Thor: The Dark World's Akinnuoye-Agbaje Talks His Dual Role, Marvel's Secrecy


When Thor: The Dark World hits theaters around the country in about four hours and change, one of the highlights is sure to be Kurse, the bull-like creature that's created from Algrim, one of Malekith's Dark Elves.

Both parts are played by Lost and Oz alum Adewale Akinnuoye, who most recently appeared as the villain in Sylvester Stallone's comic book movie Bullet to the Head. We talked to him a bit about that film earlier today, but more to the point, he joined to discuss Thor: The Dark World and his approach to the strange and unique character he's bringing to life onscreen. We spoke briefly about Thor before, since you were working with fellow Marvelite Anthony Mackie on The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. Now, though, you're actually allowed to talk about Thor, and we finally have seen Kurse! They kept that under wraps for a long time. Was it tough to explain that costume to people, when there was no footage to go with it? I couldn't quite picture it!

adewale-photoAdewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Well, that was the intent. [Laughs] You know, Marvel are very obviously secretive about many of the characters before they're revealed to the audience for a very specific reason: they want to give it its biggest and best impact when it's showcased.

So obviously I couldn't talk about that but now you've seen it and it's a real spectacle. And as you can see, I am in that suit. This is not CGI or naything. This is a labor of love that was crafted onto me over the course of about two hours to make Kurse. As was Algrim--it was quite a lengthy makeup process. Algrim took longer becasue it was more intricate with the sewing of the wig onto a prosthetic head and then the ears were put on separately, the nose was put on separately. All in all, it took hours in the makeup chair.

And often I played two characters in the same day, which took about five hours in total. So it was a real labor of love and a challenge but one that you sign on to and you relish when you see the final result. It was great to play him ans suit up. Do you guys get kind of a heads-up on that ahead of time, that you're going to have to spend that much time?

Akinnuoye-Agbaje: You know what? the funny thing is, I wasn't really aware of the character description until the very last minute. I think that's part of the process of how Marvel works--and also, different departments were making different parts of the creature, so it didn't all come together until the final week and I got to see the look of Kurse and Algrim in its entirety. So I was as much in the dark as you were for quite some time!

Obviously, I'd seen photographs of projections of how I was going to look but they change and they get tweaked as we go along and a photograph can never really give you the feel of what it's like to be in it. It was quite exciting, though; it was an exciting revelation week after week to see the pieces coming together and then to finally...I was jus tlooking forward to actually getting in the suit and becoming comfortable with it so that I could do some mirror work with Kurse so that he became organic. I wasn't really relying on the aesthetics to evoke fear; I wanted to breathe fear through the actual outfit so when anybody saw me they knew there was a living being inside of it. So that's what I was looking forward to. Do you think using primarily practical effects helped with that? I feel like it's difficult to capture that kind of Predator-like creepiness and essence and body language with CG.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Yeah, I have to tell you that it was very minimal with Kurse. Obviously I didn't pick up the big boulder, but it was very, very minimal. I did most of that work. You see it and you can feel it when there's a body inside as opposed to when it is technically enhanced.

I think that was a particular decision on the part of Marvel and the director to do it, because he was, as you say, creature-like. What's the reference that you mentioned? The Predator--tha'ts been thrown out there, he has Predator-like prowess. But to really give that feel you have to use the human. That's what gives it its real swagger. How did you like working with Alan Taylor?

Akinnuoye-Agbaje: I've heard him say that working on Game of Thrones and Mad Men was like a huge rehearsal for this--but for me, I had worked with Alan before on a show called Oz, so we had a connection. I'd known him as an actor's director so I was quite excited to see his vision and his take in creating this new world in the second installment. I think you'll see it--there's a lot of characters of substance in this movie. What you see he's been able to do is--almost effortlessly--almost every character in this movie gets his own pop. You still see the individuality of the characters, whether it be Algrim, whether it be Kurse. You could have had him just as a bulky beast but there were very definite decisions that were made to try to keep the presence of Algrim in Kurse. From keping the blue eyes to allowing him to talk--albeit in a very agonizing way--it still makes him feel like somebody's inside. I think that's a real credit to Alan as a director.

And the humor. He brought some very organic humor to this. You'll see--there's a lot of laughs in this installment. And of course he's worked on Game of Thrones which I think helped him with the scope of creating these lavish, surreal worlds. I think in this second installment, the Asgardian world is really panned out more and I think again that's part of his skill that he derived from shows like Game of Thrones. As a performer, how did you help to build that bridge between Algrim and Kurse? You've got the Hulk, who's kind of got a similar dynamic in some ways, but they were really proud of the way they made Ruffalo come out in the monster. So how did you kind of bring that out yourself?


Akinnuoye-Agbaje: As I explained earlier, just insisting that we keep certain traits aesthetically from Algrim within Kurse. I thought it was a genius idea to keep his eyes blue because originally we were going to make them red, like demonic, but we went with the notion of keeping them blue because the audience could then still relate to the fact that it was Algrim. And the way that I would speak Elvish as Kurse, instead of just barking, it was agonizing and that was symbolic of his sacrifice because obviously he was cursed. He would never be the same again and he was destined to die--it was a suicide mission. So he had sacrificed his life and that sacrifice was evident in the way he talked because it was painful.

But also the loyalty that he had with his commander, Malekith--you see him always protective of him and to follow every order. Not just to follow orders, but because he believed in the mission. Even when Malekith is injured, he's the one who cares for him. He says, "Recover, so that we can finish the mission." This is the beast, Kurse, so you still feel the feeling within him as Algrim and these were particular traits that I discussed with Alan in trying to bridge that transition and not just make him a hulk.