Want to know what it was like to direct Thor: Ragnarok? Director Taika Waititi spills on joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, working with Chris Hemsworth, the inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok, and even acting in his own film!
Exclusive Interview with Taika Waititi
Earlier this month during the Thor: Ragnarok press event we had the chance to do a group interview with the director of Thor: Ragnarok Taika Waititi. After just a 15-minute interview, I can tell why Thor: Ragnarok is such a fun and hilarious movie. I think we did more laughing than asking questions and for every question we asked, Taika had some sort of funny response, a serious one as well, but a funny one first.
He did, all jokes aside, give us some great insight into Thor: Ragnarok, his inspiration for the film, how he got the directing job, and his own character in the movie – Korg. Pretty sure we could’ve kept asking him questions all day long, and he could’ve get cracking jokes at least that long.
Breaking Out of the Independent Film Comfort Zone
Taika has previously directed only low budget independent films, all hilarious, but still low budget, especially compared to anything in the MCU. We asked Taika what it was like jumping into the Marvel world.
“My first reaction really was well, I guess this Marvel company has lost their mind or they’re just asking anyone to do anything these days. So yeah, I was really unsure if I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, but then I started feeling with my other films that I was already getting too comfortable, and I wanted to start learning stuff….
So I started feeling like I was kind of treading water a little bit, and I wanted to just keep upping the game and learning. Then I went and did the pitch with Marvel, and they’re really amazing people.”
He went on a bit to talk about what the pitching process was like and how Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song was a huge part of his pitch (and now the movie).
“The thing with pitching is that often people think it’s about you pitching stories and stuff. I just think it’s about assessing each other out, figuring out if you wanna hang out for two years. So we went and hung out in the Marvel offices, and they were great in those trailers, and yeah, and I haven’t had any regrets.
I went in to the pitch, and I made this sizzle reel, which is like I basically ripped tiny clips from multiple movies to show a tone that to them, my idea for what the tone of the film would be…The entire thing was to Immigrant Song, and so I played this whole clip. And I’ve talked to Kevin about it, and he’s like ‘oh, I went and watched it another couple of times, and that was one of the strong points about your pitch.’
At the end of it, one of the execs went that was a cool song, who’s that? I was like what? But anyway, everyone became obsessed with the song, and we were pretty determined to use it somehow in the film. I mean I couldn’t be happier that it’s in there. I mean, it’s the perfect song for the movie. It’s about Thor.”
Inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok
One of the parts of the interview that I loved most was when we asked about the inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok with all of its color, animation, and fun. And it’s not just because when I asked my question, Taika stopped, pointed at the Revengers shirt I made (and was wearing) and grinned. Okay, that might’ve been my favorite part of the interview, but I still loved his answer.
When asked why he went that direction with the movie, Taika told us it all really goes back to his life as a kid.
“When I was a kid I played with comics, but I was obsessed with the really weird comics, like really colorful splash pages and stupid crazy characters. I kind of felt like there was a trend lately that, not only superhero movies, but a lot of movies were just depressing and sad and took themselves too seriously.
I remember going to the movies as a kid. You know, watching Karate Kid and running out of the theater saying ‘I’m Daniel LaRusso.’ I’m gonna jump on a playground and try and do the crane kick and fall off and break my arm, and yeah, that’s what I want to inspire kids to do.”
After a lot of laughter, Taika gave us the real reason behind making this film such a fun one.
“I want to inspire, I want people to come out of the cinema smiling. The world is crazy right now. I think it’s just nice to go away, smile, laugh, you know, get a little bit of an escape, ’cause you know, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
I totally agree and you can tell from my Thor: Ragnarok review that it’s definitely a movie that will make you walk out of the theater smiling. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a really, really, long time!
Playing Korg in Thor: Ragnarok
Last but not least, we asked Taika about actually acting in the film. He plays the part of Korg, who really is one of my favorite characters in the entire movie! When we asked him why in the world would he take on the added pressure of also acting in the film, his response was quick.
“Because I’m a self-saboteur. Any chance I get to put my career at risk, I’ll just do it. I really love, I love the actor title.”
I told you, all the jokes from Taika. He actually admitted that he ruined multiple takes when he was either in front of the camera or off screen because he couldn’t stop laughing. I can’t even imagine what that set would’ve been like and how they ever finished the film! In all seriousness, the role of Korg did actually serve a purpose.
“With Planet Sakaar with so many eclectic characters and crazy elements in this film, you often need something grounding for the audience and something that’s sort of like, I often, think I’m really good at playing mum characters… I think Korg is very much the mother of the prison and yeah looks after everyone. And I think audiences, I think they appreciate having someone that’s just down to earth and gentle, you need that. The film is crazy so it [Korg] takes it back every now and then.”
According to Taika, Korg’s entire dialogue was improvised. In fact, a lot of the film was actually adlibbed.
“On all my films, I use the script as a kind of template, as a sort of suggestion for where we can go. We’ll do a version of it and then we’ll play around, spend another, you know, another hour or so just making stuff up, seeing if we can get something better, because when you write dialogue six months before you shoot, you think it’s amazing at that time. You don’t even know what will change…everything changes on the day.
The way I direct is I’m about this close to the actors and just stand there, say this, say this. Poke them in the shoulder and that’s like a real god complex. You know you can just manipulate people, you know like a puppeteer. I can’t believe I’m making Anthony Hopkins say whatever I want.”
One character who apparently did really well with the changes and ad lib was Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. When we asked Taika about his favorite performance in the film, it was Chris’.
“My favorite performance is Chris’s performance because just knowing how fun he is and how funny and charming, and he often is the kind of person who makes you feel like, oh man, if you actually were Thor, I would totally come on a team with you. I just love having the opportunity to give him free range to just be himself and to be charming and to like be the favorite character. In particular, him and Mark [Ruffalo] I think together when they’re just bouncing off each other, I love that.”
I do too! and And pretty sure the rest of the universe will as well once they get the chance to see Thor: Ragnarok in theaters on November 3rd!
THOR: RAGNAROK Synopsis
In Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Ragnarok,” Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok—the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization—at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela. But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger—the Incredible Hulk! “Thor: Ragnarok” thunders into U.S. theaters on November 3, 2017. Watch the latest trailer below then read my spoiler-free full review of Thor: Ragnarok here.
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THOR: RAGNAROK opens in theaters everywhere November 3rd!