Thursday, 7 November 2013

Exclusive Interview: Christopher Eccleston on Thor: The Dark World. Craveonline.

Scenes that were cut from the finished film and why he would love to play Destro again.

Christopher Eccleston was my first Doctor. In the "Doctor Who" sense, not like he was my pediatrician or anything. I tried to ask him one question about his experience on the show, but he said he was trying to "get away from that" and focus on Thor: The Dark World, which I respect entirely. I moved on. I can't help but feel like it's too bad though; as The Doctor he brought a lot of joy into my life, and his speech about how the one possibility mankind never considered was that we might not destroy ourselves, that we might actually make it, was exactly what I needed to hear at a certain point in my life, performed in exactly the right way to affect me.

My point is, Mr. Eccleston, if you ever read this: thank you. Whether or not that ever happens, I hope the rest of you enjoy my interview with one of the stars of Thor: The Dark World, covering the creation of the villain Malekith, the formulation of the Dark Elves' language, his fandom for Star Trek, his unexpected Anthony Hopkins connection, and why he'd love to return to the G.I. Joe movie franchise as Destro.

CraveOnline: I was wondering if you could talk to me about Malekith, because we don’t really get to go into a lot of depth with Malekith. We don’t get to see him at home with his family or anything like that.

Christopher Eccleston: [Laughs] I like the idea though. Malekith at home with his family.

He has to take a day off once in a while, right?

Yeah, yeah.

What were the conversations about Malekith and where he was coming from?

Well, the first conversation with Alan [Taylor] was about how he wanted to avoid “the cackling fiend.” Alan spoke to me a lot about the Dark Elves’ sense of their own gravitas and aristocracy, and their ancientness. He wanted them to have a sense of entitlement and bearing. He wanted them regal, you know, that they felt that they were the superior beings of the Nine Realms. And of course, as in any film, the script that we shot is not the script that people see. There were various scenes in there, which for whatever reason didn’t make the final cut, which shaded in Malekith’s background. So even though the audience don’t hear about it, I’m hoping that it’s still present in the performance.

His full title, as far as I know, in Norse mythology and in Marvel mythology, is Malekith the Accursed. Which suggests that something tragic has happened to him. So Alan spoke to me about wanting him to have a tragic quality. Whether that’s [effective] or not is up to the audience to decide, but that was the idea. We just didn’t want to be snarling all the time, certainly with that amount of very strong prosthetics, that would be a mistake too.

These scenes that didn’t make it into the film, I hope we see them on the DVD at some point. It sounds like it wasn’t more action, it sounds like it was character-building.

There was a scene where Malekith was in a certain area of Svartalfheim and remembering his children, his wife and children bathing there, and they had been lost to him. And some of the actions of Odin’s father, Bor, also. There was an extended scene with Anthony Hopkins where they discussed what had caused this ancient grievance between The Dark Elves and themselves. That kind of material. More character-related, yeah.

I’m actually kind of disappointed that didn’t make the cut. That sounds like it would have given you more of a connection to Odin.

Yeah, yeah. I would think it’s probably for complex reasons to do with Odin and Frigga’s relationship, I think. And the implications of possibly making Odin more brutal.

Did they invent a whole new language for the Elves, or did they just give you phonetic lines of dialogue?

No, it’s a brand new language. Alan had worked with a gentleman, I’m afraid I don’t know his name, [but] the gentleman who created it worked for Alan on “Games of Thrones.” He created a language for the Dark Elves which was specifically for the Dark Elves. As I understood it there were a number of influences, but one of the primary influences was Finnish. So one of the things I did was I went online and YouTube and watched people – or rather, listened to people – speaking in Finnish to get some idea of the rhythms of the language.

That’s what I was wondering: if it’s a fictional language, would that give you a lot of freedom with inflection? Would you need to base it on a pattern of some kind?

Well, the pattern to a certain extent sort of suggests itself, according to the way the man who has created the language has asked you to stress, you know, where the stress the on each particular word falls. But within that you can play with the music of it, and we didn’t want the music to be overly familiar. You know, if the Elves had sounded vaguely Italian, that would suggest that wouldn’t be great. So perhaps Eastern European or Northern European was [the right] music. So there’s room for play, really, and actually, hopefully we jumped between a few different musics. That was the beauty of it. It was pretty hair-raising doing it, but I was very pleased with the results. I think it does give the sense of an entirely different, ancient race. That was very important for the Dark Elves, was that they have a similar gravitas to Odin and Thor. They belong to the Nine Realms just as much as Odin and Thor do. They have gravitas and history.

It’s that history that’s one of the things I love about this franchise. I grew up very obsessed with Norse mythology.


Even though it has this sci-fi angle to it, it really treats the significance of the characters with a lot of respect.

Yeah. I like that too. It’s interesting to think that Malekith for instance is a product of the Norse mythology, and he’s gone through the Marvel mythology, and there’s probably three Malekiths. There’s the one that belongs squarely to Norse mythology, and there’s the one that belongs square to Marvel mythology, and then there’s the one in the middle which is a synthesis of the two. Yeah, it gives it some mystery I think.

CraveOnline: Most of your scenes in the film are opposite Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. You’re both creating characters with a new hybrid mythology and language. Did you have to work together with him on the language, for instance?

Christopher Eccleston: Oh yeah, we worked closely on the language. While we were alongside each other going through the makeup process we would run our lines and make sure that we sounded like we were speaking the same language, in terms of inflection and music, and getting used to each other’s rhythms. Also, we had such a short time to memorize, just running it and running it between us we created a music between ourselves, which we’d then recreate when we got to the set.

Were you a fan of the Marvel movies before Thor: The Dark World? Were you caught up?

I’d seen Iron Man, and I did a bit of catching up once I was cast in the film. I would say that probably, I tend to watch more independent, character-driven cinema. If I go to the cinema, that’s what I do. And I have a young family so I don’t get a chance much to. [Laughs] But I enjoyed the first Thor film very much. The performances, and particularly the humor… I was really gratified to see that humor, as I was with the first Star Trek, and the second Star Trek film. I was a huge “Star Trek” fan as a child, and I thought the first one, the use of character and humor – which we have in Thor – really helps sell the special effects and the CGI and the stunts. If you have that human connection to cling to as well.

As a “Trek” fan, would you like to find a place in that franchise if you can?

Well, listen… a funny story about Thor was that 30 years ago I was an usher at the National Theater, and I used to tear tickets and sell ice creams, and one of the shows that I had to watch again and again was a show called Pravda, and the lead actor was Anthony Hopkins. And then 30 years later I ended up on film with him.

Did you tell him that?

I did tell him that. I did tell him that, because he’s a big hero to me. So the idea that, I mean I was probably five when I watched the first Star Trek film… the idea that 45 years later I could be in Star Trek [laughs], that would be… but it does sound like I’m trying to get myself work, and I’m really not.

No, these movies are making fandom – almost childhood fandom – legitimate in a lot of ways. They allow people to talk about their enthusiasm for things like Norse mythology and science fiction. I don’t think it sounds like you’re trying to get work. I think it sounds like you’re sharing something you love.

Yeah, I did love them. But of course with the original Star Trek films, they were in space and there were aliens and adventure, but really what made them work for me was the brilliant writing and characterization, and the human and Vulcan relationships within it, you know what I mean?

Are you interested in returning to the G.I. Joe franchise? It’s looking like that’s going to continue…

Is it going to continue?

I think it is. They said they were going to do G.I. Joe 3. And they touched on Destro in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. They allowed that you might be around for future films.

Oh yeah, I’d love to play Destro. I would love to.

Did you see the new one?

No, I haven’t seen the second film, no. I have not had a chance to catch up with it yet, but I think Destro, like Malekith, the whole mask thing and all that, I think you can do… One of the beauties of Malekith’s prosthetics, for instance, is that you can still recognize that it was me, and that this was a living, breathing creature as opposed to an automaton. I wonder whether you could do that with the idea of Destro, too.

Because you could go with the idea that it’s a living, breathing, metal face. It could actually be really beautiful to have a reflective surface all over your face.

It was metal, but it was animated, yeah. He could animate it even though he was trapped within it, which is the thing about him isn’t it? He’s trapped. So yeah, I would be interested, yeah.