It’s HelaWeen month as Marvel announced it earlier this week. We have new footage, poster, images, interview and even cupcakes inspired by Cate Blachett’s Hela from Thor Ragnarok. Enjoy!
A fan shared this animated poster on instagram. Amazing!!
‘Thor Ragnarok’ Interview: Cate Blanchett on Bringing Marvel’s First Female Villain to Life
In honor of Thor: Ragnarok, the folks at Marvel Studios are celebrating the entire month with a little holiday called Helaween, named for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first female villain, Hela, the Goddess of Death.
Cate Blanchett is playing the Marvel villain in question, and /Film had the incredible opportunity to sit down with the Oscar-winning actress for an interview during our visit to the set of Thor: Ragnarok in Australia last fall. If you haven’t read our full set report, be sure to check that out. Otherwise, keep reading below to find out everything Cate Blanchett had to tell us about Hela the Goddess of Death, how her vagina made her unafraid of Loki, working with director Taika Waititi, and her possible future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Our interview took place after a day of shooting one of the climactic scenes of the movie where Hela is facing off with Thor, Loki, Hulk and Valkyrie on an Asgardian bridge, a shot we’ve seen in the trailers. Cate Blanchett was wearing a motion capture suit while filming. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So what can you tell us about Hela?
Cate Blanchett: Well, she’s just the Goddess of Death. What I like about playing her is that I really didn’t know anything about her, and that’s really exciting. Obviously, the deep, hardcore fan base would know a lot about her, so there was a really interesting process of discovery for me. I guess like any of the Marvel characters is they have really interesting and varied back stories so it depends which origin story you read as to whose side [she’s on] and why she’s been kept at bay for so long. But yeah, playing the Goddess of Death has been really interesting.
Why does she want to bring about Ragnarok? I know she’s the Goddess of Death but is there a more personal reason that?
CB: She’s been banished for a very long time. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say.
You can say everything. Whatever you like.
CB: [Laughs] You won’t tell anyone! She’s been banished for a very long time and I think if you’ve been locked under the Asgaardian stairs for 5,000 years, you’d be a little bit cross. I think it’s very interesting to bring the concept of death into a world that’s ostensibly immortal. You look at the Western world and in most cultures, death has been banished from the world in which, most Western people live. And as a result, I think it’s made life rather screwed up. I think that there’s a side of death which can be gentle and kind and there’s a side of death which can be brutal and savage, depending on whose death it is. I think that there’s a lot of unresolved issues that she has with Asgard. Each step of the way, she doesn’t meet people who are receptive to her, and I think she’s quite bewildered as to why people are frightened of her. But the more havoc she wreaks the stronger she becomes.
What about her powers? It looks like you’re doing some really cool stuff.
CB: Well, it’s that time of the month, and I was super clumsy today. Actually, Hela doesn’t have a time of the month. The powers have been great and varied and evolving. Having not made a Marvel movie before, I thought it would all be quite set in stone and you’d just be stepping into the silhouette and the strings would be pulled for you slightly.
Very early on, I threw a lot of ideas into the ring with Taika [Waititi] and with the motion capture people and the special effects crew, and they took that and ran with it. So it’s been evolving. It’s like, “What if I shot this out? What would happen if that happened? What if I play with my cape? Could stuff come out of that?” Anything that I’ve done on the day, it’s been an organic thing where Ben the stunt coordinator is coming in to say, “You know that move you did there, we could make a weapon fly out that way.” So it’s been quite loose actually. She’s got a lot of power.
There’s been a lot of excitement around Hela being Marvel’s first female villain. When you signed onto this, did you feel any pressure about kind of representing that?
CB: I think you only feel pressure if you think this is the only shot that women will have, which is ridiculous. There’s a huge Female fan base and, for having a daughter myself, you want them to be able to identify with those that are this end of the spectrum as well as the heroes. But then of course, Marvel very soon announced Captain Marvel being female. You think this is great, this is the beginning of a rolling stone that’s gonna gather a lot of female moss. Oh, that’s a terrible image. [Laughs]
Anyway, so I didn’t feel pressure. I was super excited. It’s like with any film, whether it’s an action film or a really small indie drama, it depends on who’s looking down the lens and when it’s Taika, that for me, was a really exciting thing.
A lot of the Marvel villains had a hard time living up to Loki, is that something that at all concerned you, especially because you guys share a movie?
CB: I have a vagina. [Laughs] I don’t think he has a vagina. Although I don’t know if Hela has a vagina either. She’s a goddess, so I don’t know about that either. [Laughs]
The original sketches that I got, Tom [Hiddleston] and I were just talking about that actually, they were quite similar. So I said, “Okay, how can we either make that a virtue or be a little bit more creative with that?” And they’re really receptive to it. Even though Hela doesn’t carry the whole film, and that’s not a spoiler, I’ve tried with the make-up and hair people and all of the different departments to give her a kind of a visual journey, so that’s she’s got somewhere to go as she becomes increasingly powerful. That look evolves and calcifies a little bit.
We heard that plays into the motion capture work, but there are there points where there’s a physical costume?
CB: Yeah, and I really wanted to do some camera tests, because sometimes when you throw an idea into the ring, people don’t really trust you until they’ve seen it. So we played in front of camera and everyone began to think, “OK, this is really interesting.” So I think I’ve worn the costume a little bit more than perhaps I would have otherwise.
We’ve heard there’s more humor injected into the Thor franchise now than there was previously. In the scene we saw today between you and Loki, there seems to be some playful energy between you two. Is that something that Hela possesses throughout the movie? Is there a lot of playful taunting in her villainy?
CB: Yeah, I think there’s got to be. That’s what I love about the Marvel Universe and how it exists in the film world. It knows when to put its tongue in its cheek, and I think that’s great. I think that’s what makes it fun. It knows when it’s doing something grand and comically, in terms of the comic book universe, important. But it also knows when it needs to send itself up. Taika’s got this rare ability to be at once really cruel and incredibly daggy. I don’t know what the translation is in American speak. It’s not nerdy. It’s more endearing than nerdy. Nerdy’s is a bit more pejorative. Daggy is just someone…
Is it dorky?
CB: No, dorky is kind of judgmental. Daggy is just quirky. It’s kind of a quirky, dorky, nerdy. Cool, quirky, dorky, nerdy – equals daggy. We’ll get the t-shirts printed.
It looks like there’s definitely a history that Hela has with Valkyrie, Loki, Thor, and Hulk. What are those relationships like?
CB: Problematic. Val and Hela have a rather problematic history.
We heard about a surreal flashback.
CB: Oh my God, that was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. That particular flashback that Val has, the way they were shooting that, they had a horse – a real horse galloping through there, through the studio – but the way it was recorded, it really did capture that feeling of when you have a dream that’s also borderline nightmare, where it has both lightness and incredible weight. It’s that strange, dreamlike sensation that I have anyway. It was amazing.
How much did working on The Lord of the Rings prepare you for this? I know you’ve probably never done motion capture before this film.
CB: Yeah, Andy Serkis is such a pioneer of this whole way or working and really authoring a performance. So I learned a lot watching him and working with him on his very dark interesting version of the Jungle Book. At that time, I actually had a camera as well, which was even weirder.
Both Taika and Peter Jackson, insisted on having a lot of the physical world present. You should see Taika’s own illustrations. He’s an incredible artist and he knows how important it is for the actors to, even if they’re not gonna have that complete physical world, they have a sense of what the atmosphere is that they’re walking into. That really helps so you’re not in a complete blue screen universe with no idea what you’re looking at or what you’re touching.
Also, to work with Zoe Bell, who’s not only an extraordinary stunt woman beyond compare, but she’s a fantastic actor. To have her as a resource and a partner in creating this whole thing has been great. I think as a result, under her tutelage, I’ve been able to do a lot more of that physical stuff than I thought possible and that was the same with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In my experience, a lot was done in camera. It’s augmented and there’s obviously a huge post-production process, but a lot of it was actually done there and then, with make-up, with the acting bits.
When we spoke with Chris Hemsworth, he mentioned how reading the script, he could see the villain that Hela would be or he could see how you might play it and then was kind of taken aback when he got his first look at the character that you crafted. He though you could take this even farther from a traditional villain…
CB: It’s the same with Chris. Because I came in a little later than Mark [Ruffalo] and Tessa [Thompson] and Tom [Hiddleston] and Chris had started. So I said, “Could I see some dailies just so I could get a sense of the tone?” because I knew Taika was directing it. And I was riveted. I thought, “Wow, this is so – it’s like Chris has harnessed all the energy of the previous film and is using that, then also subverting it, which is really thrilling to watch. It was really helpful for me to know we can stretch it that far.
You’re in such safe hands with Taika tonally, having seen all his other films. You know three-quarters of it make it chucked out but you’ve got to chuck it out there in order to find that little gem. That’s what play is, and sometimes, on some sets, you can feel that that’s not really possible. They want you to play but they really don’t want you to play. But you feel that Taika’s in there, because Taika is actually physically in the film twice. [Laughs]
Did you share any screen time with him in the movie?
CB: Not that I know of but it depends. It’s possible.
Did you share any with Jeff Goldblum?
CB: No, I don’t think so, but then you never know, unfortunately. I love that man.
Your character as the Goddess of Death has certain attributes that are similar to Mistress Death, which could be a big part of Infinity War. So can you say anything about whether you would have a possible continued presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the next few years?
CB: I don’t know. I suppose it depends what they end up with. You never know. I’ve had an absolute ball, but it doesn’t mean my work is any good. Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean that it affects the quality. Yes, I don’t know how to answer that question and I’m not being evasive, I don’t know. That’s up to the big bosses.
When you were cast, I think people were really surprised. Bringing an actress like you into the Marvel Universe was really exciting to a lot of people. Was this the kind of a thing that you had been looking to do or was working with Taika and this script just so compelling that you wanted to do it?
CB: Yeah, absolutely. Gosh, yeah. I always wanted to enter into a world that — it’s far more exciting when you don’t know anything about it. “How would I do that?” Most of the time that’s the way I like to enter into work. Whether or not people are necessarily surprised, I’m always trying to — you’ve gotta to trip yourself up. The failure and the missteps and the lapses of judgment are very public, but you just got to throw that caution to the wind. I don’t think it was a lapse in judgment except, but I was super excited by it. It was exactly what I was looking for. It’s been a real tonic actually.