Eric Pearson’s pressure-filled job laid the foundation for a movie that’s fresh in a way that’s all but unheard of for a third installment. When Eric Pearson earned a spot as screenwriter for Thor Ragnarok, there were two orders given to him: Chris Hemsworth‘s God of Thunder should be the film’s breeziest character, and the work shouldn’t be restrained by the series’ past.
Thor Ragnarok film succeeded on both counts. Ragnarok has become Marvel Studios’ best-reviewed film yet and is poised for a huge opening weekend. It’s is a big win, considering the franchise has never been as beloved as other Marvel Cinematic Universe mainstays like the Captain America, Iron Man or Guardians of the Galaxy films. The previous movie, Thor: The Dark World (2013) is officially Marvel’s worst installment, Pearson and director Taika Waititi, however, have helped make this Thor feel new and relevant in a manner that’s all but unheard of for the third entry of a series.
Pearson arrived through the Marvel Studios’ Writers Program, which also helped make Guardians of the Galaxy’s screenwriter Nicole Perlman become famous. During his time with the program, which no longer exists, he submitted three screenplays based on Marvel characters, and then graduated to working for Marvel on the company’s popular one-shot short films featured on blu-ray releases. He used that experience in writing for ABC’s famous Agent Carter as well as helping out with some uncredited touch on Ant Man after Edgar Wright exited, a shakeup that put a lot of pressure on the 2015 movie that Peyton Reed later took over.
“That perhaps what brought me into to Thor, they were like, ‘We have a situation full of pressure and we know Eric can turn it around quick and work within our system and knows the world and understands the characters,’ ” claims Pearson, who shares screenwriting credits on Thor Ragnarok with Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost.
In an interview with Heat Vision, Pearson also has a speak about the long hours that were spent getting a Marvel script in shape and the intimidation detail that comes with writing lines for one of the leading actors in the business.
I remember getting in the call. It was Dec. 23, 2015. And Brad Winderbaum (Marvel Studios VP of production & development) called and asked me to get my agent and be prepared to come in and work as soon as the break was over, and basically there had been some work done but we were sort of starting over. I found my agent wherever he was at Christmas. I thought it was going to be Jan. 2, but on Sunday, Jan. 1, “Nope, we’re going in now.” You can’t bicker about going into work when Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, Taika and everyone else are there. … They were shooting in July. Then it was just off and running. It was intense.
What challenges did you face as you approached writing a third Thor movie?
There were tons of challenges. I came in when there were so many puzzle pieces already there. When I arrived, they were kind of winding up Cate Blanchett for Hela. They wanted to use Skurge as well as Valkyrie. They knew the Hulk was going to be in there. They dumped all the puzzle pieces out on front of me and said, “Build a puzzle,” basically. Things that stuck out from the very beginning, the meeting with Kevin and Taika and Brad was, Taika was very much like, “I want this to be fun. I want to Thor to be the coolest character. It’s a Thor movie.
He should be the coolest character.” And, “Do not be restrained by anything from the previous two movies.” We talked out the logic of it, too. Even Thor’s voice. He’s been hanging around Earth a lot, he’s been around Tony Stark a lot. He’s going to be picking up other stuff and have a different way of talking. Where they left off in the dark world, he was kind of going off to do his own thing, and we were picking him up an indefinite amount of time after that. He’s been out there on his own, finding himself, and we find what he found basically. This was the new, Thor 2.0, I guess.
Who is the toughest character to write?
The most challenging character to write probably had to be Hela. I think there is a built-in intimidation factor of it being Cate Blanchett, who I would say at the very least is tied with a couple of others for the best in the world. Since we were moving at such a fast pace and I had to turn the script around real quick, those first two months, January and February, my weekend meant that I had to work from home on even Sunday. I was in the office, sometimes until two, three in the morning. I would think, as we were moving forward, “You know what I really want? I want Hela to give a speech. I want to see Cate Blanchett playing the Goddess of Death declaring her intentions to a bunch of people.” That was one way.
It never occurred to me how intimidating it could be to write a character when you already know one of the best actors in the world will play her.
Hela was the very one that took the most work and I felt perhaps most insecure about until we finally got it into the shape we wanted. I really wanted Cate Blanchett to be happy with her role. As intimidated as I couldn’t help but be, she was an unbelievably sweet, fun great person to be around. All of the set experiences were fantastic.
All of Thor Ragnarok actors were incredible. She performed sort of a vocal warm-up thing and she filmed a lot of scenes in crowds. She would also say in the morning, “Whoever wants to come along and do this thing with me.” And of course Taika would get up there. People were doing these crazy sound vocal warm-up stuffs. It felt very close. I don’t want to give up the thought that she’s cold or intimidating. I was just intimidated on my own.