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Thor – President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige on going to outer space

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Kevin Feige, Marvel, Marvel Studios
Kevin Feige, Marvel, Marvel Studios

With a library of more than 8,000 characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Ghost Rider, The Fantastic Four and the X-Men, Marvel Entertainment is one of the world’s preeminent character-based entertainment companies.

Kevin Feige is the President of Marvel Studios, and oversees all creative aspects of the company’s feature film and home entertainment activities, and is the producer of their new movie Thor, based on the comic book introduced in 1962 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Mighty Thor.

Set in the mystical realm of Asgard, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished to Earth by his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins), after he arrogantly reignites an ancient war. It is on Earth that the petulant prince must learn to lead and become a true hero.

What makes Thor unique in the Marvel universe?

Thor - Jaimie Alexander
Sif (Jaimie Alexander) © 2011 MVLFFLLC

All the characters have their own challenges of course, Thor being a particular challenge because he’s from another world. We don’t have a Superman-type character who is from other worlds. In our cosmic-side of the universe we do, but in terms of the primary characters that we have, Thor is unique in that regard.

He also is unique in that he is based in part on Norse mythology, so you have a big melting pot of a lot of different ideas, which 45 plus years ago Stan Lee and Jack Kirby put together into our great mythology.

Now we’re 600 plus issues into it and we sat with 600 issues and said, ‘What story do we tell?’ And frankly the writers had a big challenge and we’ve been working on the movie for many years and there were a lot of different incarnations, figuring out that we were going to introduce the story that starts on Earth, present day, and take the viewer and just basically thrown them into these other worlds, and then bring them back to Earth.

Why choose to spotlight Thor now?

Thor - Chris Hemsworth
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) © 2011 MVLFFLLC

I grew up with the characters as I did with all the Marvel characters, but frankly I always wanted to do [Thor]. I wanted to expand the notion of a Marvel movie.

I like the idea of going to outer space, to going to more of a sci-fi sandbox, which is why we didn’t shy away from big giant gleaming cities in outer space and other planets. It’s just much more of a sci-fi edge at which I always wanted to be a part of and very proud that we’ve pulled it off in a way that all audiences, whether they have read comics or haven’t read comics, or like science fiction or don’t like science fiction, can respond to and relate to.

Can people relate to Gods?

When characters respond to situations they way one would, when they’re thrust into overwhelming situations and just can’t deal with them very easily, that’s relatable. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire weapons manufacturer (like Tony Stark in Iron Man) or the son of Odin. If you’ve got these problems or issues to overcome, even character flaws deep within yourself, that makes you, essentially, one of us.

Thor - Rene Russo
Frigga (Rene Russo) © 2011 MVLFFLLC

There are a lot of fun things that Stan and Jack did in the early Thor comics – that J Michael Straczynski has done an amazing job handling in the recent comics. He has taken the myths and brought them home.

You may have heard of Thor, Loki and Odin, what you didn’t know is that they’re real. And that if you could get intergalactic transportation, and bust through a few dimensions and other spatial rifts in the process, you would come upon them. That’s the concept that has been developed and has been brought to this adaptation.

Why did you choose Kenneth Branagh to direct this?

Comic books are modern-day mythology, and Ken Branagh is someone who can adapt literature in a way that no one else can. He is, at heart, a gifted storyteller, and that’s why we wanted, someone who can tell the story. Centuries ago, these tales were handed down around the fires – it’s really sort of the same today, only the fire is the light of the projector.

How did you choose Chris Hemsworth for the role of Thor?

Thor - Idris Elba
Heimdall (Idris Elba) © 2011 MVLFFLLC

He’s been drawn with more muscles than any human could possibly have. But we knew early on that we didn’t want to cast a body builder or wrestler. We decided to go for the actor who fit the part best, whether or not anyone knew him, because the character itself is a marquee name.

We read dozens and dozens of people, and did screen tests with four or five. At the end, there was no question, it was Chris. He has a presence, he has humor, and he can deliver these lines in a way that you believe. You care about him, and that is what makes somebody watchable.

Aside from The Avengers will we be seeing Thor return in a sequel?

We’ve got 600 plus issues, we’ve got a thousand years of mythology, we have other stories we’d like to tell. The audience will tell us whether they want to see those other stories, but we have to be prepared for that if we get the call.

Don Payne is  working on story ideas for a Part Two, we’ve got various options with Ken to discuss coming back, but right now the focus is on the first one, but Don is slowly but surely thinking about where to take the character next should we be so lucky.