On October 9 – 11 I attended a Disney Press Event for THOR: RAGNAROK. My hotel and airfare and meals were taken care of while I was in L.A. Opinions and observations as well as recaps and such are all my own. This post will also contain some affiliate links to Amazon.com.
Of all the people that we could have possibly interviewed at the #ThorRagnarokEvent, Karl Urban was my number one pick. I enjoy his movies and was also a fan of a short lived television show that he was in. I was truly excited to find out that he was a great interviewee and a really nice guy. when Karl entered the room he was met with a huge round of applause and was quite surprised. He then went around the whole room and up and down the aisles and shook every blogger’s hand. Thanks to Allison Waken and her camera skills I have a photo of that moment.
In THOR: RAGNAROK Karl plays the character of Skurge who is also called ‘Executioner’ in the comic books. Skurge is often one of Thor’s enemies but he isn’t always. At the start of the movie Skurge is just a guy who is shifty and a bit unsavory, but not a really ‘bad’ guy. He’s a guy who really wants to be accepted by the elite warriors like the warriors three, Fandral (Zachary Levi), Hogun (Tadanobu Asana), and Volstagg (Ray Stevension). He just seems like a guy who would tag along with them and try to impress them but would fall short. Don’t dismiss him out of hand though, he is formidable and he is a warrior. He is also a survivor and will do what he must to stay alive. He does this quickly when he aligns himself with Hela.
Like I said above Karl was a great interviewee. Here are some of the more special excerpts from our group interview. I got to ask a question, but the question and the answer is too spoiler laden for me to include the complete response. I will have to go back and edit my post once the movie is released. So, Karl enters, endears himself to everyone in the room and then answers our questions and shows what a consummate professional he is.
The first question asked was about whether much of the movie was improvised. Karl replied, “Allegedly. I give full credit to Marvel. They hired a director in Taika who has a strong comedic style and sensibility and they actually let him do his job. There was already a brilliant foundation in the script and we would shoot a couple of versions of what was on the page and then shoot a wealth of material that Taika quite frankly just made up. There was nothing sacrilegious about a take, you’d be in the middle of a take and he’d be, ‘oh why don’t you say this, say this line.’ It was actually kind of liberating. You felt comfortable in that there was no such thing as a bad choice, there was nothing precious about it. I think that really kind of afforded everybody a wonderful freedom to fully explore all the options. I can’t wait to see the extras on this movie. The movie is funny and entertaining, but I think the extras are going to be as equally entertaining and I can’t wait to see them.“
Karl saw the movie for the first time with us the night before the interview. When asked what he thought of the movie he stated, “I feel so blessed. It was such a pleasurable experience to not only see the film with my friends and colleagues, but to to see the film with an audience who were thoroughly entertained. You have to give full credit to Taika and to Marvel for really producing a film that I think reboots Thor in a wonderful healthy positive way. I’m so happy for Chris that he’s actually finally been given the opportunity to spread his wings. I think that this film showcases his complete full potential. Everyone is allowed to bring it.“
Then it was time for my question and I will try and give you some of it without giving anything away. The gist of what I asked was did Taika give Karl a specific direction in which to play this character. Karl said, “Well, it was on the page. I got a call from Taika who said, ‘listen there’s this character in this movie that I’d love you to do.’ I’d wanted to work with Taika for a very long time. I’m a huge fan of his work from What We Do In The Shadows, to [Hunt for the] Wilderpeople, and Boy. So, already he had me half hooked right just by calling me. He sent me the script and I immediately recognized that there was actually something profoundly emotionally compelling about this character’s journey that was eminently relatable. Here’s a character that’s put in a situation where he has to make a decision, he has align himself with a cause that he does not believe in, but it’s the only thing he can do in order to survive. I thought that was a very interesting moral dilemma. His journey resonated on the page. So, I had full confidence that left unmolested it was going to translate onto the screen.“
Karl also did not read much of the comics so that he was not influenced in how he would play this character of Skurge. He explained, “It’s always a mistake to play a stereotypical caricature of the villain. You know, just to twirl the mustache, wear a black hat, that’s pretty boring. What makes a character, in my opinion, interesting is the faults and the flaws that you can understand. In this case, it’s pretty clear that this character is just trying to survive… But he had no choice, so again, it just felt like it was eminently relatable just like an existential…“
Karl was also asked what types of music he listened to in order to get into character or what things he did to get into character. Karl told us, “This is one of the most fun sets that I’ve ever been on. Taika is constantly playing music in between takes. I’m so proud of him. He really handled himself with quite aplomb and I imagine it would have been a pressure cooker situation to be responsible for this behemoth movie. He did it with such aplomb and such grace and style. He created an environment that was not only fun but it was focused. That’s a rarity.“
Karl was also asked, ‘What does it mean for you to be in a movie with such strong women like Cate and Tessa? Is that important to you?’ He replied, “It’s imperative. I think it would have been a boring movie without them. Cate and Tessa are so wonderful in this film, they are my favorite parts of the movie and I love seeing Tessa’s swagger. I love the journey of her character from the dark place that she was in to redemption, to reclaiming herself with her identity. I thought it was a a strong compelling journey. I had such a wonderful time working with Cate Blanchett. To be perfectly honest, she was the reason I decided to do this movie, it was the opportunity to work with Cate Blanchett. I read that script and saw that ninety percent of my material was with her, I’m like where do I sign up, how much do I pay you?“
We then got a bit off topic of THOR: RAGNAROK to more projects that Karl is working on. He was asked, ‘What’s it like being part of Marvel Universe and what’s next for you? Will we see you in any of the [Judge] Dredd films?’. Karl then told us, “Being part of Marvel Universe is an absolute pleasure. They are a wonderful collaborative company. I just have a huge degree of admiration or respect for what they have done. Particularly what they have done on this film and how they’ve supported Taika and really put a network around him and gave him the freedom and had the courage to let him do his job. Nobody does it better than than these guys. Many people try and copy them, but they have got a formula and they are heavily aligned with the creative element of the process. I think that’s to their benefit.“
As far as a Dredd TV show Karl explained, “Rebellion, who own the rights to Dredd, are in the process of developing a TV show that won’t be a sequel to the movie, but it’ll be, I guess, a reboot or a re-imagining. I’ve said to them, ‘yes I’m interested in reprising that role,’ if they write a character that has a purpose and a function and there’s an emotionally compelling story. Then I would love the opportunity to go back and continue to explore that character. So we’ll see what they do.“
Karl has other projects in the works as well. He told us, “The movie that I’m most excited about, apart from Thor, is a film that I shot this year with Sofía Vergara, who’s so brilliant. It’s this movie called Bent that was written and directed by Bobby Moresco, who wrote Crash and Million Dollar Baby. So it’s got a great pedigree. It’s a modern take on a classic noir genre and I just had the best time working with Sofía. You all know her for her comedy, which she does extraordinarily well. In this film, she engineers a real paradigm shift and she plays this femme fatale and she’s going to blow people away.”
One of the last things that Karl talked about was parenting. A question was asked how he teaches his own sons to do the right thing? Karl said, “Well, I think with parenting the key is to lead by example, and provide a lot of love and support for them. I’m also a firm believer in allowing them to fall down and allowing them to make mistakes. Because that is ultimately the way we learn. If you can learn from somebody else’s mistake then you’re smart. But most of us learn by making mistakes. It’s wonderful to watch them grow and flourish when you don’t push them too hard. I think that’s when I’m most proud of my sons is when out of their own volition, they start to make the right choices in life. Like, ‘I’m going to go and get a part time job.’ Or, ‘I’m going to start eating healthier.’ They try and give you the credit for it, but really they just make their minds up themselves and it’s what they want to do.“
We ended the interview with a group photo and while everyone was making there way to the photo and back I did shake Karl’s hand again and tell him how much I liked his work and enjoyed his performance in the movie.
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THOR: RAGNAROK opens in theaters everywhere November 3rd!
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