Other than the fact that Taika Waititi was from New Zealand and that he was going to direct THOR: RAGNAROK, I confess to not knowing a lot about him as a filmmaker. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise as I discovered what an interesting, smart, and hilarious man he is during this exclusive interview with THOR: RAGNAROK director Taika Waititi. If he’s “new” to you too, then you don’t want to miss meeting him!
When I got the interview list for our event, I was thrilled to see that our THOR: RAGNAROK interviews included some people I didn’t know a whole lot about.
I figured that this gave me the perfect opportunity to expand my fangirl base- and so it did.
Can you really have too many people on your Hollywood dream BFF list?
Nope, I don’t think so.
And Taika Waititi definitely?found a spot on my list with this movie and this interview.
On Directing a Marvel Movie
We knew this was his first Marvel movie and we wanted to know what he thought about being part of such a large franchise.
Personally, I would have been scared out of my mind. But I’m not Taika.
He took the chance to push outside his comfort zone and created something extraordinary as a result.
Taika Waititi: “It was harrowing and exciting.
When they offered me the chance to come and pitch on it, remember my experience was making very independent films, you know, low budget, 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.’
But, I thought, well if they want someone to topple their company, I’ll go.
So yeah I was really unsure if I really 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.
I didn’t start making films until I was about 28, 29 and it was never my big dream as a kid.?I wasn’t like, you know, JJ (Abrams) 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 yeah after eight years of making films I started really thinking.
I started feeling I was kind of treading 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 pitch is that a lot of people think it?s been about pitching stories and stuff.
I just think it?s just about sussing 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 and yeah, I haven?t had any regrets.”
Playing Korg (And Stealing Scenes)
This movie has an awesome array of characters.
You basically get a new Thor and a new Hulk because these guy are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. You also get the first female villain in a Marvel film in Hela.
And you get Taika playing Korg, a fellow Grandmaster prisoner and gladiator.
Spoiler: He steals every scene he’s in.
We asked Taika why he decided to not only make this huge Marvel movie, something like no one has ever seen before, but to put a little extra pressure on himself by playing a character as well.
Taika Waititi: “Because I’m a self-saboteur. Any chance I get to, you know, to put my career at risk I?ll just do it, you know.
I will wedge myself in any film I do.
I really love the actor title.
But with that planet, Sakaar, and with so many eclectic characters and crazy elements in this film you often need something grounding for the audience.
I feel I’m really good at playing mum characters; so in What We Do In the Shadows, this vampire film,?my character in there is the mother of the house and he brings in the documentary crew and looks after them; and Korg is very much the mother of the prison and looks after everyone.
I think audiences 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.”
Ad-libbing and Improvisation
We heard there was a lot of ad-libbing and improvisation on the film.
How much of Korg?s dialogue was freestyle?
Taika Waititi:? “All of Korg?s dialogue was improvised.
We would know certain pieces of information that we wanted to get across and so it was ‘Okay well he has to tell them…’
You know- does Korg give any useful information at all?”
We all laughed, because, well… just see the movie.
Korg is one interesting cat!
Taika Waititi:?“There?s a lot of stuff in the film that?s ad-libbed.
I 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 so just making stuff up seeing if we can get something better.
You write dialogue six months before you shoot, you think it?s amazing at the time but, you don’t ever know what will change.”
The Director’s God Complex
It sounded like life on-set was fun.
When we saw the cast together in a large press conference, they genuinely looked like they enjoyed each other’s company.
Taika admitted that they laughed a lot and that he was to blame for some of it.
Taika Waititi:?“I ruined multiple takes by either being in front of the camera or laughing off-screen.
The way I direct is I’m about this close to the actors and just stand there, ‘Say this, 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 like a puppeteer.
‘I can?t believe I’m making Anthony Hopkins say whatever I want.’
So yeah, it really goes to your head, pretty quick.”
Taika’s favorite performance in Thor: Ragnarok
I wanted to know which actor’s performance he liked the most.
Like I mentioned before, there are so many great performances and characters to choose from.
He’d already told us how well he got along with Chris Hemsworth, so it was not a huge surprise to hear his answer.
Taika Waititi: “Well I knew Jeff would be that good but my favorite performance is Chris?s performance.
Just knowing how fun he is and how funny and he?s charming.
He’s the kind of person that makes me feel like, ‘Oh man, if you were Thor, yeah, I would totally come on adventures with you!’
I just loved having the opportunity to give him free reign to just be himself and to be charming and to be the favorite character.
Particularly him and Mark; I think together when they?re bouncing off each other- I love that!”
This is one of the featurette’s Marvel has been running in preparation for THOR: RAGNAROK.
I think it perfectly illustrates what Taika is talking about as far as the Chris/Mark dynamic we see on screen.
Check it out- and then go check out THOR: RAGNAROK in theaters on November 3!
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THOR: RAGNAROK?opens in theaters everywhere?November 3rd!
Patty Holliday is a movie critic, writer, and podcaster living in the Washington, DC area. Her goal is to bridge the gap between casual fandom and picky critic with parent movie and television reviews.