Kenneth Branagh is hammering away on ‘Thor’ — and those nasty rumors
April 01, 2010 5:55 p.m.
It’s no surprise to learn that back in Ireland, young Kenneth Branagh — who would grow up to direct film adaptations of “Hamlet,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Henry V” — fell under the spell of tales about royal family intrigue, ancient rivalry and clanging battlefields. What is unexpected, though, is that epic of obsession was by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, not William Shakespeare.
“Growing up, my single comic book passion was Thor,” says the 49-year-old actor and filmmaker who surprised many industry observers by taking on the director’s job on the big-budget adaptation of the Marvel Comics thunder god. “From my time in Belfast as a kid, that’s the first time I came across that comic, really, exclusively, I don’t know why, but it struck a chord. I was drawn to it. I liked all the dynastic drama.”
For the uninitiated, the Marvel character Thor first appeared in the August 1962 issue of “Journey into Mystery” (it was a big summer for Marvel — the first Spider-Man comic book hits stands that same month) as an odd mix of Norse myth and Marvel’s distinctive brand of wildly kinetic cosmic melodrama.
With his winged helmet, magic hammer and odd old English diction, he fought evil aliens, ancient wizards and costumed crooks and even teamed up with Hercules in Marvel’s no-borders brand of mythology.
“Thor,” due in 2011, is filming now in Santa Fe, N.M., and stars newcomer Chris Hemsworth (who played the doomed father of James T. Kirk in last year’s “Star Trek“) will carry the magical hammer of Thor in the film, with Natalie Portman playing his mortal love, Jane Foster. Anthony Hopkins is Odin, Thor’s father, and Tom Hiddleston plays the thunder god’s duplicitous brother, Loki.
For both Branagh and upstart Marvel Studios (which arrived with a splash in Hollywood in 2008 with “Iron Man”) the cinematic mash-up of Viking deity and 21st century do-gooder will be a singular challenge in Hollywood’s crowded superhero sector.
The story is split between Asgard, the majestic and eternal home of the Norse gods, and the modern world, which Branagh says he views more as an opportunity than a challenge.
“Inspired by the comic book world both pictorially and compositionally at once, we’ve tried to find a way to make a virtue and a celebration of the distinction between the worlds that exist in the film but absolutely make them live in the same world,” Branagh said. “It’s about finding the framing style, the color palette, finding the texture and the amount of camera movement that helps celebrate and express the differences and the distinctions in those worlds. If it succeeds, it will mark this film as different…. The combination of the primitive and the sophisticated, the ancient and the modern, I think that potentially is the exciting fusion, the exciting tension in the film.”
It was a different sort of tension that put the film in headlines this week. Gatecrasher, a report in the New York Daily News gossip column, quoted unnamed sources that painted a picture of a sour movie set, with Hopkins making it clear to the crew that he thinks little of 26-year-old Hemsworth’s acting skills and Branagh growing frustrated with the Oscar-winning elder’s pessimism and complaints.
Hopkins was said to be outraged by the report. The 72-year-old Welsh actor issued this statement: “I am having the time of my life making Thor with Ken and Chris. They have made every day immensely fun and collaborative, and we’re all puzzled that someone would fabricate a story suggesting otherwise. I’m proud to say that Thor has been one of the great experiences of my career.”
Branagh, meanwhile, went on at length about the esprit de corps of his cast, which also includes Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson and Stellan Skarsgård.
There will also be elements that will move forward with Marvel Studios unprecedented plan to create a unified universe of heroes and stories that spreads across films, including the upcoming Captain America movie in 2011 and “Iron Man 2,” which arrives May 7 as one of the most anticipated movies of 2010.
“It’s going very, very well,” Branagh said Wednesday. “We’re in New Mexico now where we have a contemporary Earth part of our story. I guess we’re two-thirds of the way through the story and at this stage of the game what’s surprising and delighting me is the way the cast, the ensemble, has fused together. It’s kind of an interesting combination of very young and very experienced people and the double-up of that, it seems to me, is there is a lot of fire in the movie. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t try to be too solemn.”
Branagh made a point to praise Hopkins as ”an extraordinary actor with his Celtic passion and incredible technique” and said he has been a binding force for the film on the set and will do the same on the screen. The cast that plays Asgard’s royal family are “people who can embody larger-than-life characters but retain at the center a natural, recognizable, human dynamic … and these people run the universe.”
To read the rest of Geoff Boucher's article click on the link below:
Kenneth Branagh: ‘Thor’ required a ‘different kind of dance’ than ‘Iron Man’
Sept. 16, 2010 12:24 p.m.
“Thor” director Kenneth Branagh is a big fan of the “Iron Man” tandem of director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr., but he says his entry into the ever-expanding cinema of the Marvel Universe will be quite different in tone and construction.
The “Iron Man” films, the box-office jewel of Marvel Studios, were filmed with an emphasis on bottling the on-set lightning of star Downey, and the actor’s improvisation work kept the harried writing team busy throughout the production as they tweaked and twisted the script to connect the dots between the star’s ad-lib riffs. That approach worked for a franchise that found its axis in the mercurial charm of Tony Stark, but Branagh said Thor’s tale of gods and monsters would not have benefited from a fast-and-loose approach.
“It’s a different story, and also, in that regard, Jon is a bit of a genius when it comes to that orchestration and getting the max out of another genius in Downey,” Branagh said.
“It’s how you dance pretty close to the edge to get the sort of modernity and the edge that ‘Iron Man’ has and the real sharp comic sensibility of those two men,” he said. “So it’s a different kind of dance.
“I think ‘Thor’ comes from a different place story-wise and character-wise. We have both Norse histories for Thor, hundreds of myths and fables told in many different ways, in addition to what Marvel has pillaged for the past 40 years or so to come up with their version of things, which sits in very strong structure, a really strong narrative structure.”
To read the rest of Geoff Boucher's article click on the link below: