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Almighty Thor Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Almighty Thor

This is an interview with Actor Cody Deal and Director Christopher Ray on May 5, 2011 about the original Syfy movie Almighty Thor. In the movie, a demon god steals the Hammer Of Invincibility and Thor strikes a mighty blow to retrieve it.

Question:
Why don't you talk about the movie and tell me what it's about?

Cody Deal:
The storyline, it's a coming of age story of Thor and it's really interesting because it's kind of uncharted territory. We don't have 30 years or 50 years of Marvel Comic tradition to go off of so I think any Thor film become surprised upon what might happen in this story line simply because we can use that element of surprise and not have to stick to tradition. So I think that's pretty cool about the storyline in general.

Question:
Chris, what's it like working with such a small cast?

Christopher Ray:
Some of it makes it fairly easy because we actually get to work with the people a little bit more. It's more time to work with them but, again, with the short schedule it's still a rush. The small cast though does make it more of a personal experience versus more of a professional where you kind of get the guys set, you work with them for a minute, and then you go. With these guys, we kind of worked with them, and then after - at the end of the day we still go talk to them and hang out, got to work it over a little bit more, like I said, versus everybody just kind of going home really quick afterwards. So I like the short cast.

Question:
Cody, how does it feel? How is this changing your life?

Cody Deal:
Every element of it is changing my life from being that small-town kid from Kansas starring in this film, for one, was amazing. And then to see that so many people are excited about this film from the Asylum to Syfy it's like every dream imaginable's coming true. And I really hope that this is very successful for Syfy and gets great reviews. Again, because the short timeframes, 12 days, not everyone is able to put up their best work.

Because there's so much pressure involved so we hope that through how this is shot people will still see a moving, compelling story and not have to have $150 million budget to have that happen. It will still have all the action oriented stuff that Syfy's used to but I think underneath all the creatures and everything along those lines there's actually a serious film here, a standalone film that can really be almost a prequel to the Marvel version. And I think that's pretty cool.

Question:
Cody, how did you initially get involved with this project?

Cody Deal:
Actually, the Asylum I had never read for any projects for them so it was a self-submission on the breakdowns and I actually got it to my agent who then got me in for the read. And I met the casting director and I didn't hear anything back from the Asylum for four or five days. And then the cast director called me back in and asked if I could come back in and read for them again and that he wanted to personally work with me on some material, some new sides and to just not study anything, just to come in and work with him.

I don't know the back story completely but I think they were seeing if I was directable. And also, I know that Chris and the casting director were both very sold on my look and my ability yet the producers weren't so sure of my acting ability. So through that second read I think we showed and convinced the producers as long as Gerald, the casting director, was my onset dialog coach they felt comfortable enough for me to do this film. And I think initially I might have been chosen as a body.

And what I like about Marvel stories, they chose Chris Hemsworth who's never lifted a weight in his life and he was just athletic but he was very skinny. And so they chose him based on his acting talent and they took six months to bulk him up. Because of the speed of Asylum productions they had to choose someone who actually looked like Thor, who was in that physical peak condition.

And I think I might have lucked away with being a complete unknown to obtaining this role, maybe half-based or majority-based on my physicality but I think what we're coming to see and what the producers came to see after the filming began was that I was really their right choice. And maybe with my acting ability that will stand out larger than anything else that I have.

Question:
What was the most challenging part for you in making this movie?

Cody Deal:
The speed and the pressure of the project. Not only was it my first starring role and really being involved in that, that's pressure enough but too, being on such an accelerated schedule nearly, Shooting a feature film in 12 days is nearly impossible. Yet the Asylum has this down to a mad science where they do a feature film once a month every two weeks. It's incredible but at the same time, Chris can elaborate on how difficult probably even with his position, to put up your best work. It's almost impossible. If there's any light that I can shine in this film, like, wow, this guy has potential, I think just that one small tiny bit of light will be a success for me because it will be like, well, what would he look like if he did have time to put up his best work.

Question:
Cody, what was it like working with Chris as a director?

Cody Deal:
Chris definitely knows what he wants and what I wasn't used to, it's like, every actor wants praise. They want, hey, did a good job, but because so much pressure that's the last thing that's on his mind. If he gets what he wants he's moving on. And that was different for me to handle. So when Chris wouldn't say anything to me I was thinking, God, he thinks I suck, this, this, and this. But truth be told, it was only when he actually did say something that he needed something different.

So the first week after shooting Chris said, Cody, you're doing a phenomenal job. Your acting, I can't say anything about, it's great. The only other thing I could suggest is just lighten up, man, just have fun, you're starring in your own film. Take it serious but at the same time enjoy this. It's going to be over in another week so just really take this in. And that second week on set Chris really made me realize that I could have more fun in between takes. I didn't have to take it so serious all the time. I just wanted to be great. I wanted to be so good. And it probably made me look really uptight.

Question:
Do you have any favorite scenes or memorable moments from being a part of this?

Cody Deal:
I do actually. It was really a great moment for me was on Day 3 we kept trying to push a scene back. Something devastating happens to Thor's father and Thor really has a hard time coping with it. And the shot, again, we had 15 minutes of daylight. I thought we were going to push it back to Day 4 but we had to get it in and Chris said that we had 15 minutes to do it. The sun was going down. We're going to get a close-up on Kevin, a close-up on you, and we're just going to do it. And we did it.

It was the most important, crucial scene in the film because it decides whether the audience is going to root Thor on or not. And so I decide I had to obviously do what I needed to do. We shot the scene literally twice and when I got down people started clapping. Kevin Nash gave me a big hug and said, I really thought this was happening to you. Chris shook my hand. My acting coach gave me a hug.

The guy playing my brother, Balder, said this is why I do this to work with people like you. And I was like, guys, I'm so new at this, please, this is weird. No, but the truth is it was the first time, because I come from a sports background, it was the first time I felt like I hit that game-winning shot and the crowd goes wild. I've never felt that as an actor and it was just one of those moments that I'll always remember because it was so surreal. I don't know how to read on tape but for me it felt great.

Question:
Cody, what was it like to have Richard Grieco playing your evil brother Loki in the film?

Cody Deal:
It was pretty awesome. Richard is not only a great actor, he's a great person too. I really enjoyed Richard. My mom's a huge Richard Grieco fan so that was more of a dream come true for her. She was more Richard than Johnny back during the 21 Jumpstreet days but Richard and I turned into really good friends. I'm having a private premier party and he's going to be attending.

He really took me under his wing. Especially there was a wire stunt that kind of went wrong where I injured myself and he came to my trailer afterwards and really was concerned. You could tell how genuinely concerned he was. And I think after that moment he really kind of took me under his wing. He started kind of teaching me things, and I really appreciated that about him because he didn't have to do that. So I have to say that I really learned a lot from Richard and it was definitely a great experience.

Question:
What type of weapons training did you have to do for the film?

Cody Deal:
Dan Speaker, the sword master, and his partner, Jan Bryant, were dual sword masters. He was original sword master for Hook, Master and Commander, as well as Hidalgo. And Robin Williams had to have six months to train. Russell Crowe and him had six weeks to train. Because of the schedule we had one week to train. So the weaponry that we used, we used the hammers but mostly there is a lot of sword play. There's spears, there's bows and arrows, there's everything because it's a legend story and he doesn't start wearing his hammer. It's kind of how he finds his hammer that is kind of the whole crucial key point of the film, which is really cool. And so he starts with swords. And he ends up training with dual swords and learning how. And having that type of schedule to learn something like that it's very, very hard to do. We ended up managing and I think we got some pretty killer shots with the limited time that we had to train.

Question:
Chris, can you talk about just with this filming schedule the 12 days?

Christopher Ray:
Well, hopefully you'll be able to rely on the actors being able to act. You're basically ravaging anywhere between 12 and sometimes higher than that. Sometimes you've got sword fights in there and, again, you're really relying on the actors. You're hoping you made the right choices. When they come in, the guys know their lines and know what they're supposed to be doing. Makes life a lot easier because we don't get to do ten, or 15 takes. It's one or two takes in dialog and maybe four or five if we need to get an action sequence correct.

Question:
What did you think of Cody?

Christopher Ray:
Well, he mentioned it earlier on. I'm surprised he actually remembers this but me and the casting director, we actually kind of fought for him. He came in the first time and he had a good look to him. There were certain things about him that we thought would work. There were certain areas that he definitely seemed a little nervous.

We thought we'd hooked him up with somebody that could kind of calm him down a little bit and get him rolling we thought would be great. And once he got on set and started working he really did turn out to be pretty good for us. I mean I had nothing really bad to say about him. I mean everything we asked him to do he did it. And most of the stuff you see, if there's any kind of stunts or sword play he's doing it.

Question:
Cody, with all the social media stuff you've got going on there was an incident last week I noticed that happened. Somebody came into your Twitter feed, and kind of really rude. You kind of turned the guy around. I just wondered, the diplomacy, does that come from kind of your small-town upbringing or is that just who you are?

Cody Deal:
Well, he was a basher originally. He saw a Tweet from Syfy and then he's like, I don't want to see this Wal-Mart Thor shelved on a Wal-Mart box then or whatever. And I just wrote him back, again, I could have been a jerk but I'm going to be me and I just told him, ha, ha, ha, that's pretty funny. Hopefully if you're a Thor fan you'll still watch. And then he's like, well, I look like a schmuck. You're actually a nice guy. I'm really looking forward to seeing your film. It's just one of those things that, again, people are just bashing to bash because they can.

And then when you give a real life response people realize you're a human being and there's just as many people that work just as hard to make this film as a Marvel Thor version and that we can do such a great job because of the budget, because of the accelerated production. So I think I just humanized myself and he related to that.

Question:
We've got Comic-Con coming up here in a couple of months. And do you know if Syfy's going to do a viewing of this or have any of you guys come interview shows or anything like that?

Cody Deal:
I don't know what Syfy's intentions are about the whole project. I know that they're fully onboard and are excited about it but Comic-Con has never been brought up. I am doing some Syfy conventions, one actually June 24 through 26 in St. Louis but Comic-Con hasn't been mentioned. And yes, that would be amazing.

Question:
I assume you guys used some green screen when filming this. Can you talk about that?

Christopher Ray:
Well, I thought we'd touch on this. We only used a couple bits of it. One, we tried to make the crowd - we'd bring in extras. We'd tried to make it look like there was more people. There's a sequence with Cody towards the end where he's falling so we put him up on a wire in front of a green screen. The actual green screen itself though is actually very minor in comparison to most films.

Question:
Cody, can you talk about kind of just your general day on the set especially because it's such a rushed pace?

Cody Deal:
Sure, so I'd wake up around 4:15 and get to set around 6:00. I mean at 6:00. And then we would shoot from 6:00 to 6:00 so at daylight in December here in Southern California is hard to come by so it would get dark literally at 6:00. So we shot from 6:00 to 6:00 with a 30-minute lunch. And then from 6:00 to 8:00 I would with my onset acting coach in my trailer for the next day's sites because I didn't get a full script until Day 4 or Day 5 because the producers and the writer were making continuous changes. And there were some big changes. And so we had to work on that and just get to a good place.

It was such a physical required role I had to also work out diligently so I would drive home and 8:30 to 10:30 would do my two-hour workouts, spend 90 minutes doing cardio and reading my scripts - learning my lines, and then 30 minutes of doing strength training. And then go home and go to sleep and repeat the process for two weeks. It was long days but I wouldn't change the experience for the world. It was amazing.

Christopher Ray:
Actually I'm going to interfere in that real quick. Cody, you say 6:00 to 6:00 but if you remember it was winter so it was more like 6:00 to 3:30, 4:00 before the sun went down.

Cody Deal:
Well, that's true, that's true.

Question:
Chris, how did you get started in what you do?

Christopher Ray:
Well, I kind of grew up in this industry. My father was a film director, been on a set since I was about five years old. Just kind of did that, took a break for about seven years and went to the military as a photographer. Came out, started working with the government, and then got laid off from that about two years ago and just got back into the industry.

Question:
It's obvious that this is going to be compared to the Marvel Thor and what do you think about those comparisons?

Christopher Ray:
The first one, the comparison to the Thor that's coming out right now is kind of unfair in that sense because, one it is a lower budget. Two, we really did try to stay away as much from that kind of storyline prejudice as the Marvel company so that we did stand alone. So I mean, like I said, the comparisons between the two, yes, we knew it was going to happen but again, it's unfair. We had 12 days. Our budget was, excuse my language here, but a hell of a lot smaller than theirs. And I mean, we were dealing with smaller crew, there's less people, you're dealing with daytime exteriors which when the sun goes down we're done. So it wasn't coming back. Twelve days and we made the movie or we didn't.

Question:
There's all this buzz out there about the Marvel movie. Do you think that's a good sign for how well Almighty Thor could do?

Cody Deal:
I think the more popular that the Marvel version is I think the more successful the Syfy version will be. I think I heard something over at the Asylum that typically films that follow the same line as a blockbuster films used to do better when the blockbuster numbers are higher. So I'd say that's only a good thing.

And just to kind of add on to Chris's answer, I feel like no one should compete. You know, there's so much competition already, why compete. They're both Thor. If you're a fan watch both. Like I said, I think this one almost sets an alignment with the prequel to the film, not that was originally the intention but I also feel that you're comparing, like, LeBron James to Michael Jordan. I go with sports analogies because it's my background.

And you're basically saying that Michael Jordan played at a different era than LeBron James. Who's better? You can't really decide that. And the fact is they just show how beautiful basketball really can be. This is showing low budget cinema and it's just showing big studio cinema. It's showing the cool different facets of film and the best of each. And I think that's pretty cool.

Question:
Cody, how was it working with your cast mates there?

Cody Deal:
Patricia Velasquez hasn't been talked about a lot in this film but she stands out as an actor and a performer. She's very good. And she's also a sweetheart. And she treated me as a complete equal and any time I messed up she would be very patient. And I appreciated that about her. Kevin Nash was a dream come true simply because I was a kid who had the wrestling pay-per-views at his house and we watched Kevin growing up on the TV. So doing a film with him is kind of like doing a film with Brad Pitt as silly as that sounds because he's the one I idolized when I was growing up.

And Richard Grieco, again, a dream come true for my mother more than myself, but again, he - again, all these people that worked on this project were just humble actors who enjoyed working. And I think that's why they signed on to do this film, not for the film itself but just because they enjoyed maybe taking on this type of role. So it was great that I was able to be surrounded by such an amazing supportive cast. I loved it.

Question:
Cody, are your family and your friends supportive of your career path here and what do they think about this movie?

Cody Deal:
Yes, we've been able to really hit a lot of buzz and canvas about the movie, obviously, because I come from such a small town of 1100, 1200 people. So this is something that is very uncommon, very rare, never happened to anybody where I come from. And so we have a little theater in town and I think my little town is planning a screening of the film. I'm getting a lot of people on Facebook adding me and telling me how proud they are. So it's cool to be your local small town super hero, you know.

Question:
What's after Almighty Thor for both of you?

Cody Deal:
I hope that this film will show people in the industry that I have not only a great look but also have the acting chops to back it up and because it's so action oriented and it really is my build because the auditions have been going on, the Spartacus', the Conan's, the Marvel store, audition for all those, it kind of is in the same vein of those.

And so I'm hoping that it leads to bigger work at some of the major studios, that would be great to be able to latch on to something like that if people can see any type of possibility with that. If not I'm always onboard to doing whatever's necessary to continue in this business because this is my career, this is my life, this is what I want to continue doing. And this is just the beginning for me I feel and I look forward to the future. I'm just happy to be here doing what I'm doing.

Christopher Ray:
My primary thing is I want to direct but, again, to try to make sure I pay my bills I also line produce and first AD. I'm actually standing on set for the Asylum's Haunted House movie right now on the Asylum so I'm the first AD to kind of go this kind of way and we're going to be going to work here in a second.

Question:
You said you're interested in directing but have you ever been interested in trying to write something for you to direct?

Christopher Ray:
I've never actually written. I can't write for anything, but I can come up with ideas. I have friends that I work with who write for me based on my outline or a storyline I come up with. Again, myself, my dad could do this. I can't write for, like I said, for anything but I've been working with our ideas and things like that. So yes, we're looking to do something.

Question:
Cody, obviously right now you're focused on acting and it's probably a long way in the future but would you ever considering wanting to get behind the camera and do something like that?

Cody Deal:
I'm just so creative and expressive that I would love to take on a project from beginning to end. And I think I will evolve into other areas of cinema eventually. Writing probably first more than anything, maybe directing later. But that's, again, a long ways down the road, maybe like a Clint Eastwood down the road, like when I'm 80. No, I'm just kidding. But yes, again, I think that would be really fun. But I have to say that like with Chris like, I just don't understand how he was able to do what he did. Question:
Is there anything that you guys maybe filmed that they had to cut out for time or whatever that you wished they had kept in?

Christopher Ray:
There's one shot in the film that the shot itself is there but they cut it short. And it's probably the one shot that I was really upset about. There's a sequence in the film where Cody is on his way to finally get the hammer and we did this one shot and we did this shot, like, eight times.

While the camera's going around and people are putting swords in his hands and he initially comes out with nothing in his hand. By the end of the shot we reveal that he now has these swords in his hand. Well, they actually cut it right before he does the reveal and so now all of a sudden they cut to the knight - they cut back to him and how he's got these swords in his hand. So yes, there's that one shot that really kind of upset me because we took so much time and effort to try to set it up.

Question:
Is there anything that happened while filming that was especially funny?

Christopher Ray:
Kevin Nash would get upset about something and at lunch just he would come up to me and be like, I was sorry I became such a bleeping something at the end of the day for you. You know, I mean he was a pleasure to work with but he's such an older guy and been wrestling for so long that when he complains about something it really is like he's complaining and then he's actually walking away yelling at himself for complaining. It's kind of funny.

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