When Marvel Studios and Disney invited me out to LA for the premiere of Thor: Ragnarok and to attend a press event where I was given the opportunity to discuss the movie with the cast and creators, I was beyond excited. Having the chance to be part of an exclusive interview with Director Taika Waititi and get an inside look at what went into making this third Thor film, was fascinating.
With this being Taika Waititi’s first major film to direct and his first experience working with Marvel, it was interesting to hear how it all played out. I will say he did not disappoint! If you missed my exclusive interview with Kevin Feige – President of Marvel or my spoiler-free Thor: Ragnarok movie review, check those out to read how Taika Waititi took this Thor film in a new direction, one you’re sure to love.
Exclusive Interview with Director Taika Waititi
What was it like jumping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
It was exciting. When they offered me the chance to come pitch on it, I remember my experience was making very independent films, low budget with 25 day shoots and my first reaction really was ‘I guess this Marvel company’s lost their mind or they’re just asking anyone to do anything’.
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 and, you know, I didn’t start making film shows about 28, 29 and it was never my big dream as a kid.
I wasn’t like, you know, JJ and all these guys running around with super 8 cameras when they’re four years old. I caught it very late and it was kind of like an arranged marriage. I forced myself to love it and so after that eight years of making films I started feeling I was kind of threading water a little bit and I wanted to just keep upping the game and learning and then we did the pitch with Marvel and they’re really amazing people.
The thing with pitching is that a lot of people think it’s been about pitching stories but I just think it’s just about assessing each other out, figuring out if you wanna hang out for two years. So we went and hung out in Marvel offices and they were really great and straight up with me. I haven’t had any regrets.
You’re in charge of directing major characters of Hulk and Thor. Why would you also add the pressure of putting yourself in the film and being a character?
Because I’m a self-saboteur. Any chance I get to put my career at risk I’ll just do it, you know. I will wedge myself up in any film I do. I really love the Actor Taika. But with the planet Sakaar with so many eclectic characters and crazy elements in this film you often need something grounding for the audience. I feel like I’m really good at playing mum characters. Korg is very much the mother of the prison and looks after everyone. I think audiences, I think they appreciate having someone that’s just down to earth and gentle ‘cause you need that. The film is crazy so it takes a step back every now and then.
How much of Korg’s dialogue was freestyle?
All of Korg’s dialogue was improvised. We would know pieces of information that we wanted to get across and so it was, okay well he has to tell them. Does Korg give any useful information at all? No. That’s a role I didn’t decide in playing until the last minute, because nobody knew want this character would be and what the point of this character was and he’s so pointless but the thing with Chris and I we, you know, we get on very well and a lot of the scenes in this film were adlibbed and there’s a lot of stuff in the film that’s adlibbed.
As on all of my films, we used 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 hour or so just making stuff up because I mean you write dialogue six months before you shoot, you think it’s amazing at the time but, you know you don’t even know what will change or it might be a bore so yeah, so it changes on the day.
Fun Fact: On days when he did double duty as director while also portraying the character of Korg before the cameras, Waititi was required by the VFX team to don the neutral gray motion-capture leotard, dotted all over with halved ping-pong balls, used for tracking purposes in post-production when the VFX animators create the CG character in the computer. It was a strange sight for everyone on set to see him directing in that getup!
Were you just constantly laughing on set?
I ruined multiple takes by even being in the scene laughing in front of the camera or even laughing off screen. Because the way I direct is I’m the closest to the actors and just stand there starring at them, saying ‘say this, say this’. Poke them in the shoulder and that’s a real god complex problem. You know you can just like manipulate people, you’re the puppeteer. I can’t believe I’m making Anthony Hopkins say whatever I want! So yeah, really goes to your head pretty quick.
Fun Fact: During the early morning hours, before the crew arrived for work, wild kangaroos were often spotted hanging around the backlot near the exterior sets of Asgard and Sakaar.
How were the colors and animation inspired?
When I was a kid I played with comics but I was obsessed with the real weird comics, like really colorful pages and stupid crazy characters. I kind of felt like there was a tend lately that — not just superhero movies but a lot of movies were just depressing and sad and took ourselves too seriously. I remember movies as a kid. You know, I’m watching Karate Kid and running out of the theater saying “I’m Daniel LaRusso”.
I’m gonna jump on the playground and try to do the kick and fall off and break my arm and, you know, so that’s what I want to inspire kids to do. I hope people come out of the cinema smiling ‘cause you can go to any cinema in town and no one comes out of smiling anymore. The world is crazy right now. It’s nice to go away, smile, laugh, get a little bit of an escape because there’s nothing wrong with that.
Was there any performance that’s particularly surprised you?
Well, I knew Jeff would be that good but really my favorite performance is Chris’s performance because just knowing how fun he is and how funny and he’s charming and he often is the kind that makes you feel like oh, man if you actually were Thor I would totally come and be with you. But that I just love having the opportunity to give him free range to just be himself and to be charming and to be the favorite character and in particularly him and Mark I think together when they’re bouncing off each other, I love that.
There was less mischief from Loki this time around, was that purposeful?
I think people, if you come to expect it too much you know, the thing about Marvel, the decisions they make, the stories also and directors, you know. It’s like the most unexpected choice was me to direct this film and even for me. So I think if it gets predictable you come into the movies and you’re Loki’s doing the same thing and I don’t think it’s as satisfying as seeing that character come through the other end of it through a true story ark, you know, of the three movies.
So I think it’s the most satisfying relationship and story ark, Thor and Loki and seeing how finally two brothers can get over the crap. I loved that. You know, that was something that I thought yeah that’s actually what life is about. It sometimes does take 15 years to, you know, to decide if you like someone or not.
Director Taika Waititi was a pleasure to interview. He was so down to earth and friendly. He was always smiling and laughing. I don’t think he answered one question without making a joke or focusing on the lightheartedness of it all. You can tell he really loved his job and seeing him with the actors/actresses, you could feel the chemistry between them. It was a great fit!
Buy your tickets to see Thor: Ragnarok in theaters on November 3rd!