Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
Back in October, I travelled to London to do interviews for the current #1 movie in the world, Thor: The Dark World. Since then, we’re run a bunch of quotes from my interviews, but now that the film is out, we’re going to run all the interviews in full over the next three days. Here you can read about all the spoiler discussion in context, as well as more specific questions related to the film and some stuff about upcoming projects and superhero movies in general too.
Below you can read my full interview with the director, Alan Taylor.
Beware of spoilers from Thor: The Dark World below.
/Film: You’re the new kid coming into the highly scrutinized Marvel Universe. What is the most daunting thing right off the bat?
Alan Taylor: You mean specifically about the hyper scrutinization?
Yes, when everything from pre-production through is discussed.
I got a little warm up from Game of Thrones. I remember shooting in Croatia and being stunned that the stuff we shot in the morning was already visible online in the afternoon. I thought “Holy crap, these people are really paying attention,” but that was nothing, because it wasn’t about me. Then starting on Thor I was stunned that my name was being thrown around and that people who don’t know who you are are arguing whether you’re going to be an asshole or not. [Laughs] That was kind of flattering, because I like attention, but also weird and daunting and then of course it turned weird midway through post.
We had this fallout, Marvel and I, with our composer, because I wanted to use a guy who I think is a world class genius and we had him. Then Marvel parted ways with him and that was not great. That thing flourished online into this rumor that was negative and it was the first time I thought, “So far it’s been ‘Oh, Game of Thrones! It’s going to be crazy.’ I could totally screw it up,” and now all of a sudden it was “He’s going to be fired from directing the movie.” I was like “Really?” So you know, I imagine if there was a lot of that, like if you were Ben Affleck, then it would really wear you down, but so far that wacky rumor and most of the rest have been sort of… I’m surprised how enthusiastic… the Blogosphere wants it to be good. They want it to do well. There’s hoping you don’t screw it up, so in that way it’s mostly feeling positive.
There were discussions of reshoots, and even though reshoots are planned, the talk got negative…
The only issue I have with that is I would never use the word “reshoot,” because it’s a huge difference to a director. To say “reshoot” means “you screwed up the first time and you’ve got to go back and get it right this time” and it was never that. I come out of TV where you never reshoot, because you don’t have time. If you do reshoot it’s because someone really screwed up. This was all “additional photography” and it’s my experience with the Marvel process that they save a portion of the budget for this. What we were basically doing was a lot of it was getting more Loki stuff, because we realized how successful he was in the movie, so we sort of “Loki-ed it up” a little bit.
Also, with the Marvel process, at least with my experience with this one where the script is in flux not up until you shoot, it’s in flux while you are shooting. I got into trouble for saying that Joss Whedon had come in and rewritten some scenes we were shooting and I stand by it, it was great. He came in. He’s a genius. He fixed the scene and left, but the rewriting process continues through post as far as they were concerned and that takes some getting used to, but it wasn’t a negative process, it was just a different process. I feel like coming from TV where the writer’s god and you have a script and that’s what you do. In this one the script is like the last thing. I think we worked out the script right before we locked picture.
What scene did Joss work on? And what sort of Loki scenes?
Well there’s a scene that we probably shouldn’t identify too much, that’s one of the funniest scenes in the movie where Loki’s being a shapeshifter. That was a very, very late addition and there’s a connective thing at the beginning that bridges from The Avengers story to sort of explain how Loki is in prison or why he is in prison. That was a very, very late addition. That was probably “more Loke is a good thing,” but also we decided it was an expositional link there that was needed for the audience. So those are two examples of Loki stuff. What was the other question?
About Whedon’s work — the movie feels like it’s got his punchy humor.
Like I was saying to an earlier guy. My first strong idea coming in was “I want to darken it. I want to gritty it up. I want to make it more grounded in reality.” My second thought was “Okay, if I do that, I sure as hell better make sure it’s funny, because that’s key to the Marvel language.” That’s actually the thing I respect most about Marvel, how they found this tone that can veer between absurdity and seriousness. So getting humor off is very important, and Joss is obviously very good at that. The thing he was brought in to help with was not a comedy scene. It was an emotional scene between Thor and Jane. Also, I think he did a pass with one of my favorite scenes, Thor and Loki talking in the Asgardian skiff at night when the brothers actually have time together to talk.
As director, what were some of the things that you were most excited to do that you had never done before, given a scope and budget that are much bigger than TV?
It’s funny to put it that way, because if you look at the numbers I think we had three times as much on this movie as we would for a whole season of Game of Thrones, so I thought “Whoa.” I remember watching ten thousand soldiers emerging out of the woods and we had forty eight, so you’d make forty eight look like ten thousand.
The funny thing is more money doesn’t necessarily get you what you think it’s going to get you and the way where it does get you more value on screen. On Game of Thrones we always shoot away from the green screen, because it’s bloody expensive to shoot green screen. On Thor you always shoot towards the green screen, because cool stuff happens back there. So that’s a ramp up of money. The weird thing is Game of Thrones people go to Iceland for three weeks and it’d be like a small guerilla operation. Thor we went there for like five days, because we couldn’t afford to be there any longer, because we were air lifting the entire contents of Hollywood into this country. So there’s a way in which more money actually gets you less.
That makes sense.
It was like being the US during the Vietnam war.
The second credits tease seems like something that should be in the movie. Can you talk about that placement?
You’re talking about the Thor Jane thing?
It’s funny. We agonized for a long time. We thought the movie was about whether they got together or not. I think it came down shockingly late in the process that it felt sort of implicit that they were going to be together. So I think that point the reveal of… this is also a spoiler…
Who you have on the throne… was such a jarring thing that you couldn’t follow anything else. So just that process, the finishing of Jane and Thor, wound up being a feel-good moment, but not a big story moment. The feeling was that instead of explaining why they were together, we just left them be together and then the final, final shot was one of my favorites. It was very late in the game, too. The only thing I didn’t actually direct was the mid credits sequence.
Did James Gunn do that?
I wouldn’t blame it on James Gunn. Somebody did it. I’m not sure who. (Laughs) [EDITOR'S NOTE: Gunn did direct it, and Taylor has since apologized for these and similar comments.]
I’d like to talk about Loki’s death. How do you shoot and cut that in a way that the audience is half-ready to know that he’s not dead, but has to believe it as well? I actually thought “That’s a nice ending for Hiddleston” and when he pops up at the end…
That will spark a lot of conversation, as you can imagine. There were definitely more stages where he was a lot more dead than we took him, because a lot of that is visual effects that we were doing on him at the time. The original intention there was very different. There was a lot more dying. I’m really curious to see how it plays for an audience, whether they feel… I’m surprised that it makes sense at the end or whether it’s like “What the fuck?”
It’s sort of both. Now, last thing, there are reports you are going to direct the new Terminator movie. What can you say about that?
I’m under the personal policy to say it’s a rumor. Funny thing was it came out really early, a reminder of what the blogosphere can do. I had one conversation, didn’t tell anyone and then all of a sudden, BOOM! It was on line the next day. So my agent said, “you probably should know [this is gonna come up].” But its progressed a lot since then, but I’m still officially going to call it a rumor.
Okay, so hypothetically, how would you approach a franchise that had two great entries everyone loves and two not so great entires few people do. What do you tell fans to reassure them this film will be worth it?
I think that’s very much the case. We all love the first two and I actually went back and watched them again and my respect level only went up for those first two. I think there is another famous franchise that has two wonderful..had a wonderful beginning and then turned a little bananas…
Maybe by the same director?
I meant Burton’s Batman.
Oh, I was thinking Aliens.
Sure, that too, but Tim Burton’s first Batman is just glorious and by the time it got around to nipples on costumes and all that stuff it sort of lost its way. And for [Christopher] Nolan to come in an say ‘I respect this material so much I’m going to take it up to *here,* that’s a great inspiration.’ I think any version, whoever is directing Terminator, would be very respectful and serve the first two and probably feel a bit more freedom by the end.
When do you think we’ll hear who is going to be involved?
That will probably start leaking pretty soon.
Thor: The Dark World is now playing.