Cate Blanchett Talks Playing the Big Bad of Thor: Ragnarok

It was back in December of 2015 that word first broke about Cate Blanchett eyeing a role in Marvel StudiosThor: Ragnarok, but Marvel didn’t officially confirm the addition of the Academy Award winner until May of 2016. A few months after that, we caught up with the actress on the set of the sequel where she opened up about taking on the villain role of Hela and joining the MCU!

“I think it’s very interesting to bring the concept of Death into a world that’s ostensibly immortal,” the actress says of her role in the film. “You know, you look at the Western world and in most cultures, Death has been banished from the world and as a result, I think it’s made life rather screwed up. So I think that there’s a side of death which can be Gentleman kind and there’s a side of death which can be brutal and savage, depending on whose death it is… I think that there’s a lot of unresolved issues that she has with Asgard that each step of the way she doesn’t meet people who are receptive to her, and I think she’s quite bewildered as to why people are frightened of her, but the more havoc she wreaks, the stronger she becomes.”

Blanchett also spoke about being the first main villain in the MCU that happens to be a woman, saying:

“I think you only feel pressure if you think this is the only shot that women will have. Which is ridiculous. I mean, there’s a huge female fan base and for having a daughter myself, you want them to be able to identify with those that are the end of the spectrum as well as the heroes. But then of course, Marvel very soon announced Captain Marvel being female. You think great, this is the beginning of a Rolling Stone that’s gonna gather a lot of female moss… Oh that’s a terrible image (laughs).”

The topic of her character having a look similar to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki also came up, given the two’s proclivity for horned headwear.

“Hela looked very similar to Loki and I said, ‘How can we either make that a virtue or be a little bit more creative with that?’ and they’re really receptive to it. So even though Hela doesn’t carry the whole film, and that’s not a spoiler, I’ve tried with the make-up and hair people and all of the different departments to give her a kind of a visual journey, so that’s she’s got somewhere to go as she becomes increasingly powerful. That look evolves and calcifies a little bit.”

One of the most striking images so far from the film, which fans have already gravitated toward, is the shot of Valkyrie riding a Pegasus toward Hela, something Blanchett herself was already a fan of and revealed was partially practical.

“Oh my God, that was incredible. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it, that particular flashback that Val has. The way they were shooting that, it was, I mean, they had a horse — a real horse galloping through there, through the studio — but the way it was recorded, it really did capture that feeling of when you have a dream that’s also borderline nightmare, that it has both lightness and incredible weight. It’s that strange, it really captured that dreamlike sensation that I have anyway. It was amazing.”

No stranger to working on larger films, having appeared in all three Lord of the Rings and all three The Hobbit movies, Blanchett offered a comparison between Academy Award winner Peter Jackson and Ragnarok‘s Taika Waititi.

“Taika and Peter both insisted on and keep insisting on having a lot of the physical world present. You should see Taika’s own illustrations. He’s an incredible artist and so he’s really, he knows how important it is for the actors to, even if they’re not gonna have the complete physical look, that they have a sense of what the atmosphere is that they’re walking into. So that really helps, so you’re not in a complete blue screen universe with no idea what you’re looking at or what you’re touching.”

The actress also spoke about the titular hero, played by Chris Hemsworth, and how he’s bringing a new energy to the film and how it helped her own performance.

“It’s like Chris has harnessed all the energy of the previous film and is using that. Then also subverting it. It was really thrilling to watch, so it was really helpful for me to know, ‘Okay, we can stretch it that far.’ And you’re in such safe hands with Taika tonally, having seen all his other films, 3/4 of it may get chucked out, but you’ve got to chuck it out there in order to find that little gem, you know, that’s what play is, and sometimes on some sets, you can feel that that’s not really possible.”

Blanchett’s stunt double, the award-winning Zoe Bell (Kill Bill), spoke about working with Blanchett as well and what the pair have taught each other by working together.

“She’s been amazing and wants to be collaborative, which is always our hope ‘cause I feel like that, you know, that’s when you get the best when all departments are aiming to make the same movie, the same character, the same. She’s clearly an expert in her field, which has been amazing for me for my own personal reasons. I’ve been just absorbing sponge like the whole time, but she seems really comfortable with me being considered the expert and between the two of us we’re gonna make them bad as hell as there is.”

Finally, with Avengers: Infinity War looming in the distance, Blanchett was asked about returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which she seemed unsure about at the time.

“I don’t know. I suppose it depends what they end up with. You never know. I’ve had an absolute ball, but it doesn’t mean my work is any good. Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean that it affects the quality. I don’t know how to answer that question and I’m being evasive, I don’t know. I mean, that’s up to the big bosses.”

Thor: Ragnarok will arrive in theaters on November 3.