'Thor: Ragnarok' Director Taika Waititi Talks His 'Surreal' Scene-Stealing Role as Korg (Exclusive)
By John Boone
Taika Waititi should be used to all the praise by now. "Not enough. I want to hear more," the director joked during a sit-down with ET to discuss his new -- and yes, highly praised -- movie, Thor: Ragnarok. "Let's keep it going, because it won't last. And then I'll just be seeking for some more compliments...It's like a drug for me, compliments."
The native New Zealander is responsible for critically adored films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows -- as well as the Oscar-nominated short film, Two Cars, One Night -- and, as he's done on each of his projects thus far, he cast himself in a role in Ragnarok. "I'll always crowbar myself in there somehow," Waititi, a drama student at university who began his career as an actor, said. "I stopped acting, because I was like, I'm not doing the roles I wanna do. And now I can choose them."
During Thor: Ragnarok, the titular thunder god (played by Chris Hemsworth) finds himself on a far-off planet called Sakaar, where he is made to fight in a gladiatorial Tournament of Champions against the Incredible Hulk. It's there that Thor meets Korg, the friendly motion capture Kronan played by Waititi. (Not to be confused with the not-so-friendly Kronan that Thor defeats in the opening moments of The Dark World.) Waititi revealed he would be playing the part -- an eight-foot-tall rock creature dressed in, as he put it, "a 2017 metal bikini" -- while previewing early VFX footage for press in an edit bay at Marvel Studios in April. "Being made of rocks, we really wanted to get someone like The Rock to play him, but there wasn't enough chicken or salmon in Australia to sustain both him and Chris," Waititi deadpanned. "The next best thing was a hot -- super hot -- export from New Zealand. A great character actor named Taika."
"That was very surreal for me," Waititi recently reflected on filming his scenes as the to-be-CGI-created Korg while also helming the Marvel blockbuster. "For a start, being in the pajamas-- the motion-capture pajamas, which are very emasculating. They don't fill you with a confidence or courage when you are on set wearing that and trying to order a crew around. But having people like Cate [Blanchett, who plays the villainous Hela] and Chris around, I can have fun with them and just jam with them. It takes it that extra level higher, from just directing the film to being in it as well."
Any minor humiliations were ultimately worth it, as Korg steals off with nearly every single scene he's in. Turns out, Waititi's signature idiosyncratic rumor and rambling punchlines are never more effective than when they come from the mouth of a pile of talking rocks. (See: this fully improvised clip from the movie.) "I sit there with the guys and just throw lines at them all day long and just say, 'Say this, say this, say this,'" Waititi revealed. "That's how we get, like, these cool, little lines that just come out of nowhere."
With Ragnarok opening in theaters on Nov. 3, it's not a matter of when Korg and his insectoid sidekick, Miek, will pop up next in the Marvel universe -- studio head Kevin Feige has said, "We, like the audience now that they've seen them, can't get enough!" -- but where: In a fourth Thor movie? Cracking wise with the Guardians of the Galaxy in Vol. 3? Bit players in the overstuffed Avengers 4? As Black Widow's sidekick in her very own standalone film? Considering Waititi has arguably the best reviewed Marvel movie ever, nothing is out of the question.