GUN FOR HIRE

Tessa Thomp­son is fired up for Men in Black: In­ter­na­tional, finds

The West Australian - - TODAY - James Wigney

When vet­eran Men in Black pro­ducer Wal­ter Parkes saw the crack­ling chem­istry be­tween Tessa Thomp­son and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ra­ganarok, he was blown away. He’d been watch­ing Hemsworth’s ca­reer with in­ter­est, hav­ing met him dur­ing his early days in Hol­ly­wood, and was im­pressed by how the Aussie heart-throb and di­rec­tor Taika Waititi had rein­vented the ham­mer­swing­ing ti­tle char­ac­ter by in­ject­ing a free­wheel­ing, ab­sur­dist com­edy to the big-ac­tion set pieces.

But he couldn’t quite place the pocket rocket ac­tress, who went toe-to-toe with the As­gar­dian prince as the hard-drink­ing, hard-fight­ing war­rior woman, Valkyrie.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing ‘Who’s that amaz­ing Aus­tralian or New Zealand ac­tress that Taika Waititi found? She’s great’,” Parkes says of why he sought Thomp­son out to play rookie agent M in Men in Black: In­ter­na­tional, the fourth en­try in the much-loved com­edy sci-fi fran­chise.

“And then I found out she has this amaz­ing fil­mog­ra­phy and was this beloved ac­tress who has done so much great work.

“Her talent is quite end­less and her ex­pe­ri­ence is quite great and she had al­ready started to emerge into the uni­verse of the big movie. But I can’t say we were aware un­til we saw her in Rag­narok.”

Parkes prob­a­bly should have known bet­ter. Ever since she broke through on the sec­ond sea­son of cult de­tec­tive drama Veron­ica Mars in 2006, Thomp­son has been build­ing an im­pres­sive re­sume both on the small screen, with ap­pear­ances in Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes and Cop­per and the big screen, with For Coloured Girls, Dear White Peo­ple and Selma.

But it was the twin suc­cesses of the Rocky re­boot Creed, in which she played Michael B. Jor­dan’s fiercely in­de­pen­dent mu­si­cian lover Bianca, and her amoral, prag­matic, cor­po­rate boss Char­lotte Hale in the HBO sci-fi hit West­world, that paved the way for her Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse in­tro­duc­tion as Valkyrie in the Gold Coast-shot Rag­narok.

On the Lon­don set of MIB: In­ter­na­tional, Thomp­son re­flects on her joy­ous time in Rag­narok and says she didn’t need much con­vinc­ing to hook up with Hemsworth again to play mis­matched agents M and H, thrown to­gether to save the world from ma­raud­ing aliens. She says the pair first joked about re­mak­ing The Body­guard, af­ter Hemsworth let slip his love for the Kevin Cost­ner/Whit­ney Hous­ton hit while mak­ing Rag­narok. “We’ll do a mod­ern retelling,” she says, “ex­cept this time, I’m his se­cu­rity guard.”

But when the al­ready at­tached Hemsworth reached out to get her on board to play the strait­laced MIB re­cruit to his “slightly un­hinged” vet­eran agent H, it was a no-brainer for the 35-year-old Thomp­son.

“We just had such a great time on that film,” Hemsworth says of the rol­lick­ing, rave-re­viewed Rag­narok. “Ev­ery­body did. So when Tessa’s name was in the mix, it was like ‘God, yes, we can just pick up where we left off — this will be easy’.” Both were con­vinced they could reignite a fran­chise that could eas­ily have run its course in the same way Rag­narok breathed new life into Thor for the MCU.

“We traded a text mes­sage or an email in which Chris was like ‘Hey leg­end, are we go­ing to rock this’, and I was like ‘Yeah, we’re gunna’,” Thomp­son says with a laugh. “I love the orig­i­nal films. They all hold up to me and there is some­thing so cool about them and the world they oc­cupy. “You get a chance in­side this fan­tas­ti­cal world to have re­ally fun char­ac­ter dy­nam­ics and to be ir­rev­er­ent and use satire. We had so much fun work­ing to­gether on Rag­narok and tak­ing some­thing and mak­ing it re­ally fresh and orig­i­nal and new. Like Chris says, there are chal­lenges in­her­ent in that but it was some­thing that ex­cited both of us.” Thomp­son’s Valkyrie was cel­e­brated as be­ing a “strong” fe­male char­ac­ter in both Rag­narok and the re­cent Avengers: Endgame, and she’s de­ter­mined to make M more than an ac­ces­sory or love in­ter­est to Hemsworth’s char­ac­ter in MIB.

“It’s against com­pany pol­icy,” she says with a laugh of any po­ten­tial on-screen romance. “He’s a friend from work.”

She says she was never de­terred by the fact that the film’s ti­tle is Men in Black, point­ing out that Emma Thomp­son is repris­ing her char­ac­ter from the third film and that she gets plenty of ac­tion high­lights her­self, thanks to some elab­o­rately chore­ographed fight scenes with the main vil­lain, played by Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble star Re­becca Fer­gu­son.

But for Thomp­son, play­ing a strong woman char­ac­ter is much more than phys­i­cal power and kick­ing ass.

“In Thor, I was ob­vi­ously strong and lit­er­ally play­ing a woman who was a war­rior, but to me when I think about the idea of a strong woman, which we talk about a lot, par­tic­u­larly in Hol­ly­wood now in the cul­tural space that we are in, it’s re­ally just that she is well formed, she doesn’t feel like a cipher and you know who she is and she’s re­lat­able,” she says.

‘When Tessa’s name was in the mix, it was like “God, yes”.’ Chris Hemsworth

Men in Black: In­ter­na­tional opens to­mor­row.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thomp­son.

M (Thomp­son) and H (Hemsworth) in MIB: In­ter­na­tional.

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