30th October sees the release in the UK of Thor: The Dark World, the latest tent pole release in Marvel Studios’ roll-out of big budget action movies based on their legendary superhero characters. The film receives its official UK premiere tonight but on the 20th representatives of the world’s media descended upon the Dorchester Hotel in London’s swanky Mayfair for the Thor sequel’s international Press launch. In attendance: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Christopher Eccleston (Malekith), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Alan Taylor (director), Kevin Feige (Producer, Marvel). Also in attendance: Starburst. Here’s what happened after the tea, sandwiches and cake had been consumed, the Press hounds had ceased their relentless baying and ‘the talent’ had settled into their comfy chairs on stage…
On whether one of the film’s themes - trust - is reflected in the developing relationship between the cast, especially Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston?
Chris Hemsworth: There’s certainly a shorthand we’ve developed now that this is the third film we’ve shot together. We pick up where we left off and we’ve developed a great friendship along the way. We were lucky from the beginning in that we had a chemistry and the same kind of enthusiasm and I guess the relationship I look forward to really delving into every time - and especially in The Dark World - is being able to ask the questions that Thor and Loki really haven’t had the focus to do yet and this film gave us that opportunity.
Tom Hiddleston: It’s absolutely true. From the beginning, with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor through to Joss Whedon’s Avengers and now into Alan’s Dark World it has been an amazing adventure for both of us - the two characters define each other and need each other. All acting is about what happens in the space between people and the more you trust each other the deeper you can go. When I’m on set with Chris whatever he serves I’ll return, he’ll tap it back and that’s the joy for me.
On whether the sibling rivalry between Thor and Loki is shared by Chris’s own relationship with his acting brothers Liam and Luke…
CH: Neither of them have attempted to take over the Universe just yet - but I think I’d have the same reaction if they did! We’re competitive as siblings usually in terms of everything from sport - backyard cricket, football, surfing - to who’s controlling the remote control; but not so much within this industry. Certainly all three of us understand the frailty and inconsistency of the work and we help each other with auditions and whatever scripts we’re working on and we’re not in direct competition anyway. It’s more of a team effort than anything else. In one of the scenes on the spaceship exiting Asgard, Tom and I were pretty insistent that it had to feel like when I was in the back seat with my two siblings and we couldn’t get 100 metres before the three of us would be “get off, don’t touch me” and that certainly played into that scene. With a lot of the stuff you understand what it’s like to have that love/hate thing but really you’d do anything for them but at the same time the simplest things can annoy you. I certainly try to draw from whatever experiences I’ve been through and can empathise with frustration towards one’s sibling.
TH: I have two sisters so it’s slightly different. I suppose the thing about siblings is they know you better than anyone and there’s that thing of always being bound together by your histories; there’s something very honest about the interaction, you get that Thor is able to demand from Loki that he plays his hand. Loki is someone who is constantly in control, he’ll never show you how he really feels and the only person he gets close to is Thor and that’s very true of sibling relationships.
On the attraction in coming back and recreating the characters…
Natalie Portman: It was exciting to get to come back and work with everyone and meet people who were joining this time. Also because Jane gets to go to Asgard in this movie; I was lucky to work more with Tom and do scenes with Rene and Anthony too who were amazing and who I’d got to admire from afar. And I got to continue the fun rapport with Kat and Stellan (Skarsgard) and Chris and there was definitely a lot of laughing - maybe too much laughing on set!
CH: It was brilliant to have Natalie there to break up some of the Godly testosterone between Thor and Loki!
TH: I loved working with Natalie. In the first film Loki’s aware of Jane Foster’s presence and refers to it but it was such fun to see what happens when the two share the same space. Violence mainly!
On the differences between working in Britain and Hollywood…
CH: The interesting thing about Hollywood is that I don’t think a lot of stuff gets shot there any more although obviously once upon a time it did. But it’s now predominantly sets and studios. What’s nice here is that there are incredible studios but also brilliant locations to take advantage of and a lot of the aesthetic this film has is because not only do we see Asgard we also get to see London. I love shooting here.
NP: It’s hard to compare because we don’t really shoot in Hollywood at all. I love working here though and I’m envious of British actors and crew because American and Australian actors end up like gypsies, moving from city to city and you can really have such a fulfilling, rich, wonderful career moving between theatre, TV and film all in London and it’s pretty cool to get to live and work in the same place.
Kevin Feige: There’s a very good tax incentive which lures us to the UK, I’m not going to pretend that’s not the case! But what keeps us coming back are the amazing crews; we’re starting our fourth film next year at Shepperton and it’s been an amazing experience so far.
On audiences loving Loki more than Thor…
CH: Woah!!! I don’t know if it was ever the plan to have Loki in this many films but purely to do with everything that Tom brought to the table in the first one and how incredible he was and the mixture of strength, villainy, mischief and vulnerability which is such an access point, you can immediately empathise with this misunderstood guy which is why he kept being brought into every film. I don’t know if that was the original plan but my hat goes off to Tom because he’s done such an incredible job in every film and hopefully we’ll keep sneaking him in more everywhere.
TH: I love you, man! I think Loki is defined by Thor, he’s defined in opposition to him, they’re yin and yang, the sun and the moon. The whole point of them is they’re in opposition and the polarity of Loki is such an amazing surprise I never expected it in my wildest dreams. It’s a fascinating prospect because he’s a mixture of playfulness and charm and mischief - he’s the God of mischief so there’s always a playfulness to him - but he’s a broken character, grief-stricken, bitter, jealous and angry, lonely, proud. He’s a cocktail of all his psychological damage and his playfulness and as an actor it’s a really interesting part to play.
On the film’s humour…
Alan Taylor: I’m so grateful that audiences are responding to the humour of the film when they see it the first time. When I came into it I thought my first task was to darken the world and deepen it and dirty it up a bit. But then as the process developed we thought ‘well, if we’re going to darken it and deepen it and possibly kill off some characters that we love then we’d better make sure that it balances on the other side’ because the key to the Marvel Universe and the Marvel language - Avengers came out when we were planning it and Iron Man 3 as we were finishing it - is that you’re screwed if you don’t also keep it funny and light on its feet at the same time. So it’s called The Dark World and there are some dark currents in it but the humour was critical and I really can’t say enough great things about Stellan; he was the first thing we shot, we started with him running around Stonehenge wearing a thong!
Chris Hemsworth on developing as an actor…
CH: Every film I look back at and go ‘now I get it’ and then I start the next one and think ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing!’ It’s nice to be able to approach a character again and now for the third time and in a different way with a different director and have a whole new bag of ideas and influences and ways to approach it. I think I’ve grown up as a person - as you do in time, strangely enough - but so does Thor and that echoes into it work and it was great to have a more mature Thor who was less petulant and arrogant as he was at times in the first movie. But that transition of him understanding the dark side of the Throne and that responsibility and the sacrifice was fun to play with.
On the process of editing and cutting the film…
AT: There are so many obligations with these films; they have to be dark, emotionally-engaging, funny, they have to earn their entertainment value and part of that process is condensing, tightening, and making it roll on as quickly as it can so naturally some things fall out which you wish didn’t fall out including some things dear to my heart which I loved. Chris Eccleston and I were talking about some things which we really savoured but which had to fall away - and I’d be really grateful if some of those appear on the DVD or Blu-ray at some point! There was a rumour going round on the Internet at one point about the running time but there was never a running time issue, it was just an question of how can we make it better, funnier, more effective, how can it land harder.
On humour countering the steadily increasing scope and scale of the Marvel Universe and how the actors keep their performances ‘grounded’…
KF: Humour is definitely the key. We’ve got spaceships and other planets in this movie and we have found that humour is an amazing way to get the audience to just embrace and accept all these worlds and all that craziness and all those costumes and it’s worked well for us going right back to the first Iron Man film.
Christopher Eccleston: It’s interesting talking about the humour in the film because I saw it last week and I was really surprised at the amount of humour because I’m such a miserable bastard! I was completely excluded from any of the joy! My character was completely grounded in vengeance, he was like a maniac for revenge, the idea was to suggest that the dark elves were as ancient a race as the Asgardians and they had a history and a culture but most of all they had a grudge which they had slept on for millions of years. My job was to bring the threat and the menace and the jeopardy so we grounded it in bitterness. My make-up call was about 3 o’clock, I was in the chair at 4am and I hit the set at 10am so I was a not a happy elf!
NP: I think the fact that the characters are going through things we can all relate to - I’m the women who the guy doesn’t call back, there’s a long distance thing going on, she meets his parents - they’re all things most women can relate to. I’m the mortal amongst the Gods and villains so I guess that’s naturally more grounded. But all of the issues they had us dealing with were human, like the rivalry between the brothers which I feel is so relatable as humans.
CH: I remember (Anthony) Hopkins said something to me the first day on the set on the first Thor. We walked on in our outfits and he had the eyepatch on and sets were huge and he looked at me and said “No acting requried here!” and I’ve always remembered that because I think ‘yeah, don’t compete with it, keep it simple because it already sells a lot of the work for you.’
TH: I suppose the thing I always think that’s grounding about these films for me is the family relationships. We travel through Space and Time, we’re dealing with Gods and monsters and the heart of the film, from my perspective, is the family - the father, two sons/brothers, a mother and the fractious intimate interaction they have.
Kat Dennings: I think maybe (my character) Darcy is the most grounded person in the story. She’s kind of spacey in her brain even though she’s not in space! I think her love for Jane and my love for Nat are an easy way for me to stay grounded through the whole thing and I get to see the outside of all the craziness and comment on it.
On Marvel Studios‘ movie/TV strategy…
KF: We’re a very tight knit group at the Studios and all the movies are very co-ordinated. We have announced our films to the end of 2015 but are planning as far out as 2017 and some time next year we’ll announce what those films are for 2016 and into 2017. The TV division is up and running now with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as their first series; I know they’d love to bring more to the TV screen, I’m not exactly sure what or when that will be and in terms of S.H.I.E.L.D. they sort of cue off what’s happening in the movies and occasionally they check in with us and say ‘would it be okay if we play with this little aspect?’ so it’s all quite co-ordinated. But again it’s such a small group it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming task but it’s a heck of a lot of fun!
On the ‘point’ of the Malekith storyline amidst all the human/Immortal drama…
CE: What is the point of my storyline? That’s what I said to my agent! The point of my storyline… is for me to get paid! No, the point is, and I’m repeating myself slightly, is vengeance. Malekith is a maniac for vengeance. There were some scenes which, for understandable reasons didn’t make the final cut, which explain some of the back-story between me, my ancestors and Borr who is Odin’s father, where the dark elves way before the Big Bang, were humiliated in defeat and ground into the dirt by Odin and Malekith has slept on that and so the theme from that is vengeance. As somebody once said ‘let he who seeks vengeance be careful to dig two graves’ because it’s a pointless exercise. My job was to bring a dark element, the dark world; the dark elves are seeking to turn the light into darkness. It’s that simple and that classic.
KF: And we needed that in a movie where we wanted to play our villain from the Avengers movie in a more ambiguous way and in order to do that we needed somebody who could drive the entire storyline and give Thor a reason to have something to fight against.
On whether Loki is really evil… or just jealous…
TH: It’s a question I’ve asked myself three times now! I think every villain is a hero in his own mind and people make choices and they always justify those choices no matter how misguided their motivation and it’s been a great privilege and thrill for me to play this character across three films because he didn’t start out that way. The storyline afforded to me in the very first film, this idea of a young prince who was brought up believing in his right to a throne and his Asgardian in heritance, was a lie - he was adopted and left to die on a frozen rock; that’s what breaks his heart and all his villainy and bad guy credentials come from something deeply vulnerable. That’s a gift because it means across Thor, Avengers and Dark World, that I can play a dynamic with Chris and with Anthony Hopkins (Odin) and Rene Russo (Frigga) which is ‘to what extent is he redeemable? Can he be pulled back towards the light’ and it’s a very fun fault line to dance on.
CH: What Tom said! That’s exactly it, well done. How do you know so much?
THOR: THE DARK WORLD opens in UK cinemas on October 30th in the US on November 8th and internationally throughout November.
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