The approach of Thor: Ragnarok can't be stopped, and judging from our interview with Chris Hemsworth, the release date can't get here soon enough. That's down to reasons that most Marvel fans can now guess, going by the trailer's soundtrack, visual style, and emphasis on comedy. It's all part of what's sounding more and more like an effective Thor movie reboot for the next phase of the MCU's cosmic Infinity War. But that doesn't mean what comes next will be more entertaining or thrilling than what Ragnarok has in store.
There's a new form of brotherly friendship between Thor and Hulk, the groundwork being laid for The Avengers: Infinity War, and of course, whether Thor will ever become King of Asgard. We got the chance to speak with Hemsworth on the set of Ragnarok, and got to the bottom of these questions and more. Including, we're sorry to say, his break-up with Jane Foster.
Can you talk about the arc of Thor? We talked to Brad Winderbaum and he gave us some insights into it. In the first movie, obviously he has to learn a lesson in humility and then in the second movie he evolves from there. Is this basically a completion of Thor becoming the king that he’s meant to be?
It’s obviously kind of… a lot of Thor’s story is about, as you say from the first film, being the rightful king and earning that right to take that position of power and taking on responsibility. At the end of the second film he’s pulling away from it. I think there’s still kind of a reluctance, you know, with it all. I think he’s spent a lot of time on earth, he’s part of that team now and that world. And we ended Avengers with him saying there’s something going on out there. 'There’s some bigger questions I need answered.'
So he’s on this personal journey to do his own discovery, find these answers for himself. And then his - what would you call it, his origin or his home - calls him back, or has drawn him back now and he’s drawn to this thing. So there is a reluctance, it’s not necessarily him trying to now become the king. He kind of has no choice, I think.
And then he gets completely torn out of anything familiar and it shifts again and this is, tonally, where the whole film sort of shifts and we’re on different worlds that we haven’t seen before. There’s different looks to a lot of the characters. There’s different dynamics. I think the coupling of myself working with Ruffalo as well, brought out a whole new tone in both our characters, which we were like, ‘Wow, this is very far. Is this too far,’ you know? And Taika said ‘It’s good, let’s play with that. Let’s send it, you know, off world and then we’ll meet at somewhere in the middle.’
And that’s been really enjoyable because it’s kept us on our toes. I think it’s going to keep audiences on their toes, too. It’s a whole different energy, look, feel to any of the Thor films we’ve seen before. And I think even different to any Marvel films, you know, which is great.
Taika Waititi said he’s bringing more humor than before. He said he loved how it worked in the first two, it just wasn’t enough. So what has that changed in what you’re bringing to the character?
Well I always felt the same. I felt in the first film we had a lot of 'fish out of water' humor, and it was the origin story, so there was a lot of naiveté and it was sort of… Crocodile Dundee kind of humor [laughter]. That was something we’d laugh about. And so in the second film, tonally because of the story, that didn’t lend itself to many opportunities to have those moments of humor. And I missed that. At the time I was like ‘Ah c’mon, where can we put in some more stuff here, and have more fun?’
Then when I saw the film, I was happy with it, but I thought the next one’s got to be more fun. And I was a big fan of Taika’s work and in all of his films, he strikes this beautiful balance of humor and heart. You know, it’s all grounded in a reality we can kind of relate to. But it’s fun and enjoyable. And that’s what we’re gonna do with this.
So with, again what I said before about pushing it in that direction, this could be a flat-out comedy in one edit, or we could pull it back and meet in the middle. But I’ve never improvised so much within character, which has been really exciting. You know, Taika will just yell suggestions while rolling: ‘Try this, try that’ and so on. And that has, I think really changed the game for myself or for the film.
You mentioned the 'fish out of water' comedy. Now that Thor is a much more knowing character, and he's come into his own in a new way, how are you finding new shades of humor in that version?
So the situational comedy, as far as the world we’re in, he’s very much a fish out of water, again, I guess. And the situations he finds himself in are very much removed from any kind of Asgardian, ethereal tone we had before. But there’s a greater awareness now, obviously… there’s a maturity to him so we can’t go back and make him completely adolescent like he may have felt in the first one at times.
I think it takes a lot more work, in that sense, to go ‘Okay what specifically here, would we expect Thor to do or say?’ And then how can we come at it from the other direction? And that lends into going ‘Oh, this doesn’t even feel like the character anymore’ [laughs], which I think is a good thing. It’s got to sort of scare you at times. That’s when the more interesting things happen.
One of the more fascinating parts of the franchise has been the relationship between Thor and Loki. Obviously they’re brothers, but they’re always at odds. It seems like you guys are working together even more this time as allies than in The Dark World...?
Aww, not really [laughter]. Yeah, without giving too much away… It was one thing I said, was that I didn’t want to repeat that relationship either. And I think Tom felt the same. All of us were like ‘What can we do again here?’ And… Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m walking a fine line of what I can give away. But I think there’s a bit of a reversal.
You know, in the first films, a lot of the time you’re seeing Thor going ‘Come back Loki!' And I think there’s a feeling from Thor now that’s just like, ‘You know what kid? Do what you want. You’re a screw up, so whatever. Do your thing.’ So there’s a bit of that which is fun, but also something we haven’t sort of played with as much.
The cat came out of the bag online and then they told us today: Dr. Strange is going to be popping up.
Oh yeah? Oh do you know that too? Okay [laughs]. It’s online, right? Is it? Sure. Oh yes. Yeah, yeah, right. Okay.
I was going to say, how was it with Benedict for the first time? I’m assuming you haven’t filmed that yet?
Uhhhhh... He’s fantastic. But, um, yeah... I don’t know. Sorry man. I don’t know what’s online and what was referenced. Sorry.
You’re working with Cate Blanchett in this film. What have you been able to teach her about acting?
[Laughs] Oh you know, that’s been a real bore. She’s like ‘Chris, please, I don’t know how to approach this scene, I don’t know how to walk properly, I don’t know how to talk, the accent.’ That’s been exhausting having to kinda teach her, as you say. Um… Oh, I’m in love with Cate. And, you know, my wife is too so I can say that [laughs]. She’s just, you know, insanely funny and smart and talented. Sort of too good to be true. You know, like, what’s the catch?
When she came on set - Tom was talking about this yesterday - we were talking about villains. What could people do different, and so on, and what have you seen? I remember thinking ‘I wonder what she’s going to do.’ And I sort of had an image in my head, and she came on and I thought ‘Oh wow, okay. That’s what you do if you’re Cate Blanchett.’ And that’s why she is who she is.
It’s so far from anything I’ve seen before, and as intimidating and scary as it is interesting. And you have an empathetic, you know, view or feeling toward her a lot of the time from what she’s doing. You know, you kind of go ‘Ahh, she’s got a point maybe’ [laughs]. And then you’ve got to remind yourself ‘No, she’s trying to kill us all.’
When villains are just bad, you’re like ‘Yeah, okay cool but it’s boring.’ But she has worked really hard. At the start of the film, or sort of pre-production, I was saying ‘Yeah, but what does she really want?’ What is it that Cate can kind of relate to here and say ‘Oh okay, I get what she is and her frustration, what’s driving her.'
You’ve got somebody you’re working with we believe in the next couple of weeks, Jeff Goldblum.
What are you anticipating from that? Have you talked to your brother (who just worked with him on Independence Day)?
Yeah, Liam loves him. I think he’s Liam’s favorite person in the world. Seriously, he had such a great time with him when they did the press tour. And he talked to me about Jeff more than the film, you know? And I saw, there was a… Have you guys seen that lightbulb commercial he did?
Okay! So… [Laughs] I’d never seen that, so I was like ‘Oh yeah, Jeff Goldblum. He’s a good actor, and yeah he’s funny, you know.’ But then I saw that commercial... oh my God. And that felt, I feel, in a big way, sort of auditioning for the film. There’s many colors of that character, I think, I hope will be in this film. Certainly on the page, there were some tonal similarities.
We’ve heard that when Thor meets Valkyrie, he’s a bit of a fan - that he’s heard about her. Can you speak to that?
Yeah, it’s like Thor’s meeting his hero. And he’s absolutely smitten by her and because of her history and being a Valkyrie and all of that. But she’s also this beautiful woman, so he’s kind of caught off guard. And she can, you know, she could beat the s*** out of him if she wanted.
So I think he hasn’t come up against that very often. It certainly wasn’t the case with Jane. There was a whole different affection and love there. So that was another, you know, ‘How can we make that different from the previous one?’
So Thor is just over Jane now?
Umm, no we have this, we have some… some very respectable fun with how that relationship may have come to an end [laughter].
It seems like Thor has met, physically, more of a match in this film than he has in past ones. That’s got to be more fun for you to play, knowing maybe you don’t really get to win this fight.
Yeah, for sure. And that’s always the thing when… you know, the origin story is always so—there’s so much room there because you get to start from nothing and they earn that right. And then they to get to the end of the film, and they’re the hero, and they’re strong. And then you come to the next film and it’s like ‘How do we break them down again?’ And so removing Thor from his environment and his world where he, you know, dominated a lot of the fight scenes and so on, and putting him in a situation where all of sudden he’s fairly equal with everybody, and he’s perhaps going to use his brain more, or as much as his brawn was, I think, a smart thing for the writers to do. Yeah, he’s up against it the whole way through this and... No step he takes is easy when he’s climbing this particular mountain.
Tessa said earlier that you helped her deal with some of the criticism her casting received because of your experience to backlash on Ghostbusters.
Yeah… I can’t remember what I said. I mean, the criticism… I try not to pay too much attention to it. I know when, I think she brought it up or someone brought it up and I said, ‘You know what, it’s far easier to kind of point out the negatives in things.’ And people do, unfortunately. And that negative tone is often louder than the positive one, unfortunately. And it is what it is, and next week they’ll have something else to complain about and so on, you know.
At the end of the day she was the best person for the job, and when people see her play that character they’ll absolutely agree. She’s pretty fantastic. And physically capable. You know, you have some people who come in and kinda... ‘Can you do fight scenes?’ ‘Oh yeah yeah yeah, I can fight, ride a horse, do gymnastics.’ And they say yes to everything and then you go ‘Oh no, we’re going to have to get a pretty good double in.’ But she’s just training nonstop through this. So the physicality matches the emotional tone of the character, too. And I think that’s a hard balance to strike.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017