As anyone who’s watched the trailer for “Thor: Ragnarok” can readily see — and judging by its record-breaking view count, that’s a whole lot of people – director Taika Waititi is injecting a healthy dose of his skewed sense of humor into the Marvel superhero film, which hits theaters Nov. 3.
But as it turns out, he’s not stopping there. Waititi is actually putting himself in the film as well.
On Monday, during an open house for journalists at the recently finished Marvel offices on the Walt Disney Studios lot, Waititi – the New Zealand filmmaker behind such quirky comedies as “Eagle vs. Shark” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” – revealed that he will be playing a character in “Thor: Ragnarok” named Korg, (“like the piano”).
Eight feet tall and made of rocks, this Kronan warrior – first introduced in Marvel’s “Planet Hulk” comics story line – befriends Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on the planet Sakaar, where they each have been exiled and forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat.
“He helps Thor out and sort of explains how things go and becomes an ally to Thor,” Waititi explained, showing footage of himself performing opposite Hemsworth in a motion-capture suit (or, as Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo calls it, he said, “an emasculation suit”).
Waititi acknowledged that a fearsome warrior made of rocks might not seem like the most obvious comic sidekick for Thor. But that was exactly the point.
“We wanted to change the idea of the obvious choice of how the character would sound – he’s huge and heavy but he has a very light soul,” he said. “Obviously, being made of rocks, we would have gotten someone like the Rock to play him, but there wasn’t enough chicken or salmon in Australia to sustain both him and Chris. So we got the next best thing, which is this super hot young character actor named Taika Waititi, who I’ve personally come to love. As a director, I just found I had just all the time in the world for him and I wanted to give him take after take.”
Waititi also showed off concept art and early footage of a character called Miek, an insect-like alien with a crab mouth and knives for hands who also fights in the arena. “Miek doesn’t talk,” he said. “He’s like Silent Bob.”
The fact Waititi found a role for himself in “Thor: Ragnarok” shouldn’t be too surprising. Earlier in his career, he performed in a comedy duo with future “Flight of the Conchords” star Jemaine Clement and has since inserted himself into nearly all of the films he’s directed.
“Even if I wasn’t playing this character, I would have wedged myself in there somehow,” Waititi said. “I feel like I’d be better suited to a character who’s kind of meaningless and doesn’t really have much impact on the story but is fun in a couple of small scenes. But I also wanted to create a sense of balance, to create something that’s not just broad the whole way through but has that balance of pathos and comedy.”