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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British actor and director Kenneth Branagh is best known for his deft handling of Shakespearean material.
So the choice of Branagh to direct the hotly-anticipated comic book movie "Thor," which makes it U.S. debut on Friday, came as something of a surprise.
Branagh, 50, spoke to Reuters about why he was drawn to the project and the pressures of working on a big budget Hollywood movie.
Q: What possessed you to direct "Thor"?
A: "The surprise of it was a big factor. Its immensity, the degree of difficulty, which I thought would be massive (and because) the challenge would take me out of my comfort zone ... This immense figure in epic landscapes and mountains, and men with horned helmets and this wild, unpredictable quality which I loved because superheroes can sometimes be terribly smooth. The fact that Thor is a God, and an unrestrained God -- that kind of unpredictability and danger, I thought would be unusual and maybe distinctive."
Q: The pressure must have been immense. Obviously you had tight control over your previous films. With this I imagine there was a lot of studio interference, a lot of commentary.
A: "Let's call it collaboration. They have this unique cinematic plan to interweave these characters and these stories into 'The Avengers' (movie) next year. I knew what I was getting into. The impression I had was they want a strong point of view. They would argue with me and they would strongly produce me ... But they wanted a director. They didn't want just a shooter -- someone to come in and walk away and leave it to them."
Q: They wanted to make sure it made money -- it being a $150 million budget and all?
A: "Yes and no. Without remotely diminishing the vast chunk of change that is, I had almost no control over that ... I kept my focus very narrow and in the end, I don't know what the toys look like, I didn't have any say in that. I don't know about the commercial tie-ins, who paid what for what. I had plenty to do, just start with what's on the page and then how we realize a single story."
Q: One of the challenges you might have faced was how to make this Norse God stand above the fray because there have been a dozen superhero franchises before.
A: "Already it stands apart because, as Stan Lee put it when he started writing about it, he'd gone as far as he could with humans. Now he wants to use Gods ... Here we have a superhero with those powers, a God indeed, who has to lose everything and engage with our audience. Really, the key is having him lose everything ... enjoy going on the journey with him -- him getting his comeuppance, him losing everything in order to understand what he's worth, family, friends, home.
"That's already a story in reverse that gave you fish-out-of-water comedy, and also potentially in terms of romance, allow a Romeo and Juliet possibility with the Jane Foster character."
Q: So would you do it again? Would you direct a massive, big-budget, 3D, effects-laden summer popcorn flick?
A: "It didn't seem as big right at the start. It got bigger the further I got into the woods ... At this end of things, I must note somehow I've got to stop for a little bit and have a think and process it all ... That's the point at which I'm at. That question (of doing another) -- if it arises, and it hasn't arisen yet -- because as thrilled as we are with the way it seems to be going now, it will be a few weeks before we understand the financial and creative fate of the move. There are a thousand tales to tell, we'll wait and see."
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Patricia Reaney