In this sequel to 2012’s Box-office smash, The Avengers, Thor is fighting to not only to save Asgard but also London and indeed the whole Universe.
Thor: The Dark World is the second film in the second phase of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following hot on the heels of the success of Iron Man 3. This film promises to go deeper and darker, but with the introduction of Alan Taylor as director (Game of Thrones, Mad Men) promises to make this film much more relatable and tangible too.
We sat down with stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings, director Alan Taylor and producer Kevin Feige to talk about their thoughts on the film and discuss their ambitions and hopes for what promises to be a fantastic addition to the Marvel Universe.
FAN THE FIRE: So, Let’s start with a hard-hitting question – Team Thor or Team Loki?
KEVIN FEIGE: Let’s see, who am I sitting closest to? – Team Malakhi.
CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON: Oh definitely team Malakith.
NATALIE PORTMAN: Oh team Thor.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Team Loki
TOM HIDDLESTON: Team Thor… I think I’m destined to lose, that’s Lokis fate.
KAT DENNINGS: Aw I’ll go with team Loki.
FTF: Alan, I think that gives you the deciding vote…
ALAN TAYLOR: Ooh, well in that case I think I’d have to say team Kat.
FTF: Chris and Tom – The subject of trust is prevalent in this film. Having worked together on a number of films now, are you free to experiment given your trust with each other as actors?
CH: There’s certainly a shorthand we have with each other. This is the third film we’ve made together now and you don’t spend that much time together without forging a great friendship along the way. We tend to be able to pick up where we leave off, but even from the beginning we had a great chemistry and the same enthusiasm for the characters.
TH: I love you man! It’s absolutely true, from the beginning of [Kenneth] Branaghs’ Thor through Joss Whedons’ Avengers and into Alan [Taylor]’s Dark World, it’s been an amazing adventure and the two characters define 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. That’s the joy of it for me.
FTF: There’s a big sibling rivalry in this film. Chris, you have 2 brothers who are also actors, did you draw on your relationship and competition with them to inform your interactions with Loki?
CH: Well neither of them have attempted to take over the universe just yet, but I think I’d have the same reaction if they did! At home we’re as competitive as all siblings are in everything from sport to who’s controlling the remote control. Within this industry, not so much – we all appreciate the frailty and inconsistency of the work, so we help each other with our auditions and scripts, it’s more of a team effort than anything else.
TH: I have 2 sisters, so it’s slightly different, but the thing about siblings is that they know you better than anyone and there’s that thing about always being bound together by your history. There’s something very honest about the interaction, that you can’t lie in front of your siblings. I love that in this film Thor is able to demand from Loki that he play his hand. Loki is someone who is constantly in control and will never show you how he really feels and the only person who gets close to him is Thor and that seems very true of sibling relationships.
FTF: Natalie, in the first film Jane was more of a spectator, but in this film you’re right in the centre of the action, did that excite you about coming back to the series?
NP: It was really exciting to come back and work with everyone again. This time because Jane went to Asgard, I got to spend a lot more time with Tom [Hiddleston], Anthony [Hopkins] and Rene [Russo] which was amazing.
CH: It was brilliant to have Natalie there to break up some of the Godly testosterone!
FTF: Chris you recently called Britain the new Hollywood. What do you like about in the UK?
CH: The interesting thing about Hollywood is that there’s not a lot actually shot there any more, it’s predominantly just sets and studios there nowadays. The nice thing about the UK is that there are incredible studios but there are brilliant locations to take advantage of too. I love the aesthetic this film has because not only do we get to see Asgard, but we also get to see London. Most of these films tend to have New York or American cities as the backdrop and I love the difference of having London, and I do love shooting here.
NP: I love working here, I’m very envious of British actors and crews. You can really have such a fulfilling and rich career between the theatre, TV and film all in London. It’s fantastic to be able to live and work in the same city.
FTF: Marvel have actually used London a lot, Kevin, what is it about the city which appeals to you?
KF: There’s a great tax incentive to working here, I’m not going to pretend that’s not the case! But what keeps us here, and keeps us coming back are the amazing crews. We’re starting our 4th film next year at Shepperton Studios and it’s been an amazing experience on all four films.
FTF: What do you think it is about Loki that people seem to love, sometimes even more so than Thor.
CH: I don’t know whether it was ever the plan to have Loki in this many films, but purely to do with everything Tom [Hiddleston] brought to the table in the first film and how incredible he was. The mixture of strength, villainy, mischief and vulnerability, it’s such an access point and allows you to relate to him. My hat goes off to Tom, he’s done such an incredible job on every film.
TH: I love you man! I think Loki is defined by Thor. They are Yin and Yang, the sun and the moon. The whole point of them is that they are in opposition. The whole popularity of Loki is such an amazing surprise, I never expected it. I find him a fascinating prospect, because he’s a mixture of playfulness and charm and mischief, but he’s such a broken character, he’s grief stricken, bitter, jealous, angry, lonely and proud. The cocktail of all of his psychological damage and playfulness makes him a really interesting character to play as an actor.
FTF: This film is very comical, was that a conscious effort?
AT: I’m so grateful that the audience seem to be picking up on the comical side of the film. I went into the film trying to darken and deepen the world, and eventually I realised that if we’re going to darken and deepen the world, maybe kill of some loved characters, we’d better make sure that it’s balanced on the other side as well. You have to keep it light on its feet so humour was critical.
FTF: Did the humour in the film help you all ground your characters in this fantastical world?
CE: I saw the film last week and I was actually really surprised at the amount of humour in the film 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 I think was to suggest that the Dark Elves were as ancient a race as the Asgardians and had a history, a culture but most of all a grudge which they had slept on for millions of years. Our job was to bring the threat and the jeopardy. My make-up call was at 3 o’clock and I didn’t get to set until 10 o’clock, so that helped channel my unhappiness!
TH: I think what grounds these things are the family relationships for me. We’re travelling through space and time and dealing with Gods and Monsters. The heart of the film from my perspective is a family – a father, two sons, two brothers, a mother and the fractious, intimate interaction they have.
FTF : Chris, we’ve seen a lot of great development in Thor through over his three films, how have you developed as an actor in that time?
CH: Every film I look back and go ‘Yeah now I get it’ and then I start a new film and think ‘I haven’t a clue what I’m doing!’ So it’s really nice to be able to approach a character for the third time and attack it in a new way with a new director. I think I’ve grown up as a person too, alongside Thor, so that always goes into anything you’re doing and it was nice to have a more mature character who was less petulant and arrogant compared to the first film.
FTF: Alan, how was the editing process on this film? It’s relatively short for a Marvel film – will there be plenty of extras on the DVD?
AT: There’s so many obligations to a movie like this – it has to be dark and emotionally engaging while and funny and earnest at the same time. Part of that process is condensing, tightening and making the film roll on as quickly as it can so that it’s fun. Naturally some things fall out which you wish wouldn’t, there are some things dear to my heart which had to fall away. Hopefully some of those will make their way to the DVD or Bluray.
KF: I think they will, I think there’s about 10 or 12 minutes which will be added.
AT: There was some rumour going around while filming about a running time argument, but I don’t think any of us, myself included ever had an idea of what the running time was, we were just focussed on making it better and more effective. Unfortunately that meant that some of my children ended up murdered and on the cutting-room floor… metaphorically speaking that is!
FTF: Marvel has had a very successful strategy so far with regards to phases of films and also now incorporating Television, with the release of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How co-ordinated are the various outlets, and how far ahead are you looking?
KF: For the most part it is – we’re a very tight-knit group at the studios, so all the movies are very co-ordinated. We’ve announced through to the end of 2015, but we’re planning as far out as 2017. Some time next year we’ll be announcing what those films are for 2016 and 2017. The TV division is up and running now, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is obviously their first series. I know they’d love to bring more things to the TV screen but I don’t know what or when that will be. In terms of S.H.I.E.L.D, yes they sort of cue off what’s happening in the movies and check in with us and go ‘would it be ok if we play with this little aspect?’ so it is quite co-ordinated, but it’s such a small group that it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming task.
FTF: People say conflict is drama, and Malekith is the antagonist here. What’s the point of Malekiths story, what do you think it means?
CE: What is the point of my story(?!). That’s what I said to my agent and Kevin [Feige]! The point of my storyline is for me to get paid! The point of my storyline is vengeance – he is a maniac for vengeance. There were some scenes which, for understandable reasons, didn’t make the final cut which did explain a bit of a back story between me, my ancestors and Borr who is Odins father. But basically the Dark Elves, before the big bang, were humiliated in defeat and ground into the dirt by Odin. Malekith has slept on that and the theme of that element is vengeance. As the old Chinese Proverb goes, ‘He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself’ because it’s a pointless exercise. My job was to bring a dark element to the ‘Dark World’ – the Dark Elves are seeking to turn the light into darkness, it’s really that simple and that classic if you like.
KF: And we needed that in a movie where our villain [Loki] from Avengers, we wanted to be played in a more ambiguous way. In order to do that we needed someone to drive the storyline and give Thor something to fight against. Chris [Eccleston] and Malekith gave us that.
FTF: As you touched on there, Malekith is the main enemy in this film so, although Loki is seen as somewhat of an enemy, he’s skirting the line between friend and foe. Do you think Loki is really evil deep down?
TH: Well that’s a question I’ve asked myself 3 times. I think every villain is a hero in their own mind and people make choices which they will always justify, no matter how misguided their motivation. The great privilege and thrill for me playing this character across 3 films is that he didn’t start out that way. The narrative that was afforded to me at the start of the first film was of a young prince who was brought up believing in his right to a throne, his Asgardian inheritance. His whole story was a lie, he was really adopted after being left to die on a rock. That’s what breaks his heart and all of his villainy and bad credentials come from something deeply honourable. That’s a gift for me, because it means across all of the films I can play a dynamic with Chris [Hemsworth], Anthony [Hopkins] and Rene [Russo] which is, to what extent is he redeemable and can he be pulled back towards the light. That’s a very fun fault-line to dance on.
CH: Yeah, what Tom said! That’s exactly right!
Thor: The Dark World is released in UK cinemas today.