Thor Ragnarok Cate Blanchett Interview

In honor of Thor: Ragnarok, the folks at Marvel Studios are celebrating the entire month with a little holiday called Helaween, named for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first female villain, Hela, the Goddess of Death.

Cate Blanchett is playing the Marvel villain in question, and /Film had the incredible opportunity to sit down with the Oscar-winning actress for an interview during our visit to the set of Thor: Ragnarok in Australia last fall. If you haven’t read our full set report, be sure to check that out. Otherwise, keep reading below to find out everything Cate Blanchett had to tell us about Hela the Goddess of Death, how her vagina made her unafraid of Loki, working with director Taika Waititi, and her possible future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Our interview took place after a day of shooting one of the climactic scenes of the movie where Hela is facing off with Thor, Loki, Hulk and Valkyrie on an Asgardian bridge, a shot we’ve seen in the trailers. Cate Blanchett was wearing a motion capture suit while filming. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

So what can you tell us about Hela?

Cate Blanchett: Well, she’s just the Goddess of Death. What I like about playing her is that I really didn’t know anything about her, and that’s really exciting. Obviously, the deep, hardcore fan base would know a lot about her, so there was a really interesting process of discovery for me. I guess like any of the Marvel characters is they have really interesting and varied back stories so it depends which origin story you read as to whose side [she’s on] and why she’s been kept at bay for so long. But yeah, playing the Goddess of Death has been really interesting.

Why does she want to bring about Ragnarok? I know she’s the Goddess of Death but is there a more personal reason that?

CB: She’s been banished for a very long time. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say.

You can say everything. Whatever you like.

CB: [Laughs] You won’t tell anyone! She’s been banished for a very long time and I think if you’ve been locked under the Asgaardian stairs for 5,000 years, you’d be a little bit cross. I think it’s very interesting to bring the concept of death into a world that’s ostensibly immortal. You look at the Western world and in most cultures, death has been banished from the world in which, most Western people live. And as a result, I think it’s made life rather screwed up. I think that there’s a side of death which can be gentle and kind and there’s a side of death which can be brutal and savage, depending on whose death it is. I think that there’s a lot of unresolved issues that she has with Asgard. Each step of the way, she doesn’t meet people who are receptive to her, and I think she’s quite bewildered as to why people are frightened of her. But the more havoc she wreaks the stronger she becomes.

What about her powers? It looks like you’re doing some really cool stuff.

CB: Well, it’s that time of the month, and I was super clumsy today. Actually, Hela doesn’t have a time of the month. The powers have been great and varied and evolving. Having not made a Marvel movie before, I thought it would all be quite set in stone and you’d just be stepping into the silhouette and the strings would be pulled for you slightly.

Very early on, I threw a lot of ideas into the ring with Taika [Waititi] and with the motion capture people and the special effects crew, and they took that and ran with it. So it’s been evolving. It’s like, “What if I shot this out? What would happen if that happened? What if I play with my cape? Could stuff come out of that?” Anything that I’ve done on the day, it’s been an organic thing where Ben the stunt coordinator is coming in to say, “You know that move you did there, we could make a weapon fly out that way.” So it’s been quite loose actually. She’s got a lot of power.

There’s been a lot of excitement around Hela being Marvel’s first female villain. When you signed onto this, did you feel any pressure about kind of representing that?

CB: I think you only feel pressure if you think this is the only shot that women will have, which is ridiculous. There’s a huge Female fan base and, for having a daughter myself, you want them to be able to identify with those that are this end of the spectrum as well as the heroes. But then of course, Marvel very soon announced Captain Marvel being female.  You think this is great, this is the beginning of a rolling stone that’s gonna gather a lot of female moss. Oh, that’s a terrible image. [Laughs]

Anyway, so I didn’t feel pressure. I was super excited. It’s like with any film, whether it’s an action film or a really small indie drama, it depends on who’s looking down the lens and when it’s Taika, that for me, was a really exciting thing.

A lot of the Marvel villains had a hard time living up to Loki, is that something that at all concerned you, especially because you guys share a movie?

CB: I have a vagina. [Laughs] I don’t think he has a vagina. Although I don’t know if Hela has a vagina either. She’s a goddess, so  I don’t know about that either. [Laughs]

The original sketches that I got, Tom [Hiddleston] and I were just talking about that actually, they were quite similar. So I said, “Okay, how can we either make that a virtue or be a little bit more creative with that?”  And they’re really receptive to it. Even though Hela doesn’t carry the whole film, and that’s not a spoiler, I’ve tried with the make-up and hair people and all of the different departments to give her a kind of a visual journey, so that’s she’s got somewhere to go as she becomes increasingly powerful. That look evolves and calcifies a little bit.

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