‘Thor: The Dark World’: Christopher Eccleston talks Malekith, makeup

Nov. 11, 2013 | 11:13 a.m.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), Ian Boothby (Jonathan Howard), and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

A Dark Elf, left, and Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Frigga (Rene Russo) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Ian the intern (Jonathan Howard) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in a scene from "Thor: The Dark World." (Marvel)

Chris Hemsworth and director Alan Taylor on the set of "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Jaimie Alexander and director Alan Taylor on the set of "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Chris Hemsworth and director Alan Taylor on the set of "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Christopher Eccleston and Chris Hemsworth on the set of "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Christopher Eccleston and director Alan Taylor on the set of "Thor: The Dark World." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Playing a Dark Elf of Svartalfheim isn’t as glamorous as it might seem — at least according to Christopher Eccleston, the English actor who stars as the evil Malekith in “Thor: The Dark World.”

“The cloak is a pain in the ass,” Eccleston said.

The actor was speaking candidly between takes on the London set of the latest Marvel superhero sequel, which took in an impressive $86 million in its North American debut over the weekend. The movie sees Eccleston portray the malevolent Malekith, an ancient enemy of Asgard who longs to plunge the Nine Realms into eternal night using a weapon known as the Aether.

To stop him, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor must team with his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a tenuous alliance that has some surprising results.

Eccleston has a lengthy resume filled with respected projects including “Jude,” “Elizabeth,” Danny Boyle’s “Shallow Grave” and “28 Days Later,” though many genre fans most closely associate him with “Doctor Who.” He was the first actor to play the time-traveling alien when the landmark sci-fi series returned to television in 2005 after a nine-year hiatus, and the more intense, less eccentric take on the character he displayed in his 13 episodes helped lay the  groundwork for a resurgence in the show’s popularity, in the U.K. and eventually in the United States.

In an interview with Hero Complex last year, Eccleston said he was uneasy about returning to the world of the fantastic to play the villainous Malekith, but he had long been interested in working with “Dark World” director Alan Taylor, a television veteran whose resume includes stints on such respected series as “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones.”

Eccleston put aside his concerns about superhero tropes to team with the filmmaker on his first big-budget Hollywood production.

“The attraction for me was Alan Taylor,” Eccleston said. “He’s brilliant with actors. He’s got a great sense of humor, great intelligence, great delicacy with actors, knows the struggle that actors have on a project like this. You’re playing very broad strokes characters, particularly myself, the bad guy. What Alan can do is he can help you, and he understands your desire to — within the confines of a popcorn film — give it some complexity. We’re trying as hard as we can to give it some humor and some irony. Obviously people are coming to see how heroic Chris can be as Thor and you will make him more heroic if his antagonists are more complex.”

Still, the part proved tremendously challenging for Eccleston for a number of reasons.

“An actor would be dishonest if he didn’t say you approach a film like this with trepidation because acting in a film like this is secondary,” Eccleston said. “This is about the special effects and the fights. It’s a long time in makeup, it’s a long time in costume, so when you get on set as an actor, you’ve been somebody’s dolly for a good few hours. You can feel vulnerable in a film like this. Look at me. You’re sitting here talking to a Dark Elf. No matter how experienced you are you can feel silly. A director can help you through that with humor and with intelligence.”

Particularly, Eccleston cited learning the invented language that the Dark Elves speak — Malekith and his lieutenant Algrim (a character played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje that later becomes known as Kurse) are subtitled in the film — as an unanticipated hurdle that “aged me by about 30 years.”

But the actor, who has been cast in Damon Lindelof’s upcoming HBO series, “The Leftovers,” based on Tom Perotta’s novel about people left behind after the Rapture, said he was pleased at the texture that such touches brought to the sequel.

“That was Alan’s innovation and was very difficult and was thrown at us late, but we’ve had a go at it,” he said. “It gives them texture, it suggests that they’re a race of their own rather than guys in lenses just speaking English.”

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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