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Kenneth Branagh Talks About 'Thor'

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Kenneth Branagh Thor Interview

'Thor' director Kenneth Branagh at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
July 28, 2010 - Four-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh may not have big action movie credentials, but as the director of Thor Branagh's looking to prove to comic book fans - and moviegoers in general - that he can handle bringing Marvel's comic-based hero to life on the screen. And part of the process of selling his vision to fans was bringing his cast and clips to San Diego for the 2010 Comic Con. Joining Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings on stage for a Q&A session at the biggest gathering of comic book fans on the planet, Branagh wanted to assure fans that his Thor will fit smoothly into The Avengers world.

After answering questions from fans, Branagh sat down with reporters to discuss more of what we can expect from Thor.

Kenneth Branagh Thor Roundtable Interview

You gave your cast a lot of reading material. Is that something that’s been done to you in the past?

Kenneth Branagh: "It’s just to make sure you start of saying, 'Hey, it’s not going to be the usual thing.' And also look for information anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you read a book this thick. Natalie Portman read a book about a nuclear physicist. The gal who was sort of outted from the whole discovery of DNA, Roselyn Franklin, she was the one who didn’t get the Nobel Prize. Brilliant, mid-Century, British physicist. Now, you may see none of that in Jane Foster, but so she read a book this thick and she had a couple of great ideas that might be half a line in the movie, but it just smacks like a peg into the ground of a different kind of reality and it isn’t just about, 'Oh, he’s over there. He just did that.' So it’s trying to say you could you that, you could watch a TV show, it can be a picture, you can be in an art gallery, whatever. Let’s make it special, let’s make it our own. You’ll find you put your arms around the part that way."

What was it like working on a film that exists in a shared universe of Marvel films?

Kenneth Branagh: "The fun of it, Kevin [Feige] will tell you, he’s the uber-meister I think of all of that, but the fun thing is when you know, and you go and see Iron Man 2. You get a couple of lines saying, 'Clark has to get down to New Mexico. We have a little bit of a problem down there.' You know we’re the problem! We’ve got a couple of little nods heading Joe [Johnston’s] way with our picture. I got thrilled when I went to see the set the other week so what was nice is, at least I didn’t feel, you may have done it so brilliantly I didn’t notice, but I didn’t feel I had to think about it at all. It was Thor-centric."

Is Thor a little bit of a tougher sell than the traditional guy in a costume. How did you make gods accessible, or is now the time in the progression of Marvel films that people are ready to accept that?

Kenneth Branagh: "Well, I think that’s interesting. I hope that it is that time and I think you’re right to say that it’s a tricky tonal issue. We always talked early on, I’m there for what it’s worth to try and guide the tone. I was passionate that we should have a contemporary earth sequence to the movie. I believe, they do in the comics, that we can live in both places and people can travel maybe to both places potentially and that we can [finesse] the tone. [We've] got to stay very honest and very truthful, and I hope we do. Tone was always, always kind of the key issue. Key people early on, props and production designer Bo Welch, Academy Award winning costume designer Alex Bird was also somebody who was trying to be inspired by the comic book, but also she kept being imaginative about it and trying to present textures and elements. When you know that people travel through space, when they live in the world of gods, it isn’t just a question of just metal or just molded kind of human material. So we’d always just try to look at it, see what we saw in the comic and then try and reinvent, re-imagine, go back to some original source. That got everybody very excited, so you want to try to be pure and classical in it but bring in new twists."

Tell us more about the production design.

Kenneth Branagh: "Production design, we wanted a mammoth quality to Asgard, having monumental buildings. If you walk around the city of Rome and you look up on any street corner, there’s just a sort of massivity that would have kept people visiting that place in ancient Rome awed. So we wanted to have Asgard awe its inhabitants by its size, its magnificence, its beauty, its goldenness, all of that but that it had a heft and wasn’t kind of airy fairy."

How much of the movie takes place on Asgard and how much in New Mexico?

Kenneth Branagh: "We’re in the middle of editing and there are ways in which the story is responding that puts a little more here or there, so that’s a slightly evolving thing. But there’s a definite interplay which we’re getting genuine dramatic value out of that we’re continuing to explore, so I couldn’t answer the question accurately at the moment. But you get a full account of both worlds."

Was your Shakespearean background applicable to Thor?

Kenneth Branagh: "I’m a movie geek. I’m there every weekend, totally and utterly for pleasure. It’s one of the things I do, my wife and I are there, some popcorn and it’s nice. It’s a nice thing to do."

Would you like to act in a movie like Thor?

Kenneth Branagh: "I don't know, actually. I haven’t been asked, so there you go. We’ll find out if we do a second one."

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