It’s not unknown for men to form strong bonds in the heat of battle -Â even when that battle comes in the stunt-driven, CGI-aided world of a Hollywood blockbuster.
In the case of Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures’ upcoming “Thor,” CBR News saw plenty of brothers-in-arms camaraderie building between actors Ray Stevenson and Josh Dallas who play Volstagg and Fandral – two of the trio of heroes known as The Warriors Three (the third being an absent Hogun, played by Tadanobu Asano). Dressed in the Asgardian regalia that will clash with man’s world in the film – Stevenson wrapped in a fat suit and massive amount of armor, Dallas dashing like Errol Flynn -Â the two actors slipped easily into the friendly ribbing of one warrior to another on set.
In between takes on a particularly physical rescue scene, the pair explained what it was like to create the Marvel original characters on screen in a world of Norse gods, how director Kenneth Branagh is crafting an actioner in the vein of classic Hollywood productions, what it’s like to work alongside acting royalty like Anthony Hopkins and, for Stevenson, what it’s like to have a second tour of duty with Marvel after tackling Frank Castle in “Punisher: War Zone.”
Can you each give us your take on your character?
Ray Stevenson: I’m Volstagg, and what you see is what you get. He’s a bon vivant lover of life, epicurian good fellow. He’s a god, which helps. He’s full of life. He reminds me very much of Falstaff. There’s a wonderful innocence to him, and the steadfast loyalty of a big Saint Bernard dog. He’d come running through the snow with a keg of beer to save your life. He’s got a twinkle in his eye. He’s always up for a party. He’s an all-around good egg. A big egg, but a good egg.
Josh Dallas: Fandral. Fandral the dashing, I think he would like to think of himself. A philanderer. He would like to think of himself, I was saying, as the R. Kelley of Asgard. He’s a lover, not a fighter. I’ve seen “Trapped in the Closet” and “Keep It On the Downlow.” All that kind of stuff. Fandral is a fun-loving guy. He’s a ladies man. It’s always debatable how successful he is at that. He thinks he’s pretty successful. He thinks that all the ladies love him and, if they don’t, then they will soon come around to the idea of loving him. He’s fiercely loyal to Thor and the Warriors Three. They look out for each other. They would rather have a good time, but if he’s gotta fight, he’ll fight. But, yeah. He’s a great character to play.
Why is he being carried in this scene?
Dallas: He had a run-in with some guys. He got a little hurt, but he went out with style and it’s all okay. But, yeah, he’s just a little hurt. A mere flesh wound. And Volstagg, he’s helping me out. His heart is as big as his stomach and he’s looking out for me.
Ray, how many times have you dropped this guy?
Stevenson: Well, there’s always time for one more.
Ray, the costume is pretty enormous, but it also looks like something that could be very empowering.
Stevenson: When you’re in a costume like this and a character like this, there’s no way to hide. If you try and play him any way sort of modern or normal, you diminish him. He’s larger than life. He’s 150 percent. You’ve got to go for it all the time. So, yeah, it is empowering. It’s all or nothing. Very much like him.
Dallas: I think that’s true very much with the Warriors Three, because if you’re modern in any way, it doesn’t quite work. You have to really go for it completely and just enjoy it so much.
Do you speak with a British accent in the film? Maybe even an Errol Flynn kind of vibe?
Dallas: Yes, definitely. He was a big inspiration for the character and for me. I watched a lot of his movies and kind of got that into my bones. I tried to bring out that little bit of Flynn-ness in it. Flynn had a lot of that boyish charm and Fandral’s got all that in him.
Stevenson: If there was an elevator or a ladder next to a sail, he’d use his knife and slide down the sail.
Dallas: Exactly. Just because it looks fantastic.
Stevenson: He knows how to make an entrance.
Ray, you mentioned Falstaff. Can you talk a little more about that?
Stevenson: [Volstagg] is very much Falstaffian. The way Shakespeare wrote Falstaff is with a heightened language and everything. That’s the genius of having Ken Branagh here as well. Shakespeare doesn’t require you to have a doctorate in his language or whatever to understand him. It just has to be directed and played right. It’s all about scale and presence and getting these huge, epic stories across. Hence the genius of having Ken steer this ship as well. You have to invest these characters with a Shakespearian quality and not in a way that might disengage the audience, but in a way that actually lets you play to an audience.
How much back story do we learn about the characters in the film?
Stevenson: There’s not a lot of direct back story, but you do get to see them playing around each other a lot.
Dallas: I think from the very beginning, when we see these characters, you know their back story. You know immediately what each one is about. Definitely.
Stevenson: You don’t get to find out where we met or how we met or what food is my favorite or what our birth signs are. Nothing like that. The story is just there.
We saw the throne room and heard about the 300 extras and the shot of you and Thor coming in. What was that experience like?
Dallas: Exhilarating. Amazing.
Stevenson: It really reminds me of the great movies of the ’30s and ’40s with huge sets and voluminous fireplaces you could walk around in. Glazed floors. I was expecting a Busby Berkley dance number. Big fanfare and all the girls coming out. I’d have joined in. It’s got that scale, you know? Its…
Stevenson: Epic with a capital E!
Can you tell us about the third, missing warrior, Hogun (played by Tadanobu Asano), and how you both relate to him?
Stevenson: He doesn’t speak much.
Dallas: He’s a bit grim. But yeah, he’s amazing. He’s an amazing actor.
Stevenson: We all miss him. He’s off being a big star in Japan…
Dallas: …picking up awards. He’s nominated for two films this week.
Stevenson: He doesn’t speak much, but when he does, everybody shuts up. But also in the healing room where everyone licks their wounds, he’s the guy who just goes about his business. It’s all very Asgardian. There’s lava rocks and a big fireplace. Golden ram’s head and all that. It’s rich. It’s rich.
How does it feel doing a second film for Marvel? (Stevenson previously starred as the title character in “Punisher: War Zone”)
Stevenson: Great. Absolutely. You know, my internship will be over soon. Actually, to put it politely, it’s a fucking honor! It’s a real honor to represent such a company as Marvel. They have a lot of faith if it means I can come back and do it again, all suited up. It’s all about the integrity of their characters. They care so much about the loyalty and integrity of each and every character and all of their stories. They trust and love their readership. They’re the ones who have invested in these stories. They’re the ones who’ve gone out and bought the comic book whenever it came out. They’re the real investors. They serve them. Having a chance to be part of that Marvel Universe is just, well, it is what it is. It’s just fantastic.
I’m guessing that part of your responsibility, too, though, is the comic relief and the levity.
Stevenson: What?! [Feigning shock] Comedy?
Stevenson: You think we’re here to make you laugh?
Dallas: Well yeah.
Stevenson: I hope so.
Dallas: I think our characters, the Warriors Three, are definitely full of a lot of charm.
Stevenson: We’re full of wit.
Dallas: Wit, charm and sincerity, and I hope that comes across in the movie.
Is this mark on your arm part of this specific scene?
Stevenson: Yeah. I could tell you about it, but I’d have to kill you.
It looks very frostbitten.
Stevenson: Does it? [Feigning surprise] Interesting.
How much fun are you having with this big axe?
Stevenson: My battle axe? Actually, in rehearsals we act with all the stunt boys and I’m wielding this two-handled battle axe. When you’re in full costume, you can’t actually put your hands together. It is a lot of fun. He’s not going to have a little dessert knife, is he?
Are you looking forward to filming in New Mexico?
Ray: Yeah, I was there last year. I was in Albuquerque last year, and this is Santa Fe. Nobody should live there. It’s a desert. I’ll be spitting dust for weeks. Altitude dust. Santa Fe has Georgia O’Keefe and all that beautiful stuff.
We heard that you guys are blowing up a town.
Dallas: It’s possible. Anything’s possible with Thor.
Stevenson: One town?
Dallas: Yeah, it’s just one small little town.
Stevenson: We’re flying over the galaxies on Bifrost Bridges and stuff.
Part of this seems to be set in a world where you guys fit in perfectly and the rest is very much on Earth.
Stevenson: Yes, but on Earth, we started it all, you see. This is just one of the realms. This is where all the legends come from. All the ruins have gone into myths and Norse mythology. It’s all us, love. It was all us before that. They’ve forgot their place, really. They think, “Oh, you speak our language,” and it’s actually, “No, you’re speaking ours.”
Dallas: We invented it.
Could you explain a little about what powers you have over the people on Earth? Are you gods?
Stevenson: Well, we are gods.
Dallas: Compared to humans, Asgardians have superhuman strength and ability, agility – everything is to the max.
Stevenson: If a car is in the way, I’ll just move it. You know, there’s no laser beams out of my eyes.
Can you take a bullet?
Stevenson: Those little metal things? [Feigning mock disgust] We actually have a look at one of those.
Dallas: A bullet? What is that? I would cut that with my Asgardian steel.
Can you talk about working with Anthony Hopkins?
Stevenson: He’s glorious. Just glorious. When they talk about presence and you’re in the presence of somebody who has that much presence, it’s just, you don’t have to do anything.
Dallas: I think, like Ray says, a lot of the time actors have something that they have for free and something they don’t have to work at. Tony definitely has that status.
Stevenson: And there’s Rene Russo!
Dallas: Yeah, what a beauty.
Stevenson: I’m her silent champion! For me, that woman is on a pedestal so high. I mean, he’s commander in chief, don’t get me wrong, but her, she’s just exemplary. Statuesque and regal.
Dallas: Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.
What are your thoughts on a “Rome” movie? Has there been any movement?
Stevenson: I’m having a movement right now. [Laughs] I’m afraid I’m unqualified to answer, really. I’ve read the rumors. There’s a lot of political questions to be answered. A lot of hell to go through. If there was the slightest chance Pullo could fight again, it would be fun. It wouldn’t be dull.