Iron Man. Captain America. Spider-Man. Upcoming threequels for Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Typically Marvel Cinematic Universe standalone entries come in threes.
This week’s Thor: Love and Thunder, however, marks the first MCU hero to get a fourth installment. But as any Marvel fan could tell you, it is might as well be a second film after 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok dramatically reinvented the aesthetic of the Chris Hemsworth-led space viking series, with filmmaker Taika Waititi bringing his irreverent humor and jovial quirks to the franchise following the fairly serious Thor (2011) and moodier Thor: The Dark World (2013).
“This is like the second, second film,” Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit) cracks during a recent Los Angeles press day for the movie. “The second sequel.”
The director and cowriter said the decision to move forward with Love and Thunder essentially came on the opening night of the much-revered Ragnarok, as Waititi, Hemsworth, co-star Tessa Thompson and Marvel chief Kevin Feige drove around L.A. popping in on audiences.
Waititi also knew very early on that atop his wishlist for a fourth (or second) Thor would be returning Natalie Portman — who played scientist and love interest Jane Foster in the first two movies — to the MCU, only this time as the super-sized Mighty Thor.
“I think if Taika had come to me to ask me to do anything I would've said yes, cause I'm such an enormous fan of his and his work,” says Portman, whose character grows in height when she takes control of Thor's reconstructed hammer Mjolnir.
“It's very rare and I felt so lucky to be asked to play a 6-foot character as a 5-foot-3 woman. And so to imagine myself as big as possible, and then of course, to do the physical work, to get as big as I could. Obviously there's a lot of movie magic that goes into becoming 6-foot and jacked, but it was really wonderful as a kind of mindset… Because we're so often asked to make ourselves smaller as women. And to actually be tasked with taking up as much space as possible was a pretty beautiful thing to challenge myself to.”
Waititi says it meant Portman was in the gym every morning at 6 a.m.
“I trained really seriously for Black Swan but of course it was in the opposite direction,” she says of her Oscar-winning role as a ballet dancer in the acclaimed 2010 film. “It was to get as small as possible. It was also a lot of strength and a lot of technique and of course learning choreography, which is very similar to learning stunt choreography. But certainly I’ve [never been in the gym] lifting 20 pound weights to try and bulk up.”
Not to be outdone, Hemsworth says he also got buffer than ever for Love and Thunder, which follows Thor, Mighty Thor, Valkyrie (Thompson) and Korg (Waititi) on a mission to stop an intergalactic murder rampage by Christian Bale’s Nosferatu-influenced Gorr the God Butcher. Though it was partly because of boredom.
“I was in lockdown, basically, like most people and I just had nothing else to do,” Hemsworth says.
“So I was training and honing my diet and training and training and training. And it was over the warmer months in Australia. So I was in my backyard just sort of just getting fit and healthy and had nothing else to do, basically. So I had all the time in the world to talk to various trainers and [nutritionists] and work out. We could hone in on whatever we wanted to sculpt and change to the character. But it was fun.”
Watch our full cast interview above.
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Thor: Love and Thunder opens Friday.
Watch the trailer: