Thor: Ragnarok Set Interview with Director Taika Waititi

The arrival of Thor: Ragnarok couldn't be coveted any more, thanks to the unique style and vision of director Taika Waititi. With trailers showing as close as Marvel fans will get to a reboot of Thor the solo hero, and a story set to cement both Thor and Hulk a everyone's favorite Avengers, entrusting the film to what some may view as a Hollywood outsider is paying off. And when we spoke to Waititi on the set of Ragnarok, he made it clear: he's not worrying about the larger MCU, or even the coming Infinity War.

This may be his only chance to make a Thor movie the way he thinks ti should be done. Which means he's not holding back - not even when it comes to casting himself in the blockbuster.

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Can you talk a little bit about just striking a balance between putting your own personal stamp on this and serving a larger corporate beast. This is a huge endeavor with tentacles that reach out to all these other things.

There’s definitely a challenge with wanting to be true to what the fans want, and to the universe itself. But I have to keep reminding myself that I was hired for a reason, and I think one of those reasons is because of the kind of stories I tell, and the kind of films that I’ve made previously. Obviously it has to be… trying to unify my type of storytelling with this kind of content, and hopefully it all comes out really nicely in the end.

But also… you know, I don’t want to make an episode of some larger thing. I know that it will be, and that all the pieces will fit together. But it’s not my job to make sure they fit together. It’s not my job to make sure that this makes sense three movies down the tracks for one of the other franchises. My job is to make a film that can sit alone as a standalone piece that obviously I’ll be proud of.

But I want it to be a film that, if it’s the only Marvel film you see, that it’s a great film and it’s a great story in and of itself. The lucky thing is that there are a bunch of geniuses who run Marvel who make sure that it even if it’s a standalone piece, it is part of a great big jigsaw puzzle that could be appreciated as a whole as well.

When you came aboard the film, how much did you change from what was already there?

There were already story ideas when I came on board. A lot of that changed over the first sort of three or four months. Right from the beginning, they had wanted… just to lighten it a little bit, and to kind of embrace a bit more of the adventure aspect of it. You know, the last two films, well definitely the last film was a little darker. Personally I feel like, and I’ve said this before, is that if the movie’s called Thor, then Thor should be the best character. That’s what my main focus was: making him cool and funny when he needs to be, heroic when he needs to be, and, you know, obviously there’ll be a certain degree of pathos, and some emotionality to it as well.

If you’ve seen my other films, there’s always a balance between some comedy and some drama, and I think that’s a satisfying story to watch. So that’s always been my focus with this whole thing. To make it really entertaining, and poignant, and profound when it needs to be. And also adventurous when it needs to be, and funny when it needs to be.

Talking about that balance, do you find that in the script? Do you find it here on set? Do you find that in the editing room? Where does that come in?

Everything, really. The script, you know... I always find scripts a bit more of a skeleton, the template. We improvise pretty much most scenes. We'll improvise some stuff. I'll be next to actors and yell suggestions at them all the time, and that goes for everyone. I've done it with Tony, with Cate, everyone, they're all okay with that. Uh, luckily. And that's just from coming from that place... with my friends I'm used to doing that, and yelling at each other for outtakes, and being messy. But I think, from that messiness comes really great kinda spur of the moment stuff.

And the balance is always found for me-- the main balance found on the editing. So with most takes, I do stuff that's way over the top, and then bring it down and get something exactly what's on the page, and then something that's a nice sort of middle balance where the tone is, like... I guess... I want to say believable, but probably just a little bit more natural. A little bit more natural.

What kind of Thor do we meet at the start the film, as opposed to the previous four movies he's been featured in?

Well, he’s a lot grubbier. That’s been one of my main things… I think everyone’s a bit too shiny and clean in the other films. So we’re just trying to… You know, I love heroes that really go through ordeals, and they come out the other end completely changed, not just ‘Oh I’ve got a girlfriend now.’ They come out the other side, they’ve been through the ringer. We do a lot to this character in this film.

And you know, a lot of people have been wanting to see this idea of Ragnarok. A lot of people are excited by the idea of what Ragnarok means. But to me, it means stripping down the establishment of what’s already there, and then building it up in a new way. Which is almost like this cyclical idea of Ragnarok. So there’s my own personal idea of Ragnarok: what we’re doing to the character and to the franchise, and to the story. But in a way where what comes out the other end is way more exciting and interesting. And in a way, you can never go back from that.

It seems like you're really inspired by Jack Kirby obviously, and also some Jason Aaron's more recent stuff, and Planet Hulk. Why those, and is there anything else you pulled from?

We pulled from... really it was Planet Hulk. And we pulled a little bit from God of Thunder, with the Gorr runs... I just sort of looked at all the stuff that I personally feel are the coolest things in the comics [Laughs]. Just like, 'We should have that! We should have that! We should have that! We should have that!' Because... you can stay true to the comics, but I think you can ruin things by staying too true.

With every comic run there's always a retelling, and you see that with all the main characters. There's rebirths, there's alternate universes, and this really is 'why not just take all the best parts?' And this film is so crazy. And so eclectic, and there's so many amazing characters. Think about the characters: Hulk and a new style of Banner that we've never seen before. New Thor. Hela. Loki's in there obviously. Then Grandmaster. It really is, to my mind, the craziest of the Marvel films. In a good way.

What are the unique challenges of continuing a Thor franchise specifically?

I think the main challenge, for me, was actually working at getting away from the other two films. And again… Yes, the other films are there, and it’s great to watch them. I think they’re good films. But I don’t mind if people start with this film. In my mind, for me, this is is my ‘Thor 1.’

I’ve seen the other films, and I respect them a lot. But I can’t spend too much time thinking about this as a threequel. Because then I’ll get tied up too much in respecting what went before, and respecting what’s going to come after. It just, for me, has to be a standalone thing. Because this could be the only time I do this. And I just want to make it a version of a Marvel film in the best way possible.

Speaking of that, you're also known for a recurring ensemble. We've heard that Rachel House is coming back. Is anybody else that has been in your other films making an appearance?

TW : Yeah. There's another actor, Cullen Holloway, who's in all my other films. He plays one of the werewolves in Shadows. And he's in Boy, so he's been in all my films...

You're in it.

I'm in it. I'm recurring, I'm in all my films. I can't help it. I'll just... I'll just jam myself in there if there's a space. But that's it.

Can you speak about being in it? We heard a little bit.

Yeah so I'm playing one of the Planet Hulk characters, Korg. Who's a Kronan. He's a bit bigger than me. So that's all mocap. That's one of the... for me it's really fun. And I often, like, will jump in, like Mark's no longer here, so I'll often jump in for Hulk stuff. Because we have stand-ins but they're not actors, and they don't have timing and stuff, and so I'll jump in for those things Now and then just... I'll be in there quite a lot.

Didn't you do Surtur, as well?

Surtur, I did Surtur as well. Who will probably be re-voiced by someone else [Laughs].

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Key Release Dates
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
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