It's a little odd to hear a director criticize his own movie -- especially one he's currently promoting. Actors sometimes have beefs because his or her favorite scene was cut or shortened, but it's usually the director making that call. So when Alan Taylor -- who has directed some of the best television episodes in recent history -- openly says he didn't get final cut of a movie like "Thor: The Dark World", it is, at least, an interesting glimpse into the high-stakes world of Marvel movies.
Alan Taylor has directed episodes of "Mad Men" (including the pilot), "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "Rome" and "Game of Thrones." (Note: Taylor discusses pivotal scenes on all of those series in this interview, so if you're currently on a "Sopranos" binge, you've been warned. He also discuses some serious plot points of "Thor: The Dark World," but no specific character names are mentioned.) "Thor" is, without question, Taylor's biggest foray into movies and, yes, it's apparent some bumps were hit along the way. Taylor doesn't seem pleased about the amount of exposition that starts the film, and, no, he really doesn't seem to like the now-expected Marvel mid-credits teaser that he did not direct. Also, there were additional scenes filmed after initial production had ended and, here, Taylor explains what those scenes were and why they were added. But, as Taylor admits, even though he might not agree with every decision, it's really hard to argue with Marvel's success. (And it doesn't take a Norse god to realize that "Thor: The Dark World" will be another Marvel success.)
Your "Thor" movie is a lot of fun.
Yeah, I've been hearing that. And that's good to hear because when I got involved in it ... if we were killing off characters and stuff, we better make sure that it's also funny and fun. And it sounds like that comes across. That's a relief.
Though, there's a lot of exposition at the beginning. But after about 45 minutes, it really comes together.
Yeah, I think that is sort of the structure that was found in post. The early versions of the movie that I have tremendous affection for, there was a lot less exposition up front. And it was sort of... kind of discovered it along the way -- and the decision was made. It's a common dynamic, I think, to sort of front-load everything you need to know so that, precisely, the audience can sort of relax and have fun for the latter part. That was sort of the tug-of-war during post.
Did you prefer the other version without as much exposition?
I think my impulse is always to sort of trust the audience and to not feed it too directly. But, obviously, there's a very successful model for these things that seems to work very well. So, who am I to quibble?
Tom Hiddleston [who plays Loki] mentioned he had an idea for an additional scene that wound up being shot. Which scene was that?
The two main things we shot additional photography that were for him, one was just the fun scene that was pure "Loki being Loki," shapeshifting as he's talking to Thor. That may have been it. There was also a kind of connective -- again, this was part of the exposition at the beginning -- but very late in the game we added the bit with Loki in chains being sentenced by his father to prison, basically. And that was added late for those who weren't up on "The Avengers," to sort of understand the circumstances that found Loki in prison.
That scene makes it feel like Loki is a part of the movie from the beginning. If not for that scene, would he have been introduced in the movie later?
Well, in the original structure, he came in just as early. But, he was already in prison. And we just sort of assumed that people would go with it. But, I think after a while, the idea rose that we should explain the entry. And then when that happened, other things got shuffled down later.
You mentioned death scenes. You have filmed a lot of famous death scenes.
That's funny. I got lucky for a while. After we killed Christopher Moltisanti in "The Sopranos" (that is my favorite death scene, where Tony has a car crash and he kills his own cousin just by pinching his nostrils shut); after doing that, I looked back and I realized that I killed Caesar on "Rome" and Wild Bill Hickok on "Deadwood" and Ned Stark on "Game of Thrones," and I felt like my job was executioner or something. The episode, major things were happening in them and major emotional events are taking place and the scale of the storytelling is really satisfying. And in this one, we got to kill, or sort of kill, two major characters. And that, I think, is part of the darkening of the movie from the first one -- that we were taking on things like that. The idea, in my mind, is that Thor is a character who continues to grow and he's not just a static superhero and, in the first film, he went from being an impetuous prince to being somebody who is more responsible. And, in our film, he continued to grow up and went through the darker phase of growing up where you start to realize the world is more complicated than you thought and what you wanted might not be what you really want. In my mind, when we started calling it "The Dark World," it wasn't just elves -- it was adulthood [that] is the Dark World. And that's what he's growing into and part of that was losing people he loved.
I'm going to have to put about five spoiler alerts before your last answer.
[Laughs] Did I just ruin everything for everybody?
You took out four shows in one sentence.
Did you direct the "Thor" post-credits scene?
If you mean the scene in the middle of the credits? Marvel went to town this time. We end the movie and there's a middle credits sequence and then there's a bit at the end, which has one of my favorite shots in it. I did the stuff at the very end. I am very happy to say I did not do the sequence in the middle of the credits. I'm more than happy to pass that honor on to someone else [laughs].
There's a story that you're directing "The Terminator" reboot. Is that true?
I hope you'll forgive me, but I have an official response to that right now, which is I'm calling it a "rumor." The story broke really, really early when it certainly was a rumor and I think, now, at this point, I would still call it a rumor. But, I am working with those guys and it's exciting stuff. But, yeah, let's call it a rumor for now [laughs].
You directed the first episode of "Mad Men." Have you watched it recently?
No, not recently, certainly. A while ago I went back and looked at it -- it's a sweet thing that probably doesn't mean anything but to me -- but that episode ends with Don going home, revealing he's married. He sits down and there are two kids in bed and you realize he has children. And the daughter is my daughter -- she played that role in the pilot. And then that part was recast. But it's got an emotional charm for me because my daughter, who is now 12, was that girl. But, yeah, I was really proud of how that thing looked. I haven't watched the show recently, so I don't know how it's evolved in terms of tone or look, but I really loved what we did in the pilot.
It looks completely different, comparing 1968 to 1959.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. That was always one of Matthew Weiner's ambitions, which was really impressive. We thought that we were basically going to be doing a procedural at an ad agency in 1960 for years -- and we realized his plans were much more ambitious and it would actually movie through time and get into the mod 1960s and basically see American culture crashing over the sky, who was not prepared for it.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.