Taika Waititi Brings the Laughs with the Cast & Crew of Thor: Ragnarok

As the event proceedings began, one thing was certain about the cast and crew on Thor: Ragnarok: they had clearly had a blast making this movie. It comes across in the actual film, opening November 2, 2017, but the junket almost played like a very informative standup routine from some of the best in the business.

[NOTE: This junket transcript has been edited down for clarity]

Q: What makes Thor: Ragnarok different from the previous films?

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. Well, when they first asked me to come and to them about making this film, obviously I thought that Marvel had lost their minds, so they’re just hiring anyone now. But [laughter] 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 – [Yeah.] 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.

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.   [Um-hmm.]  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.

Q: What’s the difference working between working with Taika Waititi on his ‘big movie’ and ‘little movie’?

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. No, it’s been wonderful to see Taika so calmly and easily step into the helm of such a big, awesome film.  Yeah.

Q: What was Taika Waititi’s thought process behind the “heavy metal album cover” look of the film and how Kevin Feige reacted:

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.

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 [meeting].  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.

Q: Where is Lady Sif?

TAIKA WAITITI:  Kevin.

PRESS: Not make the cuts?

[LAUGHTER]

KEVIN FEIGE:  If she had been on Asgard, she might not be alive, so that’s one of the advantages.

TAIKA WAITITI:  Lady Sif is an actor in New York, on a TV show at the moment.

KEVIN FEIGE:  Oh, that’s true.

TAIKA WAITITI:  She was busy.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  That’s right.

KEVIN FEIGE:  It’s – I’ve been quoting; I’ve been using ‘A Force Awakens’ quote today when people ask me that, and to say, ‘That’s a good question for another time.’

Q: Would Mark Ruffalo be interested in doing a full Hulk film and what aspects of the character would be explored?

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.

[LAUGHTER]

MARK RUFFALO:  And Taika is gonna take all three of those movies and cut it into one movie.

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.

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.

Tessa Thompson on playing a character mechanically white in the comics and bringing Valkyrie to life:

TESSA THOMPSON:  No, I didn’t feel any pressure with that specifically.  You know, the things that I thought about the particulars of Valkyrie had more to do with, like mass and size.  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.  So I didn’t think so much – I mean, satisfying Norse mythology, it’s mystifying, and fantastical, and glorious, and also very confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense, you know.

TESSA THOMPSON:  And I remember someone online saying like, ‘You know, Tessa Thompson playing Valkyrie is white genocide.’  And -Which is just as mystifying as Norse mythology. [LAUGHTER] I just figured like, you know, this thing that I’m tasked to do with any character that has its own iconography is to capture the spirit of the character, and I think the spirit of all of us, at the risk of sounding, you know, cheesy, has very little to do with what color we are.  So I just didn’t really invest in that.

Jeff Goldblum on joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

JEFF GOLDBLUM:  Hello – hello.  Fantastic.  Fantastic. 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.

Q: Was there healthy competition on set?

CATE BLANCHETT:  Tantric embrace. A lot.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Yeah. That’s why 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 had the New Zealand/Australian competition going.

CATE BLANCHETT:  Oh, yeah.

KARL URBAN:  Well, there’s been very intense robbery between our two nations for thousands of years.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Even though my country’s only existed for a couple of hundred – it goes back before that.

KARL URBAN:  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 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:  Bridge the gap. And it has. And we love one another.

CATE BLANCHETT:  Yeah.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Truly.

MARK RUFFALO:  Yeah.

MARK RUFFALO:  And I, I brought them together.

Q: How was fighting Chris Hemsworth?

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 – And I appreciate it.

TAIKA WAITITI:  Don’t say actor.

CATE BLANCHETT:  Yeah.

TAIKA WAITITI:  You are one bad actor.

[LAUGHTER]

CATE BLANCHETT:  This 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. 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? [LAUGHTER] 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. [LAUGHTER]

TAIKA WAITITI:  Well – You know. Lucky they don’t have the Oscar category for throwing.  

On comparisons between Shakespeare’s Goneril and Hela:

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.” 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 fan girls 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.

On the new speaking version of the Hulk:

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  I loved it.  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.

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.’ You know – we’re going on holiday by accident.  And that’s the kind of thing – like those relationships.  And we’re also – 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. That – that shouldn’t exist, but it does, and it works.  And that’s, you know, 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, make up after arguments, as well, you know.’ 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.

Any chance of a Valkyrie solo movie?

KEVIN FEIGE:  Pretty – pretty good idea.

TESSA THOMPSON:  It’s a really good idea

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Very good idea.

MALE SPEAKER:  Pretty good idea.

TESSA THOMPSON:  Yeah – you heard, you heard that first.   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.’

KEVIN FEIGE:  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?’

TESSA THOMPSON:  Yeah.

KEVIN FEIGE:  And I said, ‘Yes.’

MARK RUFFALO:  The Femengers.

TESSA THOMPSON:  The Femengers?

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Or chop that.

MARK RUFFALO:  We’ve been improvising a lot. It’s really hit or miss.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Sometimes it’s good.

TESSA THOMPSON:  But there’s a precedent for it in the comics, right, because there are teams like the Lady Liberators, and –

MARK RUFFALO:  Deep cut – Lady Liberators – deep cut.

Q: Is Loki grown from his experiences or is part of his character to never change?

TOM HIDDLESTON:  I did ask Taika if I could get a haircut, as well. [LAUGHTER] But, but I – but his answer was a quick, ‘No.’  It’s interesting.  I mean, in a way, in this film, it is about, I think – I’m not spoiling anything, but the development of the relationship between Thor and Loki, his brothers, is – 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.  And we’ll see where he goes next.  I’m not going to spoil anything.

Q: Any Easter Eggs in the trash piles Thor crash lands in?

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 Sakaran 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. [LAUGHTER] 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 the wide shot.

Karl Urban on joining the MCU:

KARL URBAN:  It was intense. 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?’ [LAUGHTER] Yeah. Yeah. No, so it was one – you know what – 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 to – felt like everybody had your back, and we had fun.

Q: What was Taika’s go-to song on the set?

MALE SPEAKER:  Need somebody to love.

KARL URBAN:  I remember Lou Reed.  I remember a bit of Lou Reed.  I remember –

MALE SPEAKER:  I’m gonna say Led Zeppelin.

MALE SPEAKER:  A lot of Bowie.

[VOICES OVERLAPPING – INDISCERNIBLE]

MALE SPEAKER:  Yeah.

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 bite your friends.

TAIKA WAITITI:  Don’t bite your friends, from go, gabba, gabba – oh, I really recommend – Really – if you’ve got children, I really recommend playing that song.

CATE BLANCHETT:  It was my a theme song.

TAIKA WAITITI:  It’s all about teaching kids not to bite other kids.

CATE BLANCHETT:  That led to my brain.

TAIKA WAITITI:  :  Don’t bite your friends.

SEVERAL:  Don’t bite your friends.

TAIKA WAITITI:  Sometimes it’s just a simple message like there, you know, it’s just you

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.

Q: What was the most difficult part of making the film for Taika Waititi or anything he struggled with?

TAIKA WAITITI: [GESTURES TO THE ENTIRE CAST ON STAGE]

[LAUGHS]

TAIKA WAITITI: [CONTINUES GESTURING TO THE CAST]

TAIKA WAITITI: [IS NOW STANDING, CONTINUING TO GESTURE TO THE ENTIRE CAST]

TAIKA WAITITI:  Next question. No – no, please – no, continue.  Well – were you going to ask what the most difficult part of making this film was? [compared to] my small films. It was really just like what to choose for lunch. The main thing – so many options.  It’s actually keeping your energy up, creatively.  My shoots are very short, and I like to work super-fast.  All my shoots, about 25 to 28 days, and by day 30 on this, I was like, ‘Well, no more ideas.  I’m done.’ And you know, you’ve got 55 more days.  And so I had to do some meditation, and try and chill out, just to kind of keep my creative energy – yeah, just keep it going throughout that whole length of time, ‘cause 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. It’s all come back, all the senses have come back.

Q: Does Chris Hemsworth miss Mjolnir?

CATE BLANCHETT:  Yeah, what do you do with your hands?

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  That’s right. Where to put them on something. No, I mean, it was sort of good. It just helped kind of shed anything too familiar. You know, I feel like, well, holding the hammer, or even the wig in the previous costume, certainly just put me in a place, and set me on a path of what I already knew.  I wanted it to be unfamiliar, and so everything from the hammer, to the costume, the hair – made me, and allowed me to move differently, and forced me to move differently, and so that was a great thing.  I don’t really miss it, no.  I’ve got one at home.  It’s in the toilet, actually.

CATE BLANCHETT:  It’s there, yeah.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH:  Ceremony.

Q: Did Jeff Goldblum secretly play any of the music in the score?

TOM HIDDLESTON:  Yes, he did.  Oh, no, not on the score – sorry.  On the set, he did.

CATE BLANCHETT:  Yeah, he played a song.

TOM HIDDLESTON:  I remember the music he played on the keyboard on set, so was that in the score? Taika, I don’t know if it’s in the score.

TAIKA WAITITI:  Well, we changed it, ‘cause at the time it was – it was all jazz, and that particular scene when you’re playing – Mark Mothersbaugh – which we were extremely to get him, and do the score.  The music that I wanted to look at for Sakar, I wanted to create like – you know, you were talking about the heavy metal album covers and stuff.  Also, it was trying to dive into like, Jean-Michel Jarre Soundscapes – the kind of music that companies those spray paint thing you see on Venice Beach of like, pyramids, and like seventeen moons and just good fantasy music with synthesizers, and arpeggiated rhythms. Mark is amazing at that. He comes in and does all that.  And in that particular scene, we – well, we played music – we played a lot of music even through the scenes. There’s a lot of stuff where another artist from Nigeria, William Onyeabor, who’s a great African, and [INDISCERNIBLE] Funk, pop artist, and so we played him.  And I don’t know if anyone got sick of it.  I never did – but we played it probably 50 times throughout these scenes, and – yeah, and – yeah, and that – there’s all that just very eclectic mix of sounds, and rhythms and stuff.  But yeah, Jeff was often playing – playing throughout that scene, and you know, when he’s on the piano there.  But we replaced you.

TESSA THOMPSON:  Oh, he’s so great.

JEFF GOLDBLUM:  Yes. But I sing – but then – well, then you got me to sing, happy birthday. And that’s on the track – that’s in the track.

 

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Diego Crespo is a freelance writer and journalist based out of greater Los Angeles. He doesn’t care what you think about his favorite movies. He just wants to provide healthy and informative perspective and conversations. Just know you are wrong about David Fincher’s ALIEN 3.