For a movie franchise centered around a superhero, the world of "Thor" seems to be oddly defined by its villain.
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Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, who is Thor's deliciously evil step-brother and the God of Mischief, is the chief baddie of 2011's "Thor" and 2012's "The Avengers." He cemented himself as a fearsome adversary and something of a heartthrob, as evidenced by Hiddleston's in-character appearance at this summer's San Diego Comic Con. (He made just as dreamy an entrance to August's D23, but without his Loki gear.)
Still, a hero cannot be defined by a single villain. And, in "Thor: The Dark World," the heroic Asgardian (played, once again, by Chris Hemsworth), faces a new foe: Malekith, a dark elf who wants to cloak the universe in eternal blackness. He wants to accomplish this by locating a mythical liquid called the Aether. The only problem is that the Aether has found a home in the body of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who also happens to be Thor's girlfriend. Awkward.
We spoke to Christopher Eccleston, the mortal playing Malekith, about the appeal of his character, why he's (almost) always the bad guy, and what deleted scene he'd really like to see on the DVD.
Moviefone: Had you read any of these comic books? Were you familiar with this universe at all?
Christopher Eccleston: I was familiar. I wasn't an obsessive fan, because as a child I tended to be an outdoors child. I did tend to be really, really active. But I was aware of the Marvel comics, of course. You couldn't avoid them, especially because I grew up in the sixties and seventies.
When I thought about it, I thought about seeing Thor as a kid and some part of me was thinking, Well that's strange. I'm used to invented characters, especially American invented characters running around Gotham City. And yet here is a mythology that I'm kind of aware of. That always intrigued me. And he looks European. I think I was intrigued that they were drawing on European mythology. It's a fascinating synthesis.
It must be kind of hard because you're a bad guy and Loki's also a bad guy, so you've got to be menacing without stepping on his toes.
Did you talk to Tom about it?
Yeah, I mean... What you've got is a bad guy from the previous film. So you've got two for the price of one, well, you've actually got three, with Adewale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays a big scary monster guy].
Tom and myself didn't talk about that because there was a sense during the shoot that we were occupying very different worlds. His relationship with Thor is a whole lot more complex. There is a shred of feeling between them, whereas Malekith has no sympathy or empathy for anybody, least of all Thor. Thor is just vermin to him, and an obstacle. I knew it was my job to bring the new threat, knowing that Loki would take care of the internal threat.
Your character is all business.
Yeah, he's all business. He just wants to get it done with the minimum amount of fuss. He doesn't even savor it, apart from that line when he says to Thor, "Look at me." He's an ancient race and he's got an ancient grudge.
You've played bad guys before. In "Gone in 60 Seconds," didn't you also build furniture? That was your bad-guy trait.
[Laughs] Yes, I did! That was a very cool bad-guy trait, I'd like to think. He's scaring the sh*t out of me while he's building a chair!
And in "G.I. Joe," obviously. What's the appeal for you?
Well, it'd be nice to think that you run your own career, but, as an actor, unless you're at the very, very top... you don't. I became known, in Hollywood terms, as a villain because of a part I did in a film called "Elizabeth," with Cate Blanchett. I played a character in that, and when it was reviewed in America, I was positioned as a villain.
So, from that I got "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "G.I. Joe" and this. It's an accident. Because the first couple of films I did, I was the victim. Those films weren't box office. "Elizabeth" was box office, and I was the bad guy. That was the path that was mapped out for me for a couple of years. I suppose what I'm saying is that it comes to me rather than me going to it.
What is amazing about this character is the physical transformation. When you saw that make-up for the first time, what did you think?
I loved it. There were stages when I said, "Can we just stop now?" When it was much more Nosferatu. My favorite stage of it was during what we called the "birth scene," when Malekith wakes. That was my favorite look. I thought he was his most frightening then, before he puts the armor on, where there's a Nosferatu-like fragility to him. That I loved. When he gets into all the armor and the hair is hidden and the skull is hidden... You know, I liked the fragility and the reptilian-like menace.
How long did that take?
It took hours.
Did that aid in the character? You must have been pretty agitated when it was done.
It did. It aged me. I was like the undead by the end of that.
Are you looking forward to having little kids recognize you on the street and then getting to scare them?
I've been acting for twenty-four years, and I've had that for a long time. And I do enjoy that contact, I have to say, particularly with kids. Their innocent about stuff like that, and you can make their day just by being friendly, is a nice thing in my life. I'm very, very grateful for it.
What was it like being brought into the Marvel fold?
They're very passionate about their work and I wasn't quite aware of how much the process goes on after the main body of the shoot is done. I did pick-up shots both in Los Angeles and in London almost eight months after we had done the main body of the shoot. It's a huge and complex process.
Can you give us one of the scenes that you wish had made it?
There was a scene I did with Anthony Hopkins that I was very disappointed didn't make the film. But maybe that will be on the DVD extras. I'd like to see it. He's one of my heroes.