Thor: The Dark World Cast Interview with Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, in theaters soon
We recently traveled to London, England, where we took part in the Thor: The Dark World press day. Our man on the scene, Bo Bory, caught up with the cast for some great 1:1 interviews, which we will be sharing with you over the course of the next few days. But first, we were also asked to participate in a round-robin style cast interview with everyone together, at the same time. We now have the transcript, which you can read for yourself, as it delves into the making of this Marvel Phase Two adventure to answer some of your most burning questions.
- Kevin Feige: (Producer)
- Christopher Eccleston: (Malekith)
- Natalie Portman: (Jane Foster)
- Chris Hemsworth: (Thor)
- Tom Hiddleston: (Loki)
- Kat Dennings: (Darcy Lewis)
- Alan Taylor: (Director)
I'm gonna start with a hard-hitting question for everybody, starting with you, Kevin, and working the way down the line...
Kevin Feige: Okay.
Are you Team Thor or Team Loki?
Kevin Feige: Oh, boy. Who am I sitting closest to? I'm Team Malekith.
Christopher Eccleston: Good. Diplomatic answer.
Christopher Eccleston: Oh, definitely Team Malekith.
That's two for Team Malekith. He's not even in the running. That's amazing...Natalie?
Natalie Portman: Oh, what kind of woman would I be if I didn't say Team Thor?
Chris Hemsworth: Team Loki.
Tom Hiddleston: Team Thor.
Anyone keeping score here, by the way?
Tom Hiddleston: I'm losing. I'm destined to lose. That's Loki's fate, I think. He's always gonna lose.
Kat Dennings: I'll go with Team Loki.
Tom Hiddleston: Yay.
That's two for Team Loki. And Alan, I think you've got to cast...
Chris Hemsworth: The deciding vote.
Alan Taylor: It's like Sophie's Choice, right? I can't pick one brother over the other, so I will say Team Kat.
Christopher Eccleston: Good.
Kat Dennings: Oh. That's nice.
Tom Hiddleston: Pretty definitive.
Christopher Eccleston: Diplomatic.
I think Team Malekith won that one, strange enough. A question for Chris and Tom, if I may. The subject of trust is prevalent within the film, and I wondered, having worked together now on a number of films, whether you're free to experiment because there is a trust between you as actors?
Chris Hemsworth: Sure. I mean, there's certainly a shorthand we have from having this being the third film we've shot together now, and you don't spend a chunk of your shooting time getting to know one another. We're able to pick up where we left off, and have developed a great friendship along the way. From the beginning, we were lucky. We just had a chemistry and the same kind of enthusiasm. Just the relationship, I look forward to delving into that every time. Being able to ask the questions that Thor and Loki haven't really had the acute focus to do so yet. This instance was the great opportunity we had.
Tom Hiddleston: I love you, man.
Chris Hemsworth: I love you.
Tom Hiddleston: It's absolutely true. From the beginning of Kenneth Branagh's Thor, all the way through Joss Whedon's Marvel's The Avengers and into Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World, it has been an amazing adventure for both of us. And the two characters define each other, and need each other, and all acting is about what happens in the space between people. And the more you trust each other, the deeper you can go. And when I'm on set with Chris, whatever he serves I'll return, and he'll return back, and that is the joy of it for me.
Another theme in this is sibling rivalry. And I know that you've got two brothers, and I just wondered whether you drew on your relationship with them to inform your interactions with Loki? And also, as they're both actors, do you find that there's lots of competition between the Hemsworth brothers?
Chris Hemsworth: Neither of them ever attempted to take over universe...Just yet. I think I'd have the same reaction if they did. We're competitive as siblings in everything from sports and backyard cricket and football, surfing, to who's controlling the remote control watching TV. This industry, not so much. Certainly all three of us understand the sort of frailty and inconsistency of the work, and we'd help each other with auditions and always have, in whatever scripts we're working on, and you're not in direct competition anyway. It's more of a kind of team effort with this, than anything else.
What about using the relationship with them to channel into this?
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah, sure. Aw, look, I mean, one of the scenes where they're in the spaceship, exiting Asgard...Tom and I were pretty insistent on saying, "No, this has gotta feel like, you know, when you're in the back seat with your siblings." We couldn't get 100 meters down the road before, you know, the three of us'd be, like, "Get off me. Don't touch me. Don't do this." That certainly played into that scene, and a lot of the stuff. You understand what it's like to have that kind of love-hate sort of thing, and you'd do anything for them, but at the same time, the simplest things can annoy you. I try and draw from whatever experiences I've been through or can empathize with frustration towards one's sibling.
That question was also for Tom, by the way...
Tom Hiddleston: It was?
Tom Hiddleston: I have two sisters, and so it's a slightly different dynamic.
Chris Hemsworth: They have long hair, though, like Thor.
Tom Hiddleston: That's it. Long blonde hair, both of them. Yeah. I mean, I suppose the thing about siblings is, is they know you. 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 can't lie in front of your siblings. And I love in this film, I love that Thor is able to demand from Loki that he play his hand. You know, Loki's someone who's constantly in control, but he'll never show you how he really feels. And the only person who gets close to it is Thor, and that seems very true of sibling relationships. I absolutely second the spaceship scene. I've actually been on a road trip with Chris and Liam Hemsworth, it's very similar to that.
Chris Hemsworth: It's rather similar. You're the worst driver. Go that way, it's quicker. No it's not.
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah, he's the older brother, he runs the show.
(A little boy dressed as Thor stands up in the press conference audience...)
Child: Thor, are you actually brothers with Loki? In real life?
Chris Hemsworth: No, I wish we were.
Tom Hiddleston: Tough, tough question.
Chris Hemsworth: We do actually have different parents, and Loki was adopted into the Asgardian family. But, we love one another like brothers, yeah.
Alan Taylor: I think you have to be wearing a costume now to ask a question, the bar has been raised.
To Natalie, obviously in the first film, Jane was very much a spectator, whereas this time she's right in the middle of Thor's world. I wonder if that was part of what excited you about the prospect of coming back? And I guess for Chris and Tom, how nice was it for you to have a very beautiful third wheel to your dynamic?
Tom Hiddleston: Absolutely.
Natalie Portman: Well, that's very nice, thank you. It was exciting to get to come back and work with everyone, and meet people who were joining this time and also, because Jane gets to go to Asgard this time, I was lucky enough to get to work more with Tom, and to have scenes with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins, too, were amazing, and I just go to admire from afar, and then also just continue the fun rapport with Kat Dennings and Chris, and it was definitely a lot of laughing, maybe too much laughing on set.
Chris Hemsworth: There'll be interesting DVD extras on this one.
Natalie Portman: Yeah.
Chris Hemsworth: It was brilliant to have her there to break up some of the godly testosterone of Thor and Loki, doin' their thing with beautiful Jane. So, yeah.
Tom Hiddleston: I loved working with her. In first film, Loki's aware of Jane Foster's presence, and refers to her. But it was so fun to see what happens when the two share the same space. Violence, as you see. Just, you know, that's the first move.
Chris, you recently called Britain the new Hollywood, as a place to film. And I just wanted to ask you and Natalie, what's it like compared to filming in Hollywood? How different is it filming in the UK?
Chris Hemsworth: The interesting thing about Hollywood is...I don't know that a lot of stuff gets shot there anymore. Obviously, once upon a time it did. But it's predominately kind of sets and studios. The nice thing about here is there's incredible studios, but there's brilliant locations to take advantage of, and I love the aesthetic feel this film has, because, you know, not only because of Asgard, but we get to see London, and most of these films are set with sort of New York or an American city is the backdrop. I love that difference, and yeah, I do love shooting here.
Natalie Portman: Yeah. I would echo him in that 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 British crews, 'cause American and, I don't know, I guess Australian actors, too, we end up like gypsies, going from movie to movie...Or moving cities all the time. And you can really have such a fulfilling, wonderful rich career doing, between the theatre, the TV here, and the film all in London...It's pretty cool to get to live and work in the same place.
Marvel has used London a lot, or is gonna use London a lot in the future. What is it about London that's so great for your-your studio?
Kevin Feige: It's no secret that there's a very good tax incentive which lures the studios here. I don't want to pretend that's not the case, but, what keeps us here and what keeps us coming back are the amazing crews, which ar unbelievable. We're starting our fourth film next year at Shepperton. And it's been an amazing experience, all four of them.
For Tom. If Comic-Con's anything to go by, people really love Loki. What do you think it is about Loki that people seem to really love, kind of, more over Thor?
Tom Hiddleston: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
Chris Hemsworth: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Natalie Portman: Wow.
Chris Hemsworth: Lovely. Where's the guy in the costume?
Tom Hiddleston: Yeah.
Alan Taylor: Several more years of brotherly therapy to follow that.
Tom Hiddleston: Yeah. You know, listen...
Chris Hemsworth: I Can I tell you what I love about Loki, just...We've been talking about this all morning, and it's very hard to have a go as well, but I don't know that 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, the mixture of strength and villainous and mischief and vulnerability, which is such an access point. You can immediately empathize with this misunderstood guy. That is why he was kept. They kept bringing him back into every film. Like, I don't know that was ever the plan, but, I mean, my hat goes off to Tom and I think he's done such an incredible job in every film, and hopefully we can keep sneaking him in more some way.
Tom Hiddleston: I love you, man. I wanted to say in response to the second part, I think Loki is defined by Thor. He's defined in opposition to him. That they are yin and yang. They are the sun and the moon, that is the whole point of them. It is that they are, um, in opposition. And, the popularity of the character has been such an amazing surprise. I had never expected it in my wildest dreams. I don't know. I found him a fascinating prospect, because he's a mixture of playfulness and charm and mischief. That's his moniker. He's the god of mischief, so there's a playfulness to him. But he's such a broken character. He's grief stricken and bitter and jealous and angry and lonely and proud. And so the cocktail of all of his psychological damage and hisplayfulness as an actor, is just a really interesting thing to inhabit. And by the way, you are the only Thor.
I love all the scenes with Stellan Skårsgard. I felt this movie had much more humor than any other Marvel film I've ever seen, so, can you comment on that? Maybe Alan and Kevin?
Alan Taylor: I'm so grateful to hear that that's what's coming back from the audience as they start to see the film for the first time. I think I went into it, and I thought my first task was to darken the world and deepen it and dirty it up a little bit. I sort of felt like that was my mandate going in. And then as we started the process, I realized, "Oops. Um, if we're gonna darken it, if we're gonna deepen it, if we're going to possibly kill off some characters that we love, we'd better make darn sure that it's balanced on the other side," because the key to the Marvel universe and the Marvel language that I was being assaulted by while I was making this movie, 'cause Marvel's The Avengers came out while we were starting it, and Iron Man 3 came out while we were finishing it...You are screwed if you don't also keep it funny and light on its feet at the same time. So it's, it's called Thor: The Dark World, and there's certainly dark currents in it, but the humor was critical. And I can't say enough great things about Stellan Skarsgård. He's the first thing we shot. I think we started with him in Stonehenge, running around with a thong on, and he's probably one of the few men I know who walks into it, didn't even bat an eye, he just...He's hilarious and always truthful in his performance. Just great.
And speaking of comedy, if we're bringing in Kat in on this one...I'm delighted to see that Darcy still can't pronounce Mjölnir , which is great. Is there a lot of improvisation, though, on the set of a movie like this?
Kat Dennings: Me?
Kat Dennings: Oh, God. Okay. There was a little bit of improv in my first day back, and I'm on this show in the States which allows no improv whatsoever. And so when you guys told me I could do that, I didn't know what to do. I was very jetlagged, so I think "banana balls" came out of my exhaustion. But, yeah, I was very happy to be back, that you guys gave Darcy same awesome things to say and do.
For Chris, we've seen a lot of great development from Thor from the first film, due to the Avengers, now this. How do you feel you've developed as an actor from the first film till now? Also for Alan, I was surprised to find that this was actually one of the shorter Marvel films. So what was the editing process like, and how much footage can we expect to see later on?
Alan Taylor: Chris goes first.
Chris Hemsworth: I Can't remember the question. Every film, I look back and go, "Oh, okay, now I get it." And then I start the next one and go, "Oh, I don't have a clue what I'm doing." And, um, you know, it's nice to be able to approach a character again, and for the third time, attack it 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 grew up as a person as well, as you do through time, strangely enough, and so does Thor, that echoes into whatever you're doing in your work. It was nice to have a more mature Thor who was sort of, less petulant and arrogant and a teenager, as the first one was at times. But, that transition into him understanding the darker side of the throne and that responsibility and the sacrifices, you know, it was fun to play with.
Alan Taylor: So editing process? There's so many obligations to a movie like this, as I said before. You know, it has to be dark and emotionally engaging. It also has to be funny and constantly earn it's sort of entertainment value. And part of that process is condensing and tightening and making it roll along as quickly as it can, so that it is fun. So naturally some things fall out that you wish didn't fall out. Some things dear to my heart that I love...Christopher Eccleston and I were talking about some things that we really savored that had to fall away. I'd be really grateful if some of those appear on a DVD or a Blu-ray at some point.
Kevin Feige: I think they will. I think there's about
12 minutes of footage on the Blu-ray.
Alan Taylor: I mean, that's great, that's fantastic. There was, some rumor going around...This is my first encounter with doing work while the Internet watches. I had a little bit of that on Game of Thrones, but nothing prepared me for this. There was a rumor about a running time argument at one point. And it was funny, 'cause I don't think anybody that I knew, my editors, you, me, we, I don't even know how long the movie was. There was never a running time issue. It was always, you know, how can we make it better, funnier, more effective? How can it land harder? So in that process, some of my children had to get murdered and put on the floor. But, I'm sure they'll have an afterlife.
Kevin Feige: Metaphorically.
Alan Taylor: Yes, thanks. Kevin let them go home, eventually, my real children.
In terms of tone, the Marvel cinematic universe is matching the comics, it's getting more fantastic, more out there. I wonder if the humor was a way of trying to ground some of that to make it palatable. And in the other sense, as the actors in the cast, as the world is getting more fantastical, and things are becoming more strange, how did you find a way to hook yourself as actors into grounding your performances and trying to stay true to your characters?
Kevin Feige: Humor is definitely the key. We've got spaceships in this movie and other planets in this movie. And we have found that humor is an amazing way to get the audience to sort of just embrace and accept all of those worlds and all that craziness and all these costumes. It's worked well for us, going back to the first Iron Man film.
In terms of grounding your performances? Let's start with Christopher, and work our way down, please.
Christopher Eccleston: How I ground my performance out? They'll tell you. They had to suffer. Well, it's interesting talkin' about the humor of the film. I saw it last week and was really surprised at the amount of humor, 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 the dark elves were as ancient a race as the Asgardians, and had a history which is why we gave them a language, and had a culture, but most of all, they had a grudge, which they had slept on for millions of years. What's interesting about the film is it does have a variety of tones, and our job was to bring the threat and the menace and the jeopardy. So we ground it in bitterness.
Kevin Feige: Well, you said earlier that you had to get up at three a.m. to put your costume on...
Christopher Eccleston: Yeah.
Kevin Feige: And that you were so bitter and angry by the time that was over, that you just trade that on...
Christopher Eccleston: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. My makeup call was about three o'clock. I was in the chair about four o'clock, ten o'clock, I hit the set. So I was not a happy elf.
Natalie Portman: The humor, I think also the fact that the characters are going through, even though they're traveling between realms, are going through things that we can all relate to. For myself, playing a woman who, the guy didn't call back and disappeared, and there's a long distance thing going on, and then when it works out, she meets the parents, you know, those are all things that, obviously, most women can relate to. Most, and of course, I'm the mortal among the gods and villains near me, so I guess that's naturally more grounded. But a lot of the issues they had us dealing with were human. I mean, even the brothers, I feel like that's so relatable as humans.
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah. I remember, Anthony Hopkins said something to me the first day on set, on Thor, and we walked in our outfits, and he has the eye patch and the whole thing, and he looked at me, and said, "Uh, no acting required here." And, I always remember that, and think, like, "Yeah, don't compete with it." You know, like, keep it simple, and it already sells a lot of the work for you.
Tom Hiddleston: I can't add much to what everyone else has already said. I suppose the thing that I always think is grounding about these films is the family relationships for me. We're traveling through space and time, we're dealing with gods and monsters. But the heart of the film, from my perspective, is a family, a father, two sons, two brothers, a mother, and the fractious intimate interaction that they have.
Kat Dennings: Oh, my God.
Kevin Feige: Top that.
Kat Dennings: Um, well, I think Darcy is maybe the most grounded person in the story. Even if she's kind of spacy in her brain, she's not in space. I think Darcy's love for Jane and my love for Nat is a pretty easy way for me to stay grounded in the whole thing.
Natalie Portman: Me, too.
Kat Dennings: I love you. Yeah, and I get to be the outsider to all the craziness and comment on it, I think, like the audience would.
Both Marvel and DC, obviously, have had successes at the cinema, but Marvel seems to have a very, very good strategy for a universe, not just on the big screen, but obviously TV as well. How coordinated is that, and how far ahead are you looking? I know there's talk about more TV series after "Shield," more phases in the cinema. Is it one package you're looking at? Clockwork, as it were?
Kevin Feige: For the most part it is. We're a very tightknit group at the studio, so all of the movies are very, very coordinated. And we have them announced through the end of 2015, but are planning as far out as 2017. Sometime next year, we'll announce what those films are for '16 and '17. The TV division is up and running now, and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. obviously, was their first series. I know they'd love to bring more things to the TV screen. I'm not sure exactly what or when that will be. And in terms of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., yes, they sort of cue off of what's happening in the movies and occasionally check in with us and go, "Would it be okay if we play with this?" So it is quite coordinated, but it's, again, such a small group, it doesn't feel like an overwhelming task. It's just a heck of a lot of fun.
For Natalie. I believe your Mum keeps a scrapbook of photos that she allows out on set for such eventualities, and all these shots in the flat scene are you through the ages. Do you wish that scrapbook would go away? Or as someone who can look at themselves on DVD at age ten, are you sort of not worried about your old image?
Natalie Portman: I guess the funny thing is that it is, I think, the same set of photos that she always lends out for every movie I've done for the past 20 years, so there's a lot of characters that shouldn't have the same experiences and family photos but do. Hopefully, they're, you know, more background, and people aren't really focusing on them. But, yeah, all sorts of different people have been, like, Photoshopped into them, you know. There's some interesting ones of, like, me and Tobey Maguire from when I'm young, and me, but not real, of course, Photoshopped, um, you know, various different people I've worked with.
Chris did actually touch on this a little bit earlier, but I'm interested 'cause, well, you know, we people say conflict is drama. Malekith is the antagonist here. But we keep talking still about the brothers, and the romantic dynamic. What's really the dynamic with Malekith, and what's it mean? What's the point of that storyline here do you all think?
Christopher Eccleston: What is the point of my storyline? That's what I said to my agent. That's what I said to Kevvy. The point of my storyline is for me to get paid. The point of my storyline, I'm repeating myself slightly, it's vengeance. He is a maniac for vengeance. There were some scenes which, for understandable reasons, didn't make the final cut, which explained a bit of a backstory between me, my ancestors, and Borr, who is Odin's father. Basically, the dark elves before the big bang, centuries and centuries ago, were humiliated in defeat, and ground into the dirt by Odin. And Malekith has slept on that. The theme of that element is vengeance, really, and as we know, as somebody once said, "Let he who seeks vengeance be careful to dig two graves," because it's a pointless exercise. That's it. My job was to bring a dark element, The Dark World, the dark elves are seeking to turn light into darkness. It's really that simple, and that classic, if you like.
Kevin Feige: And we needed that in a movie where our-our villain from Marvel's The Avengers...We wanted to play in a slightly 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.
Alan Taylor: And, we're all jumping on this one. I mean, Malekith is a purist. He's a fundamentalist. He's a zealot. One of the major themes in the movie for me is something that, you know, most of your characters have to confront in one way or another, and it was a question, it was a theme that was expressed very clearly by Malekith in the scene that you will find on your Blu-ray, where he's confronting Odin and he say you have to ask yourself, as I once did, "What are you willing to sacrifice for what you believe?" And it's every character that goes through a turning point like that in the movie, and Malekith is the kind of guy who would sacrifice anything for principal.
Christopher Eccleston: Yeah.
Alan Taylor: And we've seen him do it. And Thor learns a difficult version of that and decides to go a different way.
Tom and Chris...Malekith is the main enemy in this, so Loki...Although he's seen as the enemy, he's not the main antagonist. I was wondering, deep down, do you think Loki is really evil, or is it just a jealous façade on the outside?
Tom Hiddleston: It's a question that I've asked myself three times. I think every villain is a hero in his own mind. People make choices. And they always justify those choices, no matter how misguided their motivation. And the great privilege and thrill for me to play this character across three films is that he didn't start out that way. And, the storyline, the narrative that was 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, his inheritance of his Asgardian inheritance, that this whole story was a lie, that he was adopted and left to die on a frozen rock, and that essentially is what breaks his heart. And of his villainy, all of his bad guy credentials come from something deeply vulnerable. And that's a gift. 'Cause it means across Thor, across Marvel's The Avengers across Thor: The Dark World, that I can play a dynamic with Chris and with Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo, which is to what extent is he redeemable? Can he be pulled back towards the light? It's a very fun fault line to dance on.
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah, what he said. That's exactly it. Well done.
Alan Taylor: How do you know so much about Loki?
Chris Hemsworth: I don't know...