Exclusive: The Father of All Things Thor, Kenneth Branagh

SHH: Absolutely. One of the things you have in common with Jon Favreau is that you're an actor as well as a filmmaker. Were you ever tempted to don a costume and be one of the Gods of Asgard even if it's a background part?
Branagh:
Having acted in a lot of things I've directed, I've come to the current assessment that I enjoy each of them more when I'm just doing the one. With this, I just was at the limit of my abilities to understand and deal with everything that was in front of me. The idea that I would have to get up yet one more hour early to be in a makeup chair even for however brief a scene, it didn't appeal to me on this one.

SHH: You mentioned doing little nods to "The Avengers" because you know that everything is leading up to that movie next year. How hard was it to try to get that stuff into the story you needed to tell. It's definitely more subtle than in "Iron Man 2," so were there requests to do more of that in this movie?
Branagh:
No, the thing that I absolutely chose to hang onto was my utter and single concern to do this story of Thor in this film. I didn't feel as though I needed to worry about any other responsibilities. I didn't want to assume anything at all about this might be the beginning of a franchise or the beginning of a series of films. There's no chance of me thinking about that until and if we would ever get this one right to the satisfaction of enough people. That's where I kept my attention. Kevin and his team are really the architects of everything that interweaves with the rest of the Marvel Universe. As a viewer, I love that. I mean, I enjoy it enormously, but they introduced those things much later on. I think they planned for them, but they never burdened me with them and I didn't have to think about them. There was way too much for me to think about. I thought only in terms of Thor, but I enjoyed it when things came up, that had to do with little… it might be just an object on a set, etc. I enjoyed being part of that, but if I ever had any problems with it, they'd always emerge because they know the picture has to work (on its own).

(SPOILER WARNING! The next question and response is about a character who appears in the movie. If you haven't heard about this cameo and don't want the surprise ruined, please skip ahead!)

SHH: I'm going to try to be subtle because I don't want to spoil the appearance of a character in the movie, but I spoke to the actor who plays that character just as there were rumors of him getting the role, and he wasn't sure if he'd be in "Thor" or not. So was his scene added fairly late in the game and how did that play into the story you were already trying to tell?
Branagh:
Well, the idea that Hawkeye might be in the picture and might be seen was always laid there. We knew that in terms of the action sequence, we would like to have someone who had a bead on Thor. We could have done it without having Hawkeye, but we hoped that we might and obviously they were praying and hoping that they might get somebody of the quality of Jeremy. We allowed for the possibility that as and when it looked like he was on board and if he was available to be in this one, we would do it later in the day. We left that space for him and then we had the great opportunity to actually put him in a part of the movie and that was a very nice experience for me, I must say. Again, you talk about Ray Stevenson, something like this, in a moment like that then, especially with his level of skill, because he judged it just right. I think we tried to as well, to really peak the audience's interest, but not take them out of the movie in the wrong way. I was delighted just on a personal level of having the chance to direct him just a tiny bit.

SHH: One of the benefits of talking to you late on a Sunday is that we already have box office from all over the world, and everyone obviously loves the movie and the reviews are great so far. Where do you go from here? Can you go back to making a small personal movie like "Sleuth" again or do you feel you have to stay on this level?
Branagh:
That's a big "I don't know," Ed. This certainly has been an unrelenting, unremitting drive from me putting my feet on American soil on Sunday, December the 1st, 2008. I so want to have the fun tomorrow night of being at the premiere here in Hollywood. I had a wonderful time seeing it in Sydney. I can tell you that when we had the world premiere there with all the Hemsworth clan and a whole pile of my friends from Australia–because I worked there many moons ago and I've gone back a lot since–I leant over to my wife in the dark giggling 20 minutes in and said, "My God darling, this is a huge movie." If you'd seen my face, it was the face of a kid on Christmas morning, not at "What could this bring?," just at the sheer delight that I was watching these six people on horses riding across that Rainbow Bridge in outer space with Pat Doyle's music banging, the sound going crazy and thinking, "Oh wow, this is why I go to the movies." This was the kind of thrill that that little nine year old kid in Belfast looking up at a comic on a shelf had. Frankly, if I never did anything else, to have had the thrill of that is a great experience and what I'll do is I'll finish delivering the movie, then I'm going to go home and I'm going to walk the dog.

SHH: I just realized that the last time I was at a junket with you was the press conference for "Valkyrie," which was in December 2008, and you must have just signed on to do this.
Branagh:
You would've seen me at the end of my first week at Marvel, that was when we started to go around and bang the drum for "Valkyrie," and yeah, so I was kind of a rabbit in the headlights about the whole thing and then just beginning to realize that this was a big one.

SHH: Since you've spent so much time developing the characters with the cast and building this world, I hope you'll want do more, but I guess we'll have to wait a couple weeks to see if Marvel wants to do another one.
Branagh:
Listen, it's a big chunk of change for them in the Marvel universe. I was saying at the press conference here today that in my first film, the producer said to me, "Assumption is the mother of all f*ck-ups." We actually don't know anything. There's a massive fan base out there that have not seen this movie yet who are also part of the reason we were lucky enough to get this film made. They were listened to, they will be listened to and then there's a whole group of people who have to work out whether they want to see "Thor." The signs at this point are really, really encouraging and I hope we have the problem of working out whether there's a second one and what it should be.

SHH: Before you go off to hopefully get a nice dinner, I just spoke to Rob Brydon last week.
Branagh:
Oh, did you?

SHH: Yeah, I sat down with him and Steve Coogan for a very 20 crazy minutes talking about "The Trip," and that interview was very much like the movie. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but he mentioned you two might be doing something theatrically, but he mentioned it amidst a string of other things that didn't sound like he was being serious, so is that true? Are you two actually thinking of working on something together?
Branagh:
Definitely. We're doing a play together in my hometown of Belfast. It's in September at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. It's a French farce and we play opposite each other. I think he's an absolutely brilliant actor and performer. I loved "The Trip," I absolutely loved "The Trip." Their warring impressions, their dual of Michael Caines is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Coogan doing Liam Neeson also is absolutely brilliant, but no, he's a tremendous performer and I'm looking forward to that, but yeah, we're going to work together back on stage in Belfast. Those guys, when you've seen that program and they're as funny and quick-witted, you never know when they're being funny and when they're not. They're such brilliant dead-panists.

Thor opens nationwide on Friday, May 6 in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX theaters. Check out our interview with actor Chris Hemsworth here.