Thor: Raganarok director Taika Waititi never had plans to work under a big studio.
In 2012, Waititi told Interview Magazine that there were aspects of filmmaking he didn't like, especially with big features, where the art of the project was sacrificed for profit. He added in that interview that there was a new game with studios filmmakers had to play and, at the time, he had no interest in being a part of it. Instead, he focused on creating film festival darlings like Boy, What We Do in the Shadows and his most recent film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Now, however, Waititi hasn't just joined any big studio for just any big project, but is making one of the most anticipated Marvel films for the biggest movie studio in the world. When asked about why he decided to take on the film and whether he had any hesitations about the project going in, Waititi said one of the best parts about working on Thor was the creative freedom he had to do what he wanted with the project. Something, it should be noted, other directors have cited in the past for their reason to not take on a project.
"I feel like a guest in Marvel's universe but with the creative freedom to do what I want," Waititi told Polygon from his place in Australia, where they're currently filming.
Rumors have been floating around Thor: Ragnarok for months, including whether or not the movie will be a buddy-style comedy, who will show up in a cameo role and has led to questions over what's next for the characters after the third film. Waititi couldn't get into specifics about how the movie would be different from the first two Thor installments, but he did confirm that it's changed quite a bit from when they first talked about it.
"It's hard to say what the movie is because it's changing," he said. "The plot has changed and the script has changed. There are buddy elements to it between Thor and the Hulk, but who knows what the final movie will look like."
A buddy-style Marvel movie between two characters may sound weird, considering most of the friend-focused elements appear in ensemble films like the Avengers, but it's an element of storytelling that Waititi has incorporated into most of his films. Hunt for the Wilderpeople, for example, focuses on the strange relationship between a young boy and his uncle while on the run from authorities. There's an intimacy between the characters that few directors can capture and a profound comedy situated within the film's bleakness. If there's one thing Waititi gets its character study, and it's something he wanted to bring to Thor: Ragnarok.
"If my actors aren't having a good time on set, then I'm doing something wrong," he said. "There needs to be a chemistry between characters on screen, and that comes from having chemistry on set. We're making movies. We should be having a lot of fun."
For Waititi, the behavior of people and how they act in certain situations fascinates him. The director said he loves to spend his free time people watching and observing the little nuances that go unnoticed most of the time. The little quirks he picks up, he tends to include in his movies, including Thor: Ragnarok.
"I think this is the most different Marvel movie to date and one of the biggest," Waititi said, adding that without Marvel CEO Kevin Feige's trust and hands-off approach as an executive producer on the project, he probably couldn't have done it.
I think this is the most different Marvel movie to date
Thor: Ragnarok isn't the only big studio project Waititi is taking on, either. The director is helping out with the script on Disney's Moana, which will star Dwayne Johnson, and Waititi said part of that was wanting to work on a movie that he could share with his kids. It's a sentiment shared by many other actors, writers and directors who team up with studios like Disney and Pixar to work on something they can share with their children.
Despite Waititi's quick rise to the top of Hollywood's food chain, the director doesn't want to stop making his weirder and smaller movies. Much like What We Do in the Shadows and Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople was a passion project for the director, and he wants to make sure that even if he's taking on bigger movies, he still finds time to focus on an independent project.
"I love working with small casts in an intimate area and focus on the story we're trying to tell," Waititi said. "I don't think I could turn away from making them for the rest of my life. Even if I do another movie for Marvel or something."
Waititi didn't comment on whether or not he had plans with the studio to work on other projects, but said he just wanted to focus on Thor: Ragnarok for the time being.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is currently playing in theaters. Thor: Ragnarok will be released Nov. 3, 2017.