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Thor Love And Thunder director Taika Waititi: "Instead of going on PornHub, I'll watch old Guns N' Roses videos"

Taika Waititi
(Image credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage (via Getty))

Latest MCU blockbuster Thor: Love And Thunder hits cinemas this week, serving as the follow-up to 2017's smash hit Thor: Ragnarok and the second outing with everyone's favourite God Of Thunder for director Taika Waititi. 

We were granted an audience with the man himself to discuss his lifelong love of rock and heavy metal, how it's influenced his work as a director and why he let Guns N' Roses take over the soundtrack for Love And Thunder.

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There are multiple Guns N’ Roses songs on the Thor: Love And Thunder soundtrack...

"You know, I still go home late at night and instead of going on, you know, Pornhub, I'll go and watch old GN'R music videos because I just loved the band. But I think I'm still in love with the band back when there was the band, you know, that band: Paradise City music video, like that stuff when the hair was long and it had been brushed, you know?"

There are pivotal Guns N’ Roses moments in the film: you use Sweet Child O' Mine, Welcome To The Jungle, the climax of November Rain...

"Yeah, November Rain, when we started, we always knew wanted that battle scene moment while that was playing. Then one of our guys was, like, 'Don’t you think we need more songs?' And I come from an independent film background, and if you get, you know, 10 seconds of a famous song you're lucky. And then it was like, 'We should have more Guns N' Roses songs! We're gonna have one Guns N' Roses song and a [character] called Axl...do you think we need like another three?!"

Who picked Dio’s Rainbow In The Dark for the end credits?

"That was actually from one of the production assistants: she was on the journey the entire time, she found Dio, she found that song and the lyrics and everything about it is very appropriate."

What music was turning your head as a teen?

"I listened to everything. But at an early age I was like very much into like, AC/DC and then Guns N' Roses. And then, you remember that mash-up with Public Enemy and Anthrax?"

Bring The Noise

"Yeah. I was already a massive fan of Public Enemy and Metallica...in the early 90s, when I was at school, basically, those are the two music genres I would listen to, just metal and rap. And so that was, sort of, like the soundtrack to my childhood."

Growing up, did you come from a musical household? Did mum and dad play anything?

"No, but I mean, like, every household has a guitar in New Zealand. And if you're Māori and from that community, you have to learn how to play songs for a party. So, you know, you need to learn how to pick up a guitar, so everyone in New Zealand knows how to play guitar, and how to play, just party songs and songs around the campfire, songs around the kitchen table, songs to sing in a garage at 3am, whenever I was fucking wasted."

Were you any good on guitar? What was your first guitar you bought when you made some money?

"I never really started earning money until I was 35, so all my guitars have been hand-me-downs and stuff. I never had, like, a Les Paul or anything like that. I had a great SG copy because of Angus from AC/DC. I was into him and that guitar." 

Did anybody go to New Zealand to play? We can't imagine you got many gigs down there?

"The big one I got to see was Public Enemy on Fear Of A Black Planet, which was a massive deal for me. Also, what was cool was bands like Pavement used to come down and play the universities and stuff, and bands like Sonic Youth used to hang out with those guys a lot. I can recall a lot of indie bands coming down and hanging out in NZ. 

"I used to have that [1993 Aids benefit] No Alternative compilation album, remember that? So good: Straitjacket Fits, the Soul Asylum version of Sexual Healing. It was great. I mean, I love that album. Around that time, I saw The Breeders for the first time. It was just a cool time to be around bands."

What was your first gig there?

"Probably any of these NZ versions of Woodstock, random fields and random bands, and lot of pub rock, but in terms of a real band, something that stayed with me, that was Public Enemy. I was 15, I guess."

That's a good age to go to your first gig, music feels different at that age.

"Yeah, when you get your ticket, and for nights before you're just looking at it and you can’t believe you got your ticket, and then you fuck it all up by drinking a cask of wine before the gig."

Did you have a favourite band T-shirt, something you always wore?

"I would say Jane's Addiction. Looked cool and I loved them, still love them. My Fear Of A Black Planet top that I bought at the gig, there was something pretty special about that. I wore that out. It went from black to grey, tears at the seam, that sort of thing, and you keep on wearing it. I’m wearing a Beastie Boys top right now."

Before he gets back into his armour in Love And Thunder, Thor rocks a cut-off leather jacket and the whole biker look to go into battle. Was that a heavy metal nod?

"Well, that's a nod to Jack Burton, Kurt Russell's character in Big Trouble In Little China. And the aliens he’s fighting in that battle were based on Mad Max, the original movie. And getting to use Welcome To The Jungle in that scene was just awesome, man. It was like, so cool to be able to do that. I kind of have a feeling that I've ruined a lot of songs for myself by putting them in my films. 

"It's very hard for me to hear Heroes now after putting it in the end of JoJo Rabbit. It came on the radio when I was driving the other day. I was like, 'I gotta change this'. It’s changed it for me forever. Immigrant Song is the same after using it in [Thor] Ragnarok; that song just takes me back to Thor now."

When you work, do you write to music? 

"I have a playlist for writing certain things. Kate Bush’s This Woman's Work was a big touchstone for me while writing this film and that was before Stranger Things. Part of it was how I felt about Jane Foster, Natalie [Portman]'s character. It kind of makes sense for that. And I’ve always thought of Thor as this kind of very maternal character and, even though he’s tough when he goes into battle, he's more of this mother character to me. There was a lot of Abba on the original playlist that I had as well when I was writing him. There's one Abba song in there now. I wanted more because I thought that would be cool...but I guess Guns N' Roses is still cool."

Thor: Love And Thunder is in cinemas now

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion. He ghosted Carl Barat’s acclaimed autobiography, Threepenny Memoir, and helped launch the BBC 6 Music network as producer and co-presenter on the Phill Jupitus Breakfast Show. Five years later he and Jupitus fronted the hugely popular Perfect 10 podcast and live shows. His debut novel, Cross Country Murder Song, was described, variously, as ‘sophisticated and compelling’ and ‘like a worm inside my brain’. His latest novel The Death And Life Of Red Henley is out now.

With contributions from