“That spaceship, that’s painted with the Aboriginal flag colours. No one else knows that but us.”
Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was filmed in Australia’s Gold Coast, and stars locals Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett, but that’s not what makes it a particularly Aussie film.
Talking to the Australian government’s film and television development agency, Screen Australia, the New Zealand director revealed that he’s dropped a bunch of easter eggs in the film for people from Australia and New Zealand — with a particularly Indigenous focus.
“I wanted to fill it with a few in-jokes and things for Kiwis and Australians,” he told Screen Australia’s Caris Bizzaca.
“For me anyway, it would just ground me… so while I’m making this giant Marvel movie I could look around and go, ‘That spaceship, that’s painted with the Aboriginal flag colours. No one else knows that but us.’ And Valkyrie’s spaceship has the colours of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag.”
“So there’s lots of little things that would just, for me, help make it actually a true Australian film rather than, ‘Oh they just shot a movie in Australia’,” he said.
Waititi went on to explain that some of the design in Thor: Ragnarok was inspired by that of ancient Australia and New Zealand, and that he was careful to make sure the design team knew not to directly copy anything without permission.
On the first day of production, on July 4, 2016, Waititi invited the local Indigenous community to perform a “Welcome to Country” — an important ceremony that acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land and welcomes visitors.
“You wouldn’t really start a movie in New Zealand without asking the local tribe to come in and bless you and send you to work with some good mojo. Especially if you’re on their land, you’re in their backyard, it’s sort of just nice manners to get in touch,” said Waititi.
“The studio were very receptive (and) jumped on board, so we got some locals from the Yugambeh mob, they came in and welcomed us. And one of our Kaumātua (a Māori elder), came over to do a Karakia, a kind of open-up ceremony from my side of things as well.”
“Because it really felt like two nations coming together and making this thing.”
Waititi took this inclusivity to the crew, too. Indigenous Australian and Māori actors came in for roles, including Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires) and Stephen Oliver (Black Comedy), and Waititi recruited Indigenous production interns thanks to funding from Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department.
“I just said to [Marvel producer Brad Winderbaum], whenever I do my films I make sure we try to get any locals who might be interested in the film industry to come in and get some work experience, or just to sit around on set and see how it’s done. Because I never had that opportunity when I was a kid,” said Waititi.
[h/t Screen Australia]