Spoilers for Thor: Love and Thunder below.
Taika Waititi's impact on the Thor franchise can't be overstated. The story goes that Chris Hemsworth, slightly frustrated with his portrayal of the God of the Thunder, recruited the Kiwi writer/director to revamp the MCU's overall direction on the character. The result, Thor: Ragnorak, breathed incredible new life into the character and made Waititi a household name in the process. The choice to bring him back for a sequel was a no-brainer. Turns out that was the right call, as the follow-up raked in a staggering $143 million at the box office over the weekend, which vaulted over the first weekend numbers of Rangorak.
In Thor: Love and Thunder, Waititi is once more pulling triple-duty, wherein he's responsible for directing, co-writing, and co-starring just as he did last time. But perhaps the movie's biggest surprise is that Waititi was able to convince Natalie Portman to return to the MCU as Jane Foster. Although, part of the plot of Love and Thunder involves Portman's Jane Foster becoming a Thor of her own, as seen in the Jason Aaron-written and Russell Dauterman Mighty Thor comic book series. Portman's return is reason enough to get excited about the film. Still, once you add Christian Bale to the proceedings as the villainous Gorr the God Butcher and bring back Tessa Thompon's Valkyrie, it makes for quite the exciting project.
Prior to Love and Thunder's release, Complex talked to Waititi about how he approaches directing these movies, if the real-life friendship between Thompson and Portman had any impact on the script, the process behind that shocking mid-credits stinger, and more.
When you started to work on this one, were you thinking about just making it standalone as its own thing? Or did you think about how it kind of fit into the larger Thor puzzle that you’re now making?
Taika Waititi: I try and make something that feels like its own thing. I’m always keen on doing things that would feel original and unique to me and really relying on Marvel to keep me in the lane and [say] like you not to veer off too far and ruin other movies because I’ve killed off all the characters or something [laughs]. I rely on them to help me out with that. Then there are certain things that I didn’t really realize—but because Kevin [remembers] every line of dialogue from all 28 movies they’ve made or whatever—there was a past [scene] with Thor and Jane talking about worthiness. He makes a callback, [saying] she is the reason that he was able to lift the hammer in [the first] Thor, which is like a really important piece of information. It’s really [about] collaborating with Marvel. I mean, I wouldn’t be able to do it myself cause I’m too lazy. [laughs]
Does having guardrails—is that helpful for you in terms of your creative process so you don’t really kind of stray out of those lines? Or does it feel constraining?
TW: It can feel a little constraining, but you need to have some sort of boundary because otherwise the movie would make no sense and you wouldn’t feel anything. My main aim is really—I think a lot of people think, “Oh yeah, he just puts lots of jokes in his films and you know, must have like a hat with like random elements, [he] picks one out, ‘Oh, Viking ship going through space dragged by goats; put that in the movie.” But ultimately I’m trying to make a film that makes you laugh and cry. I think that’s really the best cinematic experience you can have: Something that’s fun and adventurous and entertaining, but also means something.
Did you shoot the post-credits tag? And if so, how did you settle on Brett Goldstein as Hercules?
TW: That’s actually Kevin’s idea to cast him. Again, obviously, he’s got like this mastermind plan of like what’s gonna be happening over the next decade or so of what Marvel was gonna be doing. So we knew we were gonna show Zeus again, cause I really would love for Zeus to come back—I think Russell [Crowe] is great in this—and that was Kevin’s idea to put Hercules in. And to cast Brett, which was a real fan favorite moment in the screening.
Thor: Love and Thunders now playing, only in theaters.