Exclusive Interview: Alan Taylor on Thor: The Dark World
Director Alan Taylor had a hard time getting the gig on Thor: The Dark World. The mantle passed from his fellow "Game of Thrones" director Brian Kirk to "The Killing's" Patty Jenkins, and then he wound up competing with another "Game of Thrones" director, Daniel Minahan, before finally landing the job. Oh yeah, had to talk about that in our interview with Alan Taylor, who called from the London premiere of Thor: The Dark World.
We also had to talk about the unexpected fate of Hogun, the love triangle between Thor, Sif and Jane Foster, and the teaser at the end of the film, so beware of MINOR SPOILERS. Keep your eyes peeled for descriptions of deleted scenes and his official word on his part in the Terminator remake as well.
CraveOnline: I don’t know if this is the obvious question, but it seems like an obvious question to me. It’s really easy to draw parallels between “Game of Thrones” and Thor.
Alan Taylor: Yeah.
Big fantasy stories with a lot of fancy costumes.
Did your experience on the show give you a leg up here, or was it an entirely different beast?
Yeah, there’s so many ways in which those things tie together. Absolutely it gave me a leg up, in that I don’t think I could have walked onto the set of Thor straight from the set of “The Sopranos” or “Mad Men” or something, on location with a lot of extras and horses, and trying to make something that’s fantastical feel grounded. Having that on “Game of Thrones” made it a lot more easy to step in. It prepared me as much as it could for stepping into this, and also from the other side, clearly Marvel was digging what was going on with “Game of Thrones” because I was not the only director they were considering talking to from “Game of Thrones.” There were two other guys that they were talking to. Whatever they saw on “Game of Thrones” they were liking, so it was a good shorthand when I came in to talk about what I could bring to this world.
That’s how I sort of began, by trying to bring some of the qualities that I enjoyed in “Game of Thrones” to it, making the world more grounded than I thought it had, and dirtying it up a little bit, bringing textures and lived in qualities to things in Asgard. Of course there were other concerns, just to counterbalance those. If we’re going to darken and dirty it, we’d better make sure it was funny too, in tandem. But certainly I could not have done this job and I would not have got this job if I hadn’t done “Game of Thrones” beforehand. [Laughs]
Were you were aware that your fellow “Game of Thrones” directors were up for the job? Was there a sense of competition with each other?
It’s funny. Early on I was talking to a guy who I didn’t really know, Brian Kirk, and I was unaware of that part of it because I didn’t really know him. At point I was immersed in shooting “Game of Thrones” and I didn’t really have time to think about it. Later on it was quite funny, because they had a first director, Patty Jenkins, who they parted ways with, and then I was just finishing “Game of Thrones” as they were looking for a director again.
Then I started reading in Variety that it was down to two directors! It was me and my very good friend Dan Minahan. We were e-mailing each other saying, “Are we supposed to hate each other’s guts now?” [Laughs] I had no idea he was in for it, he didn’t know I was in for it, but suddenly we were reading in Variety that “it’s these two guys!” And we know each other quite well, so it was funny. It doesn’t seem to have damaged our friendship at all.
That’s good. One of the things I think is really interesting about Thor: The Dark World is that parts of it feel like very different movies.
Hmm… That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how it’s handled.
I think it’s a good thing. There’s a funny story about girl meeting her boyfriend’s parents…
There’s this big super-science mystery film. It turns into a heist movie for a while…
Right. Very self-consciously kind of, yeah.
Did any one of these aspects appeal to you more than others? Were you just super-eager to get to the heist or the love story? What was your passion?
It’s funny, there were story threads that I really loved. One unfortunately has fallen out of the movie a little bit, the little kids wandering around and exploring and finding fantastical things happen. Right now I think in the movie you see kids spinning the cement truck at one point, and the other ones that show Natalie [Portman] what’s going on with this place when they’re dropping bottles in the stairwell and stuff. There was more of that. That thread always had a tremendous appeal for me. There was a lot of wonder that went along with that.
And there’s a story between the two brothers, beginning as enemies and thrown together by necessity, and then in each other’s arms by the end of the second act. That storyline meant a lot to me. But overall I think what was exciting and appealing was the idea that you got to do this… Just as we got to do a lot of realms, we got to do a lot of movie tones, tones of filmmaking as you pointed out. I’m still waiting to see whether they gel, whether they come together as one experience, or fly apart into a million pieces.
I remember thinking, “Here’s a battle and there’s a guy with a sword and a guy with a laser gun… is that going to work? Now we have an elf and he’s on a spaceship… is that going to work?” [Laughs] So it’s one part science-fiction genre, it’s also medieval fantasy, it’s also contemporary comedy, and it’s a superhero movie on top of that. So can you do all those things and have them cohere into one experience or not? The funny thing about when I see movies these days that [are] just one of those, I think “What, you’re only doing one thing?” So there’s a pleasure in being able to bash these things against each other, to see if it can actually not fly apart.
I was talking to Christopher Eccleston about Malekith, and he said there some scenes that were dedicated to just his character that were left on the cutting room floor. Is there going to be a big director’s cut?
Wouldn’t that be great? [Laughs] Maybe if you start the lobbying right now you can build up enough demand that Marvel will have to respond. I think it’s always the case with these big movies that that happens, and it’s painful to me because I absolutely love, love, love, love a lot of the stuff that fell by the wayside. Some of it was Malekith. You saw a lot more into the relationship between him and Algrim. You saw a lot more of what was driving him personally. And as I mentioned already there was a lot more with the kids, you saw them explore these fantastical events that were going on.
Yeah, that’s excruciating. Whether it’s whole scenes that are dropped or whether it’s beats or lines or moments that fall away in the drive to make it faster, tighter, funnier, quicker, more efficient, so yeah, that’s the excruciating thing. I think if there was a director’s cut it would be that much different. Maybe someday. Maybe someday if I become such a huge success later on in life I can come back and do it.
It sounds like you’re getting there. You’re attached to Terminator. That’s got to be a big deal, right?
[Laughs] That is a big deal. I’m officially calling it a rumor still. That’s my official word on the subject. But yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Can you explain why Hogun was written out of the film so quickly? Was the actor just not available for the whole shoot?
No, isn’t that funny? That was something that we thought of and then, not sure if it was the right thing to do but I’ll tell you the intention behind it. In Thor 1 the Warriors Three – they are called “The Warrior Three” in the comics, but it’s almost The Warriors Four because Sif is kind of an honorary member – Thor’s always had the group as a sort of chorus, and I think part of trying to delve more into Asgard was trying to give these characters moments where they could shine on their own a bit more.
Again, it was quite reduced in the final film, but we saw Volstagg briefly in the pub. In the original we saw his family, we saw his kids, we saw where he comes from. It was all by way of a long, laborious build-up to the idea that we thought it would be cool to go to the home world of one of our characters.
So that became Hogun. So rather than having all of our Warriors Three present all the time, we thought we would give each of them a singular moment. So we saw Hogun fight, defend his world, and being sort of… It was not a scheduling thing, as it may feel like, as though we had to get him out of the movie. It was more we felt it was important to have Thor say something like “Stay here where your heart is, Asgard can wait. Asgard doesn’t need you. You need to be where your heart is.” Because that’s a theme in the film.
It seems like you were developing or at least allowing for a potential love triangle between Thor, Sif and Jane Foster. Am I reading to much into that?
No. I think always that’s there, in the comic mythology, and it gets really complicated in the Norse mythology. [Laughs] The trouble is there’s never quite enough time to serve all these things, but I try to gesture towards it a few times. I think Jaimie Alexander does wonderful job in the scene where you can tell she’s trying to advise Thor how to be a good king, but really she’s just speaking out of jealous. That’s outside the pub. That’s a nice moment. And there’s a tiny glance that I thought was really wonderful between her and Jane, where they’re sort of sizing each other up. The only finish to that is that she’s the one who stays behind to hold the guards back as Thor runs away with Jane. That’s the beat in that arc that’s very brief out of necessity in the scale of things.
I think Sif’s not going anywhere. There may be another chance to explore that.
Did you get to direct the teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of the film?
No, it’s funny, and I’m very happy to share that honor, to hand that honor off to someone else. That was done very, very last minute. I was mixing in L.A. and that was shot on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy. So I can’t even tell you who directed it. I don’t even think it was James Gunn because I think he was busy making his movie, and I was mixing my movie, and somebody else came along, and I am more than happy to give them full credit. [Laughs]
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has confirmed to CraveOnline that he did indeed shoot the teaser scene at the end of Thor: The Dark World.]