A Few Thor: Ragnarok Updates, Straight From Its Director
By now, we’re used to folks leaping out of the indie-movie world to take the reins on massive franchises. Colin Trevorrow went from Safety Not Guaranteed to Jurassic World; Gareth Edwards made Monsters and went on to Godzilla and this year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now, there’s Taika Waititi, who made his name as a director on Flight of the Conchords and the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, and is now shifting gears to direct next year’s Thor: Ragnarok for Marvel.
But before he even starts shooting that, he’s releasing Hunt for the Wilderpeople, his Sundance darling about Tupac-loving foster kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his contentious bond with an outdoorsman named Hec (Sam Neill). While it’s mostly an adventure film—the boy and his foster uncle end up having to fend for themselves in the New Zealand outback—it’s also a whip-smart family comedy, something that’s at the heart of a lot of Waititi’s films.
“I like hiring people who are interested in the story and want to make something cool,” Waititi says. “It’s like you’re going on a camping trip with your extended family.”
Waititi’s next camping trip will have a few new family members: two Asgardian brothers, a Hulk, a Grandmaster, Hela, and even Valkyrie. And even though he says “there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference” between his previous films and Thor: Ragnarok, it’s still a much bigger beast. Here’s what the director could tell us about joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Thor Is Just Like Wilderpeople—Except This Time Waititi Gets a Trailer
It might seem like there are huge differences between making a movie in the New Zealand outback in five weeks and making one of the next big Marvel movies, but Waititi doesn’t see them as being all that different. “There are still the same issues and the same concerns you’d have on an indie shoot,” he says. “You’re still working on the script, you’re still trying to finalize design. It just feels like every other thing I’ve done, to be honest, except that directors have [their own] trailers on this movie. In my movies they sit in cars when they take their breaks.”
Waititi Has No Plan
Waititi may be joining one of the largest movie franchises around, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that was his goal. While he says he’s “always wanted to do a big movie like this,” it wasn’t part of some grand five-year plan he had for his career. “I didn’t even really want to be a filmmaker, so that I’ve lasted this long is a miracle,” he says. “But I wanted to see what this would be like, you know? I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh I’ll do this and then I’ll get to pitch on something else and then I’ll truly be in the Hollywood system!’ That doesn’t hold a huge amount of interest to me.”
Thor: Ragnarok Will Keep Much Waititi’s Signature Style
A lot of other directors who jumped from indies to franchise movies maintained genre and tonal similarities between their projects. Waititi, on the other hand, comes from the world of deadpan comedy. Will he be able to do that in a movie as high-stakes as Ragnarok? “They’re allowing me to bring a lot of my sensibility, a lot of my style to this film,” he says. “I’m amazed with what they’re allowing me to put into this movie.”
He’s Stoked to Have a Female Villain—But He’s Not Telling Her What to Do
One of the smartest pieces of casting for Ragnarok is the decision to hire Cate Blanchett as Hela—essentially making her Marvel’s first female cinematic villain. Waititi is excited about that prospect, and he’s going to give Blanchett freedom to do her thing. “I don’t usually tell people what to do unless it’s really not working,” he says. “Half the battle is just casting the right people, whether it’s Wilderpeople or a superhero movie. Then mostly your work is done.”
He’s Just Gonna Let Goldblum Be Goldblum
A few weeks ago, Jeff Goldblum, who will be playing The Grandmaster in Ragnarok, said Waititi has been encouraging him to improvise in his approach to the character. The director confirms. “When I met him, I realized that all of his characters are just him,” he says. “So what else could I say to him besides ’Just be yourself’?”
He Doesn’t Want to Talk About Hulk
Another Ragnarok actor to spill the beans in recent weeks was Mark Ruffalo, who said that his Bruce Banner and Hulk might be on a “collision course” in the new movie. Waititi will neither confirm or deny that. (Puny gossip!) When asked what the Hulk would be doing in the new movie the director just said “smash.” “I can’t reveal that information,” he laughs. “He’s just going to do Hulk stuff. Hulk-y things.”
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