Spoiler alert: This story discusses major plot events in Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Love and Thunder” currently playing in theaters.
When Jennifer Katten Robinson first got the call from Marvel Studios, it wasn’t about writing the script for “Thor: Love and Thunder” with director Taika Waiti.
“I actually pitched to write ‘Captain Marvel 2,'” says Robinson Variety. “And out of that pitch, they were like, ‘So we’re not giving you this job. We’re going to hook you up with Taika and you’re going to help him on ‘Thor.’
At the time, Waity was in awards season for 2019’s “Jojo Rabbit,” which won the filmmaker an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and needed a partner to work through the film’s delicate tightrope walk of a story: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), his ex-girlfriend Jane. Along with Foster (Natalie Portman), Gore battles the existential threat of The God Butcher (Christian Bale), who has become the superhero The Mighty Thor via the mystical hammer Mjolnir – which also erases the effects of stage 4 cancer. his body
Talked to Robinson Variety Jane talks about the “responsibility” of navigating the plot, what it’s like working on set with Waititi, her trust in Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, and why she gave Hercules the big reveal in the film’s post-credits scene. Don’t know who will play him. (One thing Robinson won’t discuss: who Lena Headey played in her deleted scenes in the film: “You never know. Unless Tyka or Kevin says so.”)
When you started working with Taika Waititi on the script, did you have a specific area you were focusing on, or did it become more?
I used to say it everywhere. It was really like: there was a really wonderful blueprint. Then it was just a matter of digging into the blueprint. It was pulling back the layers and really getting into the character stuff. Jane’s story was one in which I had a big hand. That was kind of where I was most useful, I think, in the process.
How did Jane’s story with cancer evolve from your perspective?
It was always there. Obviously, it’s in the comics, and it was in Taika’s first draft. And then it was just about, you know, what does that mean? We talked a lot, especially with Natalie, you know, we have a responsibility here. What a wonderful thing to be able to show a superhero with cancer and to be able to shine this character without taking away from the ugliness and difficult things about it. A lot of the conversations were like, “How do we do this justice and how do we put something on the screen that will have some meaning and resonate with cancer survivors?”
Before the film opens, everyone, including Natalie, neglects to confirm that Jane has cancer, but her first appearance in the film is during her chemotherapy treatment. Was it always like this?
yes I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I think it’s okay: in the original draft, it was actually before Marvel. [Studios logo]. It was even earlier in Taika’s original draft. That was always a moving piece – finally, it happened [the origins for] Gorr and I think it’s wonderful. but [Jane’s cancer] There would never be a moment to grow up. It was always, like, it’s a woman’s story. This is his arc. And where does it begin?
How did you navigate including this real and painful plot within a huge, fictional superhero movie?
I think we’ve always tried to find the truth and the feeling behind it, and come from a really human place. And not the usual human place – this is Jane Human space. Thinking about how Jane How to handle it Jane Move through his diagnosis? Specificity, I think, is what makes a great story and something universal. And this was Jane’s story in particular. Because yes, most cancer survivors don’t have a magic hammer that they can access that turns them into superheroes and gives them massive weapons. There’s definitely a lot of really imaginative stuff, and then you have a scene where she just tells her boyfriend she has cancer, and she’s very nervous to do that. That’s a very human, real scene – on a boat in space. (laughs)
At times it felt like there was more to Valkyrie’s story than what we saw on screen. Was there a version where we saw more of her life in New Asgard?
no The New Asgard part of Valkyrie’s story is a bit compressed, but it actually was in earlier drafts. As you know, the script was very long and the movie is not as long as the script. But those choices were really more on Kevin/Tyka’s side than mine.
When I interviewed for Natalie Portman VarietyIn the cover story, she talked about how Tyka shoots very unconventionally—that he would essentially throw away the script on the day.
You worked on those pages, too, of course — what was it like when you were on set and would that be?
We worked on them together. He threw away his own work! We’d literally sit together in rooms and zooms for months and months and months, and then we’d get in there, and we’d rehearse it, and—”throw it out” is the wrong word. I mean, him does Throw it out, but the core is still there. I say he does plus – he can’t help but always try to plus. I can’t imagine that Taika is going to write something and be like, “It’s done and we’re going to shoot it.”
So how would he approach that part of the process?
There were different versions. We would read what we were shooting around the table the next day, and it would be like, idea, idea, idea. I sit down with my laptop and listen and just close my Heimdall eyes and write something and then swing my computer around her and say, “Yo?” So that was one version of it. Another version is at the first blocking rehearsal, things start to change, and I’ll have my computer and be typing with one hand, following Tyka as he moves things and changes things. There’s something that’s not in the film, but it was Hemsworth and Pratt walking through this ditch, and I remember it was such an out-of-body experience, like I was walking behind Taika, Chris, and Chris. The laptop in this literal trench that they built looks like you’re on a planet. And I’m like, “What the hell? How did I get here?” It was very strange.
And then I would say, the third version of the way Taika directs is that he literally stands behind the monitor, and I stand next to him, and it’s just things. I never screamed. I would always pitch to Tyka and then Tyka would pick what she liked. But I had a lot of time where I had a mini monitor next to Taika, and we were writing the film almost in real time as they were shooting it. So there were all kinds of versions of putting this film together. Don’t allow Taika’s brain to only run at one speed. As it is, he likes the way he thinks or looks at things and his ability to kind of play, but also the complete control is really amazing.
Was there ever a time where you felt like you’d accidentally written yourself back into a corner based on other stuff you’d shot before?
No, I think Tyka and I were a good team, in that I was the kind of person who was there to remind him, “Oh, take this line. Oh, take that.” He was able to rely on me and be able to go to all these different places, knowing that there was one person who was able to bring him back if needed. When you go into editing, you know, the whole thing kind of blows up anyway. So I always tried to be there to make sure that what was needed was said. Usually, in a Marvel movie, those are very small things.
Were you into the post-credits scene, where we find out that Brett Goldstein is playing Hercules?
I saw that at the premiere along with everyone else. Just like I didn’t know that Tyka was Thor coming back, I didn’t know that Roy Kent was Hercules. I’m a huge Marvel fan, so I was happy to have a moment in the movie where I was really surprised.
You didn’t know about any of this?
I knew there was talk about Hercules. The name was not Hercules no In a conversation that I probably shouldn’t have listened to, of course, but I did. So the minute I saw the beginning of the scene, I knew he was talking to Hercules. I had no idea who they cast. But I thought, would it be Hercules? I just knew it was something that they were like, “We want to get rid of it, so stay away from it.”
Working with Marvel Studios can be an experience in itself. Are there any big surprises for you while working on this movie?
Not really. The job was writing and writing with Taika. The job was to write for Marvel. I understand the work. And so I wasn’t going into it with any preconceived notions of what the job was going to be, needed to be, had to be. I was kind of on a ride. If you’ve just thrown yourself into the ride of working for Marvel, it’s really exciting. It’s really fun. You have the world’s largest toy box to play with and play with. For me, especially coming off my first show “Sweet/Vicious,” I already had a kind of mind set on where I wanted to go in my career. So to get here, I was like, “Hell yeah, I’m in for whatever it is.” Every job, there are days when it’s really challenging, where you’re banging your head against the wall. But there’s also days where you’re on a stage in Australia in the pit with two Chris and Tyka, you’re like, “This is crazy.” So I think it’s riding the waves with a lot of high-stakes work that’s also incredibly fun.
Are you looking forward to working with Marvel again?
i don’t know At this point, I’m very open to wherever life takes me. Something I’ve learned in this business is that you can try to plan and the plans will be thrown back in your face and laugh at you. So I stopped making plans. If I get a call and they want me to come in and pitch something, and it’s something that I think I’m right for, yeah, I’ll work with Marvel again. One thing I will say is that Kevin really understands putting writers and directors and executives and projects together—creating that creative soup. So if Kevin thinks I’m right for something, I really trust him, because I think I’ll be set up for success.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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