The latest Marvel film, Thor: Love and Thunder, is a true family affair, according to director Taika Waititi.
When New Zealand director Taika Waititi walked the red carpet at the Sydney premiere of Thor: Love and Thunder, fans shouted his name.
They shouted his name with the same zeal, volume and dedication as they did for the star of the Marvel movie, Chris Hemsworth.
“I paid them a little more,” Waititi joked to news.com.au. Was it false modesty or that self-deprecating sense of Kiwi? It is difficult to estimate.
Even if it was a little bit of self-assurance, you’d have a hard time claiming it wasn’t deserved. Waititi’s star has skyrocketed since he last released a Thor movie, Ragnarok in 2017.
At the time, he was a much-loved indie director who had just jumped out of small New Zealand movies like Hunting the Wildervolk† Boy and What we do in the shade to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now he’s an Oscar winner (for Jojo Rabbit), a household name and half of a Hollywood couple (with Rita Ora) — and with huge budgets and even bigger talent.
Of RagnarokWaititi was relatively untested at the time and he could be experimental and loose with a character and MCU branch going through a soft reboot. Of love and thunder, there was pressure. And expectations.
“I thought [Ragnarok] would probably be the last Thor and what a great way to go out,” Waititi said. “And then they said, ‘Let’s do another one’ and I thought, ‘Well, I think we’ve used all the ideas’.
“Okay, how are we going to top that? How do we match it anyway and match that energy? And I realized that with someone who has everything – he’s a god, he’s been around for thousands of years, he’s constantly helping people – it’s like, what do the fans expect least from Thor?
“I thought, ‘Well, a midlife crisis.’ Thor is trying to sort out his stuff and try to figure out what his purpose in life is. We just took it from there and explored that idea. And love! It’s a thing about superheroes , you never really dive into love territory.”
The love question allowed Waititi to bring back Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, a character who was in the first two Thor movies and then sat it out until a brief appearance in Avengers: Endgamewhich was a stepping stone for love and thunder†
Portman’s return paved the way for Waititi to make love and thunder something of a rom-com, inspired by Beautiful woman† Something has to give and A nice day†
Now that Jane takes on the mantle and powers of The Mighty Thor, she becomes Thor’s match and adds a touch to their don’t-they-want-they-don’t-want-to-want dynamic.
“It was a lot of fun bringing up the idea of love and having her be an amazing superhero, the girl who is just as powerful as Thor.
“Everyone loves love, and everyone really responds to it. I think that’s what you want with these characters and these superhero movies. It can’t just be fight after fight after fight after fight. You have to have an emotional development.”
The rom-com is just one element of Thor: Love and Thundera cross of different genres including horror, superhero action blockbuster and family adventure.
The latter involved a cast of children, many of whom were the offspring of the famous faces in the production, including Waititi’s daughters Matewa Kiritapu and Te Hinekahu, Natalie Portman’s children, Christian Bale’s children, producers Brad Winderbaum and Brian Chapek’s brood and of course, the junior Hemsworth clan.
Hemsworth’s daughter India has a notable role in the film, and her casting was requested by the lead actor.
“That role, [Hemsworth] was like, ‘Well, it would be pretty nice if I could do that with her, we have to tie everything up and it’s just fun for us’ and she was great, and it was great.”
It was a real family affair. Waititi’s eldest daughter, Te Hinekahu, draws a shadow monster that was eventually digitally rendered in the film, while the rest of the monsters were also designed by the kids.
“Our kids were always on set. I always encourage people to just take their kids to work because I love having my kids there, it just cheers everyone up.”
To call Thor: Love and ThunderThe fusion of ambitious genres is an understatement. But it sounds like there were even more to play with than what hit the screen.
“In the script you just put everything in and then you figure it out in the edit,” explains Waititi. “We basically film everything we have and all the other ideas that happen on the day.
“There’s about a hundred hours of footage that you have to go through. A lot of the scenes we’ll be shooting for about three days, just to get as much as possible. We’ll do very dramatic versions of the scenes, and stupid, ridiculous versions. We’ll mix them up, then we’ll change the lock, move all the props, and get dressed.
“Then, during the edit, we’ll spend 14 months stitching different versions together, testing with the audience, seeing what they’re responding to, what they want more or less of.”
One of the surprising, even incredulous responses Waititi has gotten from the test audience is “it’s too funny.”
“Sometimes you get reactions like that on a lot of comedies. You will hear the audience say there are too many jokes and they don’t care about anyone. Then you have to focus on the characters and their arcs and make it all make sense.
“And then sometimes they say, ‘It was all right, but it was boring and I wish there were jokes’. You are just testing recipes.”
The editing cartwheels and public testing are part of the long, Covid-interrupted process of shepherding Thor: Love and Thunder to screen.
And Waititi has another movie in the pipeline, one he filmed before love and thunder† Next goal winsa sports drama starring Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth Moss and longtime friends and collaborators Rhys Darby and Rachel House.
He also produces the acclaimed Reservation Dogsplus the What we do in the shade TV spin-off and Our flag means death†
In between, as the opportunities pile up – with the promise of more to come – he takes on roles on screen or as a voice actor as an actor in projects such as The Mandalorian† free man† The Suicide Squad† light year and The Electric Life of Louis Wain†
Waititi took up acting, but the opportunities he got in his twenties were “so boring,” so he and his theater friends started writing the characters they thought would be fun and interesting to play.
“We would write those kinds of characters, and when I started making movies, I realized I could do that in movies, because why not?
“Now I’m a bit used to performing in other people’s work, and that’s even more fun because all the pressure is off. I don’t have to stress about it all day and night and I don’t have to work a year and a half after that to deliver it.
“I can just go and really focus on that work, make up for that and then relax.”
Thor: Love and Thunder is in cinemas from Wednesday 6 July
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