Thor: Love And Thunder Writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson Clarifies Taika Waititi's 'Real Time' Directing Style

Whatever you thought of "Thor: Love and Thunder," there is no doubt that the film has director Taika Waititi's stamp all over it. There are exceedingly silly moments, deeply heartfelt ones, and a feeling of improvisation throughout the narrative. If you've seen Waititi's work in films like "JoJo Rabbit" or "What We Do in the Shadows," you know what I mean. Everything has the sense that it's all happening right this very second. 

The same goes for "Thor: Love and Thunder." At the time of this writing, the film has a critics' rating of 68 percent and an audience rating of 78 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so not everyone loves Waititi's style quite as much as I do. But opinions aside, there's no debating that Waititi's style as a director is distinct, even inststantly recognizable. In an interview with Variety, Natalie Portman (who plays Jane Foster/Mighty Thor,) spoke about how Waititi throws out the script each day before the shoot. Speaking recently to the same publication, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, who co-wrote the script with Waititi, clarified how that actually worked. 

Robinson said that they wrote the pages together in rooms and remotely for "months and months and months," and after rehearsing, they would get rid of it, or at least, enhance it. She said that "'throw it out' is the wrong word. I mean, he does throw it out, but the core is still there. I would say he pluses — he can't help but always try to plus. I can't imagine Taika is ever going to write something and be like, 'It's done and we'll shoot it.'" 

That sounds really anxiety-inducing to me, but it seemed to work for them. Robinson went on to explain that Waititi has three versions of his loose directing style, each allowing for different amounts of improvisation.

Writing on the fly

Robinson explained to Variety that the first "version" of Waititi's style had the writing team sit around a table, read what they planned to shoot the next day, and brainstorm ideas while Robinson wrote. "I would just sit with my laptop and listen," Robinson recalled, "and just close my Heimdall eyes and write something and then turn my computer around to him and say, 'This?'" 

The second involved walking on set with her computer, typing with one hand, and following Waititi around during the first blocking rehearsal. Robinson spoke about a surreal moment during one of those days:

"There's a bit that is not in the film, but it was Hemsworth and Pratt walking through this trench, and I just remember it was such an out-of-body experience, as I'm like walking behind Taika, Chris and Chris with a laptop in this literal trench that they built that looks like you're in a planet. And I'm just like, 'What the f***? How did I get here?' It was very bizarre."

Some actors might not be comfortable with a shoot like this, but years of playing the same roles have likely made improv fairly easy for a Marvel cast. I'd be more worried about the idea of throwing a dance to Kate Bush in there, as Waititi had discussed at one point for Christian Bale's Gorr the God Butcher. Since that didn't make it in, editing clearly plays as large a part in the production process as writing does.

Waititi's capacity to play

The final version of Waititi's directorial style, according to Robinson, involved the two standing behind monitors and yelling things out at the cast. Well, he yelled, anyway. She explained:

"I would stand next to him, and it would just be shouting things. I was never shouting. I would always pitch to Taika and then Taika would choose what he liked. But I had a lot of time where I had a mini monitor next to Taika, and we were just writing the movie almost in real time as they were shooting it. So there were all different kinds of versions of putting together this film. Taika's brain just moves at a pace that should not be allowed. It's like, the way that he kind of thinks or looks at things and like his capacity to kind of play, but also have total control is really astounding."

There are so many ways a process like that could veer off course, and yet it all comes together. There is something about Waititi's on-the-fly style that makes his films feel more like real life. I recognize that this is a strange thing to say about a film with flying goats, but here we are. In lesser hands, this style may not have worked out, and for some of you, maybe it didn't. But there is no denying that this film reflects Waititi's style perfectly. 

"Thor: Love and Thunder" is in theaters now.