?
KEVIN FEIGE: No, that’s exactly what happened. And it’s – someday, a stand-alone I think would be great, but for the time being, Hulk’s presence in these movies, and certainly now, as Mark has talked about, what we’re going to be able to do with his character arc over these three movies is super exciting.
PRESS: This question’s for Jeff. You’ve been in so many iconic films – what was it like to come into the Marvel universe?
JEFF GOLDBLUM: Hello – hello. Fantastic. Fantastic. [LAUGHTER] 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.
MARK RUFFALO: [CAT SOUNDS]
HOST: I love that you got a ‘skin the cat’ in there.
PRESS: From the poster, there’s, you know, the three of you – Mark, and Chris, and Cate, you know, in this sort of healthy competition sort of tier.
CATE BLANCHETT: Tantric embrace.
PRESS: Yes. So was there healthy competition? How much healthy competition was there on set?
CATE BLANCHETT: A lot.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Yeah.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: That’s why we don’t sit next to each other.
CATE BLANCHETT: Yeah. Mark was always in the middle.
MARK RUFFALO: Yeah. And I’m, and I’m sick of it.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: I mean, we have the New Zealand/Australian competition –
CATE BLANCHETT: Oh, yeah.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: – going.
CATE BLANCHETT: Yeah.
TAIKA WAITITI: Yeah. Well, there’s been very intense robbery between our two nations CHRIS HEMSWORTH: For thousands of –
TAIKA WAITITI: For thousands of years. And –
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Even though my country’s only existed for a couple of hundred – it goes back before that.
CATE BLANCHETT: The [INDISCERNIBLE].
TAIKA WAITITI: Well, I liked to – I mean, you know – you know, apart from the experience of making a big movie, I like to think that the real reason we did this was to bridge the gap –
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Bridge the gap.
TAIKA WAITITI: – between our two nations, [LAUGHTER] and foster some sort of kinship and peace, because the New Zealand/Australian War must end.
CATE BLANCHETT: They don’t need that.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: And it has.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: And we love one another.
CATE BLANCHETT: Yeah.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Truly.
MARK RUFFALO: Yeah.
MARK RUFFALO: And I, I brought them together.
PRESS: Cate, your character is absolutely amazing. You are one bad, you know, just phenomenal –
CATE BLANCHETT: Ass.
PRESS: Bad ass – and you are one bad ass –
TAIKA WAITITI: Don’t say actor.
PRESS: And I appreciate it.
CATE BLANCHETT: Yeah.
PRESS: I do appreciate it.
TAIKA WAITITI: You are one bad actor.
PRESS: You are one bad ass. You are one bad –
CATE BLANCHETT: This is was what it was like every day.
PRESS: And so it leads me to my question. So how was it fighting with Chris?
CATE BLANCHETT: I didn’t do enough of it. I, I kept wanting to do more.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: You wanted to hit me.
CATE BLANCHETT: 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.
CATE BLANCHETT: 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 –
KEVIN FEIGE: Uh-uh.
CATE BLANCHETT: Have I just lost my chance to be in the sequel?
CATE BLANCHETT: 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.
MARK RUFFALO: I’m so glad you’re not the only person he looked at like that.
CATE BLANCHETT: I know. It was the suit that you were wearing. It was really bad.
MARK RUFFALO: He looked disappointed in me a lot.
TAIKA WAITITI: Well –
TAIKA WAITITI: You know.
TAIKA WAITITI: Lucky they don’t have the Oscar category for throwing.
HOST: Let’s go to the next question.
TAIKA WAITITI: Now you’re really good at that, eh?
CATE BLANCHETT: I am.
TAIKA WAITITI: Eh?
PRESS: My question is for Cate, as well, although any of the actors can comment on it, should they choose. I know you’ve had a background in theater. And there’s always been a lot of Shakespeare running through the Thor movies, with scheming families and things along those lines. And so my question is – have you ever played Gonerall, and if you haven’t, do you think Hela would qualify as that style of character? Would she be [INDISCERNIBLE] like that?
CATE BLANCHETT: 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.”
CATE BLANCHETT: That could make the cut in the movie.
TAIKA WAITITI: The first cut.
KEVIN FEIGE: It’ll be on the DVD.
CATE BLANCHETT: 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.
PRESS: Hi. This question is for Chris, and Tom, and anyone else who wants to answer, regarding the Hulk and his dialogue. We see – we hear a lot more dialogue now than we ever have before. Was is that like for you, like, hearing that, because it’s kind of like, childlike, almost in a way. We don’t really hear him talk a lot in other films.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: 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.
MARK RUFFALO: I did, too.
TAIKA WAITITI: 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.’
MARK RUFFALO: I’ll do it.
TAIKA WAITITI: 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.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Yeah.
TAIKA WAITITI: 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.’
TAIKA WAITITI: 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.
PRESS: My question is for Kevin or anybody that would like to answer. Is there any Easter eggs that we can look forward to in the trash piles that we see, both when Thor, and then when Jeff Goldblum’s character lands at the end of the movie, as well?
KEVIN FEIGE: There might be some things in the trash piles. I mean, the biggest – the biggest Easter eggs are on the side of the Saharan palace – right, Taika? There are – there are previous Grandmaster champions that we see, as one for Hulk is being
constructed, and those are all sort of Easter eggs for the deeper comic universe – that may or may not ever show up in the cinematic universe, but we thought it’d be fun to celebrate.
TAIKA WAITITI: Yeah. And in the trash pile, there is one Easter egg, an actual egg.
TAIKA WAITITI: If you were in – yeah, I mean, it’s – it’s one of the small ones – well, it’s one of the tiny little chocolate ones, and it’s a bit of a wide shot.
HOST: I want to ask Karl real quick about coming into this universe, and also – did you feel like – Cate talked about working out 20 minutes a day. Did you go ahead, and were you working out, and getting ready to stand up –
KARL URBAN: It was intense.
HOST: – to that guy right there (Chris)
KARL URBAN: 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?’
KARL URBAN: So I did, you know.
KARL URBAN: 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.
HOST: What was Taika’s go-to song on the set? What was his go-to song? What was
his go-to cut? What was his favorite cut?
MARK RUFFALO: Need somebody to love.
KARL URBAN: I remember Lou Reed. I remember a bit of Lou Reed. I remember –
JEFF GOLDBLUM: A lot of Bowie.
CATE BLANCHETT: Go, go, yabba, yabba was kind of what – that was –
TAIKA WAITITI: Don’t bite your friends. Don’t bite your friends.
CATE BLANCHETT: That was my entrance into Asgard, was don’t – yeah, don’t bite your friends.
TAIKA WAITITI: Don’t bite your friends, from yo, gabba, gabba – oh, I really recommend – Really – if you’ve got children, I really
CATE BLANCHETT: It was my – in a theme song.
TAIKA WAITITI: – playing that song. It’s all about teaching kids not to bite other kids.
TAIKA WAITITI: Don’t – don’t – Don’t bite your friends. Sometimes it’s just a simple message but you know..
CATE BLANCHETT: I mean, you never know what’s gonna trigger an actor, you know.
TAIKA WAITITI: Cate – Cate – don’t bite the other actors.
PRESS: Taika, what was the most difficult part of making this film for you? Like, was there anything that you struggled with? (Taika gesturing wildly/comicly at the actors on the stage)
TAIKA WAITITI: Next question.
TAIKA WAITITI: No – no, please – no, continue. Well what were you going to ask what the most difficult part of making this film was?
PRESS: Well, compared to like, you know –
TAIKA WAITITI: My small films.
TAIKA WAITITI: Yeah. like it was really just like what to choose for lunch.
TAIKA WAITITI: The main thing – there so many options. It’s actually – it’s actually, like, actually keeping your energy up, creatively. Like, my shoots are very short, and I like to work super-fast. All my shoots, about 25 to eight days, and by – by day 30 on this, I was like, ‘Well, no more ideas. I’m done.’
TAIKA WAITITI: And you know, you’ve got 55 more days. And so – so I had to like do some meditation, and like try and chill out, and just – just to kind of keep my – yeah, my creative energy – yeah, just keep it going throughout that whole length of time, ‘cause the – the amount of stress, or the exhaustion really does take its toll, and you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late, and then you can’t feel your legs.
CATE BLANCHETT: But then there’s the whole post. I mean, that’s –
TAIKA WAITITI: Oh, yeah.
CATE BLANCHETT: That’s a whole other –
TAIKA WAITITI: Yeah, my favorite thing is shooting. I love being on set with people, and laughing, and having a great time, and being creative. Then you’re stuck in a dark room with one person, trying to, you know, make sense of this whole thing, you know, for almost a year. And – and then – so that’s a whole new journey of exhaustion. And then you can’t feel your arms after that.
THOR:RAGNAROK opens in theaters November 3rd!