'I want to make Thor like Chris': Taika Waititi
Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth since 2011, is setting a new record by being the only superhero to have a fourth solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
With Thor: Love And Thunder, Hemsworth will have donned Thor's cape in eight films — four solos and four as part of the Avengers team.
A reason for the Norse god's longevity is his relatability, and that was made possible by Hemsworth, said Kevin Feige and Taika Waititi at an online global press conference last week.
"I’ve become friends with Chris. He is the kind of person that I’d want to be on an adventure with. He's someone you can trust to be there, to look after you like a real-life hero," said Waititi.
The New Zealand director added: "I just wanted to tap into his personality and energy, and sort of make Thor more Chris, really."
Feige agrees. A constant issue they had, said the president of Marvel Studios, was how can they make a Norse god relatable, and how can the audience connect with him.
"Now that audiences respond to everything that Chris can do, we could go to a part four."
Thor: Love And Thunder, now showing in cinemas, picks up after the events in Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Thor’s clearly experiencing an existential crisis, having recently suffered a series of brutal blows. He’s lost family and friends, his home of Asgard, Mjolnir and his battle with Thanos — not to mention his god-like physique.
After making Valkryie (Tessa Thompson) King of New Asgard, he hitched a ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. But his efforts are interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg (Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Dr Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor.
Here, the cast shares their filming experience making the loud and bombastic adventure, and how drama and comedy are blended well together under the skilful hands of Waititi.
Chris, it feels like you and Thor have kind of grown up in life, in the MCU together. What are the qualities in Thor that you relate to the most?
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Yes, definitely, especially since Taika got involved. He brought out the immature, young, adolescent quality that I embody. And so does Thor now, which he didn’t in the earlier films.
It's been fun as the character evolved over the years. There's sort of a set of rules and guidelines in the original film, and you have to stick to it as it's familiar to people.
After that, the challenge is how do you recreate the character? What can you do different each time? That's been the luxury when you work with different directors and different cast, as they all bring out something very different in you. As Taika said, I feel like Thor's probably become more me over the years in, I hope, a fun way (laughs).
Natalie, do you remember the moment when you put on the suit and thought, like, “Oh, yeah. That’s it. I’m Thor.”
NATALIE PORTMAN: Yeah, it was pretty wild. After seeing Chris wear the costume for so many years, and then to try the version on myself... everything was pretty surreal for the first time.
Christian, what was your take when you saw what they wanted Gorr to look like? And then, getting into that transformation physically, emotionally, mentally?
CHRISTIAN BALE: I think in Gorr, they look for an actor polar opposite of Chris. Someone not relatable, a bit of a loner, creepy, someone no one wants to be around, and nobody wants to see his ass. And so, I think they went, “Yeah, we found it in Bale.”
There’s a great pleasure in playing a villain. It’s a lot easier to play a villain than it is to play a hero. Chris had a much tougher job. The beauty of it is that Taika can make it bloody hilarious and then really moving as well in this story. You sort of understand why Gorr is making awful decision. He is a monster, but you understand why he came to be that way.
HEMSWORTH: He's my favorite villain in the MCU. I love everyone I've worked with, but Gorr was particularly special. A lot has to do with what Christian said, there's this empathic quality; there's a vulnerability. He did an incredible job.
What is a day with Taika as the director like?
HEMSWORTH: Chaotic, beautiful, mad... it's a journey of self-discovery, exploration, fun and wacky. There's music playing, and he's standing behind the camera kinda giggling and ruining most of the takes. There's a lot of improvisation. It's the best. His enthusiasm is infectious.
Taika loves these characters and stories. He's sitting there as a fan would tell you what he wants to see, what a family would want to see. He'll ask you to try this or that, no matter how ridiculous it is.
Everyone's on board for it, and this is why you get this spontaneity and unpredictable nature in any of Taika's films.
Christian, did you get a chance to improvise as well? Do you enjoy this type of wacky set?
BALE: I've worked with a lot of directors who enjoy improvisation where you do the script first and then you just see what else you can do beyond that. But what I liked a lot here is the emotion that comes through the ears... Taika just plays music nonstop on the set, and that was fantastic.
Let's talk about the music. There's plenty of Guns N’ Roses...
WAITITI: We just wanted to spend as much money as we possibly could on some songs. It’s always been a dream of mine (laughs). Guns N' Roses was one of my all-time favourite bands.
I wanted the film's aesthetic to be bombastic, loud and colourful, to reflect the spray-painted panel vans of the 1980s and rock album covers. The title treatment is the kind of thing I would've drawn in my books in class when I wasn't listening — I remember spending months and months perfecting the Metallica logo at school.
To reflect that in this crazy adventure we're presenting is a dream come true.
Along with being a fun cosmic Viking thrill ride, there's a lot of loss and tragedy these characters are dealing with. How do you find that balance?
THOMPSON: That's what's so fun about these movies. In between the pathos, there is ridiculousness and fun. That's something Taika has always done really, really well in his films. And in this one especially, I feel like he really was excited to lean in to the emotion in a way that felt really rich for us.
WAITITI: A lot of it is found in post-production. We try to do as much as possible on set to harvest the moments. Then you take it back to the kitchen to figure out what the actual dish is. A lot of times it is also through testing the film and seeing what audiences respond to, and sometimes you got to get rid of jokes or get rid of moments... it's just a balancing act. That's why it takes a year to finish these films.
It's been a long journey and we worked really, really hard to make something that audiences will love. After a couple of years of being stuck at home, or having to go through a lot of hardships, I think it's really nice to be able to celebrate things like love and thunder, whatever that means in your life.