Thor: Ragnarok hit theatres everywhere this past Friday. Recently, Marvel flew me out to LA to attend the blogger press junket and the red carpet premiere where I screened the film with the cast and filmmakers. You can read my spoiler-free review here. The next day we had the chance to interview Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, Director Taika Waititi, Rachel House and Karl Urban before we headed over to the press conference. This is my interview with Karl Urban who plays Skurge in the film.
Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters now!
First I’d like to talk about Skurge’s entry into the MCU since this is the first time we see him, although he’s been a part of the Mighty Thor comics for some time. In the comics, Skurge’s role alongside Thor was his enemy. Known as “The Executioner” the half Storm Giant carried an enchanted ax and was much stronger than most Asgardians. His addition to the Thor movie franchise was a perfect choice and one that added to the “new Thor story” that Marvel Studios was trying to achieve.
So what did Karl Urban have to say about his work on Thor: Ragnarok? He talked about working with Taika on set, being Skurge, working in the MCU, what he thought of the film, girl power, and what’s in his near future.
Interview with Karl Urban (Skorge) for Thor: Ragnarok
Karl is a delight to interview. I’ve interviewed probably hundreds of celebrities and never have I been greeted with such warmth and sincerity. When Karl walked into the room, he visited each and every blogger (there were 25 of us) and shook our hands. Gestures like this speak volumes about a person’s character. That was super legit for him to do and would later resonate with me even more (see what Karl has to say about leading by example).
Karl talks about working with Taika on set and getting into character:
“We would shoot a couple of versions of what was on the page and then shoot a wealth of material that Taika quite frankly just made up. There was nothing sacrilegious about a take.” -Karl Urban
Over and over again I keep hearing about all the improvising that was done on set. A method Taika Waititi encouraged, allowing the talent to shine in the moment, especially with the comedic roles. This is what Karl had to say about improvising and working with Taika.
Full credit to Marvel, they hired a director, Taika, who has a very strong comedic style and sensibility and they actually let him do his job.There was already a brilliant foundation in the script. We would shoot a couple of versions of what was on the page and then shoot a wealth of material that Taika quite frankly just made up. There was nothing sacrilegious about a take. You’d be in the middle of a take and he’d be, “Oh why don’t you say this, say this line”. Or he’d just yell out a piece of direction. It was actually kind of liberating because you felt comfortable that there was no such thing as a bad choice, that there was nothing precious about it. I think that really kind of afforded everybody a wonderful freedom to fully explore all the options. I can’t wait to see the extras on this movie. I mean it’s like the movie is funny and entertaining but I think the extras are going to be as equally, entertaining and I can’t wait to see them.
Karl on getting into character:
I can say this is one of the most fun sets that I’ve ever been on. Taika is constantly playing music in between takes. I’m so proud of him. You know, he really handled himself with quite aplomb and I imagine it would have been a pressure cooker situation to be responsible for this behemoth movie. But he did it with such aplomb and such grace and style. And he created an environment that was not only fun but it was focused. And that’s a rarity.
Karl talks about Skurge’s first scene in the film and why he enjoyed it so much:
In my opinion, Karl Urban was perfectly cast for the role of Skurge. He had just the right amount of grit and brawn for the role. Here’s what Karl had to say about his opening scene.
When I’m trying to woo the young ladies they had a whole collection of stolen stuff that Skurge had pillaged from the universe. And you only got to see the shake weight. They had all sorts of stuff when we shot for hours like fishing rods with lures, and all sorts of crazy stuff, so I’m looking forward to seeing that.
Karl talks about going from a ruthless villain to a selfless warrior:
“It’s pretty clear that this character is just trying to survive. And you could see what it meant to him, his fear, his regret, his internal repulsion at what he was seeing was palpable.” -Karl Urban
I got a call from Taika saying listen there’s this character in this movie…, and I’d wanted to work with Taika for a long time. I’m a huge fan of his work from What We Do In The Shadows, to Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Boy. He had me half hooked right just by calling me. But he sent me the script and I immediately recognized that there was actually something profoundly emotionally compelling about this character’s journey that was eminently relatable.
Here’s a character that’s put in a situation where he has to make a decision, he has to align himself with a cause that he does not believe in but it’s the only thing he can do in order to survive. I thought that was a very interesting moral dilemma. Then of course, once he’s crossed that bridge and he realizes there is no turning back, then he is looking for a way to redeem himself and that was ultimately his journey. And it resonated on the page. So I had full confidence that left unmolested it was going to translate onto the screen.
It’s pretty clear that this character is just trying to survive. And you could see what it meant to him, his fear, his regret, his internal repulsion at what he was seeing was palpable. But he had no choice, so it was eminently relatable just like an existential.
Karl talks about his process on TV versus working on a Marvel film:
Not all film projects are created equal and that very much goes for TV vs movies. Television is shot much of the year, for many years, while films are shot in a much less time and then done. Here’s what Karl had to say about his process on Marvel film vs TV.
Well, the last television project I did was a few years ago and I found that to be quite grueling. Quite often working seventeen hour days six days a week. I loved working with the cast and crew on that but it wasn’t my most pleasurable experience. Tactfully diplomatically put, it sucked. But I don’t believe all television is like that, it was just my particular experience on that production. That being said, working on this film was a sheer pleasure, and we actually worked hard. We worked some six-day weeks but we worked ten hour days, we didn’t stop for lunch. And so there was a constant momentum.
Karl talks about his opinion of the film:
“I’m so happy for Chris that he’s actually finally been given the opportunity to spread his wings. I think this film showcases his complete full potential.” – Karl Urban
So what did Karl think of Thor: Ragnarok when he saw it for the first time the night before (with us in the audience)? He talks about his gratitude for the film and what it’s like seeing this particular film with his friends and colleagues, as well as his opinion of the film.
I feel so blessed. It was such a pleasurable experience to not only see the film with my friends and colleagues but to see the film with an audience who were thoroughly entertained. Again you have to give full credit to Taika and Marvel for producing a film that I think reboots Thor in a wonderful healthy positive way. I’m so happy for Chris that he’s actually finally been given the opportunity to spread his wings. I think this film showcases his complete full potential.
Karl talks about working with badass women and what it means to be making films at a time when women are stronger than ever:
We are seeing so much girl power these days. And in the case of Thor: Ragnarok where you even have a female villain, it’s stronger than ever. With powerful roles like The Valkyrie and Hela that bring swagger, grace, strength, and power to the screen, I feel like blockbuster films are completely saddling up and giving our next generation something to be proud of. And my generation as well! I love seeing female warriors! This is what Karl had to say about working with such strong women for Thor: Ragnarok.
It’s imperative. I think it would have been a boring movie without them. Cate and Tessa are so wonderful in this film, they are my favorite parts of the movie and I love seeing Tessa’s swagger. I love the journey of her character from the dark place that she was into redemption, to reclaiming herself with her identity.
I thought it was a strong compelling journey. And then I had such a wonderful time working with Cate Blanchett. I mean to be perfectly honest, she was the reason I decided to do this movie, it was the opportunity to work with Cate Blanchett. I read that script and saw that ninety percent of my material was with her, “I’m like where do I sign up, how much do I pay you?”.
Karl talks about being in the MCU, Dredd and what’s next:
“You know, nobody does it better than these guys. Many people try and copy them but they have got a formula and they are heavily aligned with the creative element of the process.” -Karl Urban
I think it’s safe to say that being part of the MCU is a highlight of any actors career. I’ve heard over and over again that it’s a wonderful organization to be a part of. Here’s what Karl had to say about being in the MCU and what’s next in film for him.
Being part of Marvel Universe is an absolute pleasure, they are a wonderful collaborative company. I have a huge degree of admiration and respect for what they have done. And particularly what they have done on this film and how they’ve supported Taika and put a network around him giving him the freedom and having the courage to let him do his job.
You know, nobody does it better than these guys. Many people try and copy them but they have got a formula and they are heavily aligned with the creative element of the process.
Karl talks about his future with Judge Dredd:
Rebellion who owns the rights to Dredd is in the process of developing a TV show that won’t be a sequel to the movie, but it’ll be I guess a reboot or a reimagining. And I’ve said to them yes I’m interested in reprising that role if they write a character that has a purpose and a function and there’s an emotionally compelling story. Then I would love the opportunity to go back and continue to explore that character. So we’ll see what they do.
Karl talks about what’s next for him in film:
The movie that I’m most excited about apart from Thor is a film that I shot this year with Sofía Vergara, who’s so brilliant. It’s this movie called Bent that was written and directed by Bobby Moresco, who wrote Crash and Million Dollar Baby.
It’s got a great pedigree it’s a sort of a modern take on a classic noir genre and I just had the best time working with Sofía. You all know her for her comedy, which she does extraordinarily well. In this film she engineers a paradigm shift and she plays this femme fatale. She’s going to blow people away.
Karls talks about parenting two boys:
“I think with parenting the key is to lead by example, and provide a lot of love and support for them.” -Karl Urban
As a single mom to one son, I can say that parenting is something I figure out as I go. I wasn’t expecting this question to come up with Karl, but I’m glad it did. He gave some oracle level wisdom to parenting boys which really resonated with me as I began to dive into this article. Even as I looked back at the entire interview from the moment he shook our hands, I realized that Karl is a role model not just to his kids but to the people he works with. Here’s what Karl had to say about parenting two boys.
I think with parenting the key is to lead by example, and provide a lot of love and support for them. I’m also a firm believer in allowing them to fall down and allowing them to make mistakes because that is ultimately the way we learn. You know, if you can learn from somebody else’s mistake then you’re smart. But most of us learn by making mistakes.
It’s wonderful to watch them grow and flourish when you don’t push them too hard. I think that’s when I’m most proud of my sons is when out of their own volition, they start to make the right choices in life. They try and give you the credit, but really they just make their minds up themselves.
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Looking for all the trailers, posters and images for Thor: Ragnarok
Special thanks to Disney/Marvel for flying me out to attend this press junket. This in no way shaped my opinions in this article.