Spoiler Warning: This article’s got Thor: Ragnarok spoilers, so bookmark this page and come back after you’ve seen the movie!
Writing a script for any movie can be extremely difficult, and that might go double for big studio blockbuster films. Scripts need to be rewritten no less than one million times, the writer going through lots of different drafts based on notes given by higher ups. Eric Pearson, the writer of Thor: Ragnarok, knows how nothing is really safe from getting cut, which is why he was worried about how to handle his idea of making Hela, the villain of the movie, Thor’s secret sister. One producer, Brad Winderbaum, gave him some simple advice: just write it in and hope for the best. According to Pearson…
Brad told me, ‘Don’t tell anyone. Just write it into the script. If we pitch it, it’s so much more likely to get shot down. Just write it into the movie.’
Eric Pearson, who rose through the ranks of Marvel’s Writers Program, wasn’t quite sure how to move forward with an idea he had. After reaching the climactic final battle between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hela (Cate Blanchett), Pearson knew that there was something missing. The stakes weren’t high enough, and he realized that would be fixed if Hela and Thor were related. He told Brad Winderbaum, VP of production and development at Marvel Studios, his idea. Winderbaum told him not to pitch this to anyone; just write it into the script and let them find out naturally.
Pearson did just that, and the reveal was originally added to a scene in the middle of the movie between Thor and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) in Hulk’s room, where Valkyrie drops the bomb on Thor. Pearson was understandably nervous that his big Hela twist would be cut (Thor: Ragnarok was his first feature-length script with Marvel) and the script eventually found its way to the desk of Kevin Feige. Pearson recounted his initial worries to Yahoo! Movies:
When they did that first read, I was like, ‘Oh, man, if they don’t like it, we’re screwed.
Obviously, Marvel ended up really liking the idea, as millions of people packing theaters these past two weeks have learned. When Eric Pearson got notes back on the script, Feige had even circled the reveal and written “WHOA!” next to it. The twist would eventually be delivered by Odin himself in order to make the most out the All-Father and to give Valkyrie less of a Thor-centric story. Hela being Thor’s sister works quite nicely in the movie, giving the two characters a needed personal connection to give everything more weight than a standard doomsday scenario. If you ever end up writing for Marvel one day, just remember it’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
Catch up with Thor and his complicated family in Thor: Ragnarok, out in theaters right now.