If you’re looking forward to Marvel’s Thor movie, I’m about to make your day. That’s because earlier this year I got to visit the set and the embargo has finally been lifted! And even though Marvel is usually very guarded when you visit their sets, the visit for Thor was not only very revealing, but extremely illuminating. That’s because Kevin Feige, the President of Production at Marvel Studios, told us a tremendous amount about Thor and how this film will help propel many other Marvel movies.
Unfortunately, when you visit a set you’re never allowed to take any pictures, or use any sort of video device. But you are allowed to use audio recorders. So after the jump you can either read a transcript or listen to all the audio files of everything that was talked about. What’s great about the audio is you can listen to the incredible tour that Feige took us on and hear all the questions and answers for yourself. You can also listen as the visiting journalists tried to find out every secret about Thor and Marvel’s future movies! Hit the jump for more:
Since the interview is very long and covers so much ground, I’ll keep this intro brief. What you need to know is Feige met us outside the production office for Thor and then took us through the art department and the various soundstages. Some were still standing, and in others we only got to see the remnants of what appeared to be a very expensive production. Also, since the walking tour started and stopped numerous times, I’ve broken it up into segments. They’re each labeled below along with a brief description of where we were and what we were looking at. For a more detailed description of the set visit, at the bottom of this article will be a link to all the other on set interviews and my set report.
Finally, since we learned a great deal talking to Feige, here are a few key points:
- Thor’s costume is based on the Kirby/Simonson comics
- The script for Thor called for about 50/50, maybe 60/40 Asgard to Earth (meaning a lot of the movie doesn’t take place on Earth)
- J. Michael Straczynski’s work is their inspiration of the Earth-bound stuff, confirms Destroyer and that he “appears in a number of key scenes throughout the movie.” Also they aren’t straying too far from the comic.
- The Frost Giants play a major role in Thor
- Odin’s Vault is a big part of Thor and it also figures prominently into other Marvel movies. Feige says, “Odin’s vault which is where a number of the most dangerous relics of the nine realms are kept.” He went onto say, “There are a couple of key McGuffins kept in here which lead to the story of the movie and even the story of other movies.”
- We then asked him if they’re trying to ease audiences into other things besides just the superhero stuff. He said:
“Iron Man is entirely about tech. Hulk starts the break open the idea of biological enhancement which clearly goes into Cap. This cracks into the cosmic and other worlds. Dr. Strange will eventually get into the supernatural.”
- What I really found in interesting is when Feige talked about Earth’s history with Asgard. He was explaining why humans hundreds of years ago looked like Asgardians:
“These are being who live in another realm, who live on another planet, who had a way to travel to here and has traveled here in the past. Specifically, a thousand some odd years ago, in which the locals interpreted them as gods and started mimicking some of their clothing and some of their helmet and weapon designs. But they didn’t have access to the building materials that Asgardians did so they made it out of wood and horns and fur.”
- He also used this quote a lot to describe Thor, “Technology significantly advanced would be indistinguishable from magic.” Meaning they are so far ahead of us that to us what they can do is magic, but it’s nothing for them because they are so far advanced. It would be like us taking cell phones back to people hundreds of years ago. They would think we’re Gods. But in actuality, we’re just using technology.
And with that… here’s the full interview. You’ll find plenty of links to audio files. Look for links to other on set interviews and my full set report at the bottom of this article.
When we first met up with Feige, we were outside the Thor production office and he told us our plans for the day. Here’s the audio for part 1.
Kevin Feige: I think a stage after lunch you’ll see is our ice planet set. A lot of green screen, a little bit of ice, and a lot of people in costume. You might have something neat to see there. Upstairs here, is our art department. Say hi to co-producer Craig Kyle. He’ll provide the entertainment after I leave. Next Friday we head out to New Mexico where we film the majority of the modern day Earth-bound sequences of the film. All of this is Asgard, and we’ve almost shot all of the Asgardian scenes. The good news of that is it all looks cool. The bad news is that a lot of the sets have already started to come down. There is one Asgardian set that is still standing that we will be finishing shooting on next week and I just drove past the throne room, and that’s coming down.
Is there anything left of the throne room?
Feige: Uh, maybe some wood. But you can walk over there and see. The throne’s not there and the banners aren’t there. Frankly, on this movie, even a wall, if it’s still up, is cool. [everyone laughs]. But we can go upstairs and see the art department. Most of the art department has already moved to New Mexico, as they’re prepping that, so a lot of what you’ll see up there will give you a taste of the flavor of the movie, but a lot of it is still temp and a lot of it is still being designed. A lot of Asgard is still being designed outside of the sets that we shot but you’ll get an idea of what we’re doing. The fun thing about Thor and the scary thing about Thor is you could go in a million different directions in the comics, not just the costume. Most of our characters, Iron Man’s got 27 different costumes. And you could probably get into an argument with somebody about which three are the actual ones. Thor’s costume has been pretty specific. You’ll see where the influences that we’ve headed towards; some recent, some from the past. But Asgard itself, and the general aesthetic of the whole movie could have been anything. It could have been Lord of the Rings, it could have been any number of things. We’ve chosen very specifically a Kirby/Simonson vibe for this movie. Very, very specifically. You’ll see some of that upstairs. You won’t really see it on the stage we’re shooting at today because it’s all going to be an effect. You’ll see a little bit of it in the by frost that we’ll walk you into. Why don’t we go upstairs and see the art department?
How much of the movie is going to be on Earth and Asgard, and is New Mexico supposed to be New Mexico or is it a stand in for another…
Feige: The script is about 50/50, maybe 60/40 Asgard to Earth. When I say Asgard, I mean other realms. It could end up being half and half, favoring Asgard in the cut. Is it New Mexico? Yes. Manhattan Beach for Asgard, and New Mexico for New Mexico.
So you guys aren’t taking from The Ultimates standpoint where there is supposed to be a recreated Asgard on Earth.
Feige: There’s some… No, is your answer. But there is certainly influences of the [J. Michael] Straczynski run over the course of the film. It is, as I said, Kirby/Lee, for some aesthetic and characters, Simonson for aesthetic and characters, and Straczynski for our inspiration of the Earth-bound stuff, but not Asgard floating above.
When we next started talking, we were in the art department and the walls were covered with Kirby/Simonson artwork. It was at this moment we realized that Marvel was sticking very close to the comic books and not trying to recreate the characters and the look of the characters for the movie. Here’s the audio for part 2.
Feige: And you look over here on this wall of comic inspiration, and that was the first thing we pulled. A lot of those frames from the comic on the far end of this wall are in the movie. And then you can see more of the classical inspirations that any art department will pull together to make things authentic.
So are these two pieces of art, they are final costume designs as well?
Feige: All of these are in various stages and were tweaked slightly before they went off to the actors. But these are story points.
What’s the difference between the comic book look and the historically Nordic…
Feige: The comic book wins, in most cases. We’re going with the theory in the comics which is there, in your face, and sometimes it isn’t, that these are being who live in another realm, who live on another planet, who had a way to travel to here and has traveled here in the past. Specifically, a thousand some odd years ago, in which the locals interpreted them as gods and started mimicking some of their clothing and some of their helmet and weapon designs. But they didn’t have access to the building materials that Asgardians did so they made it out of wood and horns and fur. That’s not a whole lot of this movie, but that’s a lot of the backstory that we’re coming from. Which is why Odin’s bed, there, for the Odin sleep, yes there’s sort of a Viking-esque [feel]. The head of the bed there, the Viking-esque longboat ends. But they weren’t inspired by the Vikings, the Vikings were inspired by them.
Feige points to some of the artwork for the weapons
Feige: Various weapons on the wall. There are horses in the movie, but not much. Asgard partially exists and these are early renditions of what it could be. Of everything you’ll see today, that will continue to evolve the most over the next year. These are all scenes, when you heard me talking about the throne room earlier today, that’s what this set was. We shot it out already.
So how much of that was actually built?
Question about the comic art we saw earlier. It’s a lot of the classic Thor panels up there, but he definitely has more of an Ultimate comics look. Were any of the Ultimate comics consulted or were those books consulted for this look?
Feige: I don’t know about consulted, but we certainly pulled and looked at all of the renditions. Frankly, the Thor costume you see is closer to the JMS comics than the Ultimate comics.
So none of the actual artists or writers are active consultants on this?
Feige: We wanted to talk with [Olivier] Coipel but he was just too busy. Walt [Simonson] and Joe [Michael Straczynski] were, and Stan [Lee]. The way we usually do.
Stan still have a cameo in this?
Feige: Shot it yesterday. Did he tweet about it? [everyone laughs]. Yea, there are a number of cameos in this that are fun.
If Stan was filming yesterday, is his cameo on Asgard?
Feige: I’m not telling. [Everyone laughs] If yall come over here, yall may have noticed a bridge with rainbow-esque qualities to it. There is bifröst in this and they do use it to travel through space. In the comics, it’s literally rainbow. It extends out from Asgard and pops down on Earth and walks around. We’re not necessarily doing that. And we’re not having the big, hard solid lines of colors. We’re saying it’s some sort of energy, almost like a solid quartz bridge that as the light catches it and some energy flows through it, you get some of that rainbow-esque quality to it. But at the end of the bridge in our film, you come to Heimdall’s observatory. And if you look at the comics even, they started to refer to the place where Heimdall stands over as Heimdall’s observatory. This set’s still up. We’re going to take you inside Heimdall’s observatory. He guards it, you go inside, he steps up in the middle and uses his sword to control it, and the thing begins to spin and will blast you through space and time to get where you’re going. It’s sort of a wormhole, black hole, portal kind of travel device. And if you were on the planet to which they are heading, a funnel and a portal would open up above and they would descend as they do a number of times onto a number of different planets.
This has a lot of elements that are probably a little more difficult to get onto the screen to combine with Spider-Man and the other Marvel things. How much of a consideration is that with managing and combining all these universes?
Feige: Well we’re not combining Spider-Man but we are… it led us to the movie we are making. That consideration you brought up led us to the film we’re making. The theory behind it and the science behind it. Was it Arthur C. Clarke or Asimov who said, “Technology significantly advanced would be indistinguishable from magic.” That quote is what we used a lot and continue to use with all of this. Something that looks like magic to us, but it’s not magic to them. That is where we are coming from and when these worlds eventually collide, it will be in a pretty scientific manner. Not a boring scientific manner, I hope, but in a cool one.
Feige then brings in a model of the Destroyer
Feige: This is a maquette of the nine-foot-tall Destroyer that appears in a number of key scenes throughout the movie.
Feige: The suit is the character. The armor and the energy within it is the character.
Does it speak at all?
Feige: I’m not telling. [Everyone laughs] But if you know the Destroyer from the comics, we’re not straying too far from that as you can see.
Is the guy in the cell in Iron Man 2, is that Chris’s cameo?
Did you laugh about it?
Will Anthony Hopkins be that buff? [Points to picture of Odin]
Feige: Where is he? Hrm, not far off. I forgot about that. That little clip we did for France. I love that people are looking that hard. We’re still [finalizing] some shots and Favreau and I were talking about which Easter eggs we want to bring to the forefront and not, and he said, “Why do you have to bring them to the forefront? They found Thor in the clips and he’s not even there!” [Everyone laughs]
Was there anything that was in the clips that people missed?
Feige: In the clip of Tony Stark walking down the hallway? I think they got it all.
Feige walked us into another room filled with artwork and images for the Earth scenes. Here’s the audio for part 3.
Feige: This room’s a bit of a mess but you can weave in and out of here. It’s just a little… some of the old maquettes for the throne room. Some of the art you’ve already seen, and on the walls here, some of the design boards or potentials for the Earth scenes.
Feige walked us into another room filled with artwork and images of the Frost Giants. Here’s the audio for part 4.
Feige: Early versions of the…frost giants play a major role in this movie. What you’ll see today are legacy versions of the frost giants. Some of it will be in the movie, and some of it will be enhanced through Digital Domain. So these are early molds. We wanted there to be practical frost giants for the actors to interact with, we have a wonderful actor named Colm Meaney who plays one of them. I think a lot of his stuff and his face we wanted to be him. A lot of them will be further enhanced from what you’ll see today.
Does this character have a specific name or is he just referred to as a frost giant?
Feige: He has a name. I’m not going to tell you what it is but he has one.
Feige then took us to what was Odin’s bedroom and where Odin’s vault was. Unfortunately, when we got there, most of the stage had been taken down, but we could see how huge the room was and how amazing the walls looked. Feige also dropped some key info about future Marvel films when he said Odin’s vault contained “a couple of key McGuffins kept in here which lead to the story of the movie and even the story of other movies.” He went on to talk about how this room cracks into the cosmic. Here’s the audio to part 5.
Feige: The sound stage is usually always the most important structure in the set. This now is much less than what it used to be, but this used to take up the entire… up to the ceiling. These were the first sets that you walk on and by the time that you’re walking at the end of the set and going up the stairs to these golden doors, and you go, “Where are we? Oh, this is the ceiling of the sound stage.” It just took up the whole thing. This was a long hallway that extended to three grand staircases and giant, giant gold doors which was Odin’s vault which is where a number of the most dangerous relics of the nine realms are kept. Almost all of them were inspired by the books, while some were inspired by mythology. So there’s stuff that goes on in the background that if you want to try to recognize it from early tales of Asgard stories and things, you will. There are a couple of key McGuffins kept in here which lead to the story of the movie and even the story of other movies.
On that note, you did say that science is basically going to be mistaken for magic, and you are hot to trot for Dr. Strange, so is that how you are going to try to ease audiences into this other kind of realm beyond just the superhero stuff?
Feige: Yea. Absolutely. I mean, most of our characters are rich enough that they can carry their own movie. Instead of just combining them together at first, we do want to introduce them in a movie, and within each of them they will break open other avenues. Iron Man is entirely about tech. Hulk starts the break open the idea of biological enhancement which clearly goes into Cap. This cracks into the cosmic and other worlds. Dr. Strange will eventually get into the supernatural.
For the final location of our tour, Feige took us into Heimdall’s observatory. Unlike the previous stages, this one was still standing and it was beautiful. The walls were golden and looked like the inside of a speaker (when you see the movie you’ll understand). Also, while some stages look cheap, this location looked like Marvel had spent a fortune to build and it was amazing to stand in. As we admired the room, Feige climbed up a few stairs and addressed us. Here’s the audio for part 6.
Feige: This is Heimdall’s observatory. This [motions to one entrance of the room] was extended out to Asgard out there and [motions to the other entrance or exit] deep space out there. This, in the center, is where Heimdall stands to control it. The whole grid on the outside begins to spin, there’s a turret up that launches them in this direction as all our characters are sent out on their merry way across the universe. This is one of Bo Welch’s crowning achievements, where we’re standing right now, and this is one of the smaller sets, actually. Bo has done a tremendous job. There was almost a year of prep on this movie – remember we pushed the release date for a variety of reasons, a Spider-Man movie that’s not going to come out anymore, but we’re glad we did because it gave us time to do things like this and to really continue the design and prep process for almost a full year, more than we’ve ever had before. If any film could use it, it’s “Thor,” because we’re figuring out the world and defining the costumes. This movie isn’t just one Bat cave or one X-Mansion, it’s a half dozen to a dozen Asgardian realms and sets.
That’s part of the by-cross there, which will be almost all digital effects. After we film this next week, this comes down, we extend out the bridge and do another fight scene. That [points to a frost giant] will be at the end there.
Producer Craig Kyle: Once you step inside the observatory, you basically tell Heimdall where you want to go. The sword Heimdall uses is not only used to defend Asgard, but it’s also the key to this device. We looked at Tony Stark and that movie, Iron Man had holograms and was stepping inside virtual worlds. Asgardians have kind of “been there, done that” when it comes to that kind of stuff. So for them to send you across the universe it’s as easy as turning a key. It’s why it’s a system of gears and wheels. It’s a machine. Their technology is only as sophisticated as it needs to be to do extraordinary things. Once you’ve said you’re going to go, the outside of this building begins to spin around, while the inside is stable and the rainbow bridge pumps energy inside this place. Then this major steeple that fills up the top here begins to lower and it points in the direction of the destination of the world you choose to go to. You step out on the edge and BOOM! You’re fired across the universe. You get the rainbow bridge when you arrive or leave Asgard, but when you want to get from this side of the universe to ours, you need to step through this gun that will fly you across the universe.
Feige: I’m only going to stay with you another few minutes as I go to meet with the production designer on Captain America. The art department is here, Rick Heinrich’s doing all the set designs for that, so I’m signing off on all the designs before they all go to the UK in two weeks where the majority of the movie will be filmed. You’re the first people to see any of this [the “Thor” set]. When you guys go to the stage today, you’re going to see Ray Stevenson (Volstagg) and Tadanobu Asano (Hogun) and you got quick glimpse of Jaimie Alexander earlier. You’re going to see Josh Dallas as Fandral. There are a few frost giants and Colm is here, who’s the baddest ass of all. Loki is here, not in his helmet today. Thor is not here today. Do not judge the Thor double as Thor. When Chris is Thor, well, let me just say there are certain individuals who begin questioning their sexuality. [laughs]
Thor’s very different compared to Iron Man and even Spidey frankly. Sure, the costume is cool, but the dude’s sitting in a chair and he walks around and when he’s not swinging he’s just not Spider-Man. With the Iron Man costume, it’s almost like the Frost Giants you’ll see today, it’s almost entirely completed in post, so it’s guys walking around in costumes that don’t quite fit. With Thor, well, Thor is freaking Thor when you stand in front of him. That’s what’s been so fun for us because we don’t have to wait to put it together. Thor is a hard one. When you walk around Captain America or Iron Man, you can get it. With Thor, what you’re seeing is only 30% of what the movie will be. This [Thor] is the big question mark and to me that makes it the most exciting. I like it when people don’t exactly know what we’re going to do. I liked it when people said, “Iron Man’s the B-Team. You’re calling out the B-Team!” We knew it wasn’t. We knew it was going to be great. And that holds true for Thor. Being able to stand in sets like this having done almost 18 Marvel movies at this point to know here’s another one that will redefine us and at least raise the bar of what a comic book movie is, for both people who’ve read comics and those who haven’t.
Obviously all these features are all moving towards 3D. How does Marvel view 3D and are you thinking about using 3D cameras or doing stuff in post?
We’re thinking about all of it. We’ve done some tests and are looking in to it. We can’t not now a day. We haven’t decided on anything necessarily, but we’re looking at and doing tests on all of it. The camera tech keeps changing and the conversion tech keeps changing. It’s all R&D for us. We’re watching and seeing what other people are doing and what’s working for them.
Are you a fan of the stuff that’s been done in the conversion or the stuff actually shot in 3D?
I wouldn’t say I’ve studied it. There are conversions that don’t work at all and I think there are conversions that I would never have known were conversions. There have been sequences and shots in movies that were filmed in 3D that have been converted where the cameras didn’t work and they had the shot in 2D and had other companies convert it and I can’t tell the difference. I can’t tell the difference between 7.1 surround and 8.1 surround. I read an interview with [Director] Pete Docter from Up. He talked about how he didn’t design shots for 3D, he designed shots to tell the story and then he used 3D to tweak certain sequences and certain shots.
[NOTE what followed were a number of comments about Captain America casting pre the announcement of Chris Evans. Not relevant. He mentioned they did do screen test shots and took in to account Chris Hemsworth. Noted that all the directors of Avengers and Captain America and Thor have all been reading the various drafts of each movie. Basically everything from here down is old news. But I thought you'd still like to read it]
We heard that Zack [Whedon? – Is that right?] turned in a draft of The Avengers. Have you read it and what’s your take on it when first read it?
Feige: Uhh, wow, I forgot to tweet my opinion of the rough draft! I need to step in to the new century! [laughs] It literally doesn’t start filming for a year and it’s one of the earliest drafts I’ve ever had. It’s extremely promising; I’ll put it like that.
You guys have merged with an entity like Disney/Pixar. How is that relationship possibly going to work to everyone’s advantage?
It remains to be seen. We’ll see. With Disney it hasn’t impacted us too much. It’s gonna be exciting. Employees get to get in to theme parks now. [laughs] Other than that it’s early days.
Is Pixar/Marvel something that may happen?
Who knows. Certainly there are lots of other avenues for us now. Pixar’s doing a pretty good job coming up with original IP right now. Who knows. There are opportunities to come. Our focus and my focus without a doubt is this – the road to The Avengers and launching/maintaining three new franchises. Right now we’re choosing the second 2012 project and the 2013 project. All live action. Hopefully some are sequels, some are new characters. As I have been talking about for almost a decade in my time at Marvel it’s about expanding the definition of what a comic book movie could be.
No, I would say it’s easy to get the name Invaders and the name Howling Commandos confused some times. [Laughs]
Could a company as mammoth as Disney help you wrestle some of the characters set up at other studios away from them and back to Disney/Marvel?
I don’t know. Marvel had a lot of lawyers before Disney and now we have more, but the contracts are pretty clear when it comes to those other ones. I think what we should do is assist our other studio partners in making the best movies they can out of the properties they hold.
What about the continuity crossovers with other studios Marvel franchises?
Feige: We’re not planning on that right now, but never say never. The truth is we have so many things going, we have all these characters already and it’s not like anything is missing. So, in the future, if we want to expand in to [other franchises], we’re open to it down the line, but that’s not part of the plans right now.
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