Toonzone Interviews Matthew Wolf on Voicing Thor in "Thor: Tales of Asgard"
The versatile Matthew Wolf has an impressive resume under his belt already, with numerous roles as an actor on stage, screens large and small, video games, and radio dramas. His production company, Cool Hand International, has several film projects to its credit as well. Animation fans will recognize him as the voice of Thor for two of Marvel’s direct-to-video feature films: as the adult Thor in Hulk Vs. and a teenaged Thor in the newly released Thor: Tales of Asgard. We were able to with Wolf over the phone just before the release of Thor: Tales of Asgard, about his career and how to voice a Thunder God.
TOONZONE NEWS/MARVEL ANIMATION AGE: How did you get into acting?
MATTHEW WOLF: I’d always acted when I was at school before I went to university…to college, but I’d never really thought of pursuing it as a viable career option. I actually have a law degree in the UK. When I was at university, I acted a little bit more as I was studying law, and I wanted to change my degree. But in the end, my family convinced me to stick with the law degree. I wasn’t forced in any way, but they just convinced me and it seemed like a good idea. So I finished it, but then because I spent 3 years doing what I had decided I didn’t want to do, I then just thought to myself (maybe in a naïve or petulant way), “I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing exactly what I want to do.” Then I sort of thought, “Well, what is that, really?” and looked deep within and really thought it was pursuing the life of an actor. So that’s what I did, really, and then it became a proper career rather than just something I was doing now and again in between classes and things, or even just performing at home or doing funny voices for my family.
TZN/MAA: You studied at the London Centre for Theatre Studies. Did you jump straight into the acting school after you got your law degree?
MATTHEW WOLF: Yeah, once I finished my law degree, I thought, “Well, if I’m going to become an actor, then I better have some kind of vague notion of what the hell I’m doing.” So I found this school in London which seemed to have a good reputation, and it was run by a guy called David Harris, and it gave a fairly broad view of the profession and being an actor, and some of the techniques. I think there was something of a focus on the Method, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a Method actor or an actor of any one particular style or school. But this course happened to focus on that somewhat, which was good, because it gave me some understanding of what I could do and what other people were doing. After that, I just got in touch with people in theatre where I had worked at a summer job some years before, and that led to having auditions for Shakespeare and I went in and I booked that, and that was it really. You meet people and on you go.
TZN/MAA: How did you get into voice acting in particular?
MATTHEW WOLF: Alongside of my work as an actor, I was doing some work producing TV trailers, and sometimes I did the voiceover for the spot myself, which the station I was working for was happy with. Gradually, I built up a reel, and then some of the other people in the stations that I was doing promos for started to use me for their promos, and gradually I just got into it. I think that being an actor encompasses so many different fields, and I’ve never really felt that being a voice actor is something different from being an actor because they really go hand-in-hand. I know there are some people who only are voice actors…I say “only,” but it’s terrific, it’s fantastic…but that’s all they do and they have no interest in being on-camera at all. For me, they just very much go hand-in-hand and I want to do them all and they feel like part of the same profession. It comes from the same place for me, inside. Especially something like Thor, where you really are embodying a personality, a character. A person, with a life, so it all comes from the same muscle, I suppose, or the same part of the brain, or whatever you want to call it.
MATTHEW WOLF: I think I’d say I am a neophyte and remain a neophyte, but that’s not because I’m not interested in it. It’s more that I know far less about it than the people who are really interested in it. Meeting some of the fans at the conventions, I am astounded and in awe of the knowledge that these people have of the material: the comic books and games and all the characters. It’s really, really impressive. So I couldn’t even begin to lay any claim to being in the know or knowledgable about comic books. But when I was younger, in fact, my mother was working in a particular office in London as a travel agent, and there was somebody who worked in the building. I think he was a sort of maintenance guy. I don’t remember his name, but I was very young and he kind of befriended me and was very kind to me. One day he brought in a whole pile of comic books, various ones. Mainly Marvel. There was some DC, from what I remember. He brought in a whole pile and he didn’t give them to me, but he showed me them and went through them, and he was a fan. I was young…I must have been about six. Pretty young, and so that’s a fairly early introduction to that world and that artwork and those stories, and I remember that I was really drawn to them. I remember quite clearly talking to my mother quite a lot. You know how a 6 or 7 year old talks about these things and obsessing slightly about them. Then, as you do, you move away from them. You latch onto one thing and then move on to another, but I remember that I latched onto it for a little while, and I remember the moment clearly, so it stuck with me, you know?
TZN/MAA: Do you remember how you got the part of Thor?
MATTHEW WOLF: I did have to audition. I did it through my voice agent. A number of voice agencies here in Los Angeles have their own voice over booths where you can record auditions. You can either do that or you can send stuff in if you have the capability at home to record something. I remember clearly with that particular one…this is going back to Hulk Vs., in fact, and I did have to audition again for Tales of Asgard. But for Hulk Vs., I remember I recorded it in my apartment, where I was living at the time, in the wardrobe. In the cupboard, surrounded by clothes. Sometimes I did that, and most of the ones I did that way, they don’t sound that great. They’re not as good as when you go in, but I recorded that one there because I couldn’t get into my voice agent that day. They liked what I was doing with my voice, but the quality of the recording wasn’t good. I think it was one of the first ones that I booked that I had recorded by myself at home, so I was quite pleased about that. In fact, my sitting in my cupboard recording it helped get the job, because when I’d got the job, I remember one of the producers said to me what they liked about my read was that it sounded like I was kind of feeling my way through it. I was thinking. It wasn’t just a read of the script. I was actually sort of living it, and (laughs) I think it was because I was just sort of sitting in my cupboard with a bit of paper in one hand and holding a microphone in the other, and trying to literally work my way through it.
TZN/MAA: Is there anything that you’re inspired by or that you’re drawing on when you’re playing Thor?
MATTHEW WOLF: Well, I know the Marvel hero Thor and also of the Norse mythology, but I was very much aware that the fans have a great wealth of knowledge of these characters and these heroes. And great expectations, so that was very much in the back of my mind. That’s not necessarily something to draw on, but it was something that I was aware of (laughs), but I wanted to do it justice. I wanted to make sure that what I was doing satisfied their expectations. Obviously some people are not going to like my take on it and other people are going to like it, but that was certainly something I attempted to do. There was the mythology, the fact that he is a Norse god and royal and regal, so that was definitely an element. They were changing the voice at that time. They were moving away from something that they had before and they wanted to try something fresh, so I was aware of that. I think what they were really looking for back when I auditioned for Hulk Vs. and then again later for Tales of Asgard, was a kind of modern angle. Something that was kind of real and down-to-earth. Tales of Asgardis about growing up and taking on these great responsibilities. It’s very much a coming of age story, and that in itself is something to draw on. One’s own childhood, and understanding of being petulant about some things or impulsive as a young man.
MATTHEW WOLF: No, we did Hulk Vs. some time ago and we did Tales of Asgard somewhat later, but they did want me to audition for Tales of Asgard. I think the feeling was that it probably was going to be me to carry on, but just in case it wasn’t going to sound right or it wasn’t going to sound like he was the younger Thor. The thing is, which I think they understood, when you’re at the age that Thor is in Tales of Asgard, his voice wouldn’t necessarily be hugely different from a few years later. He’s young, but he’s not 12. He’s an older teenager, so that certainly made a difference. There is a difference in the voice, of course, but it didn’t throw me. I knew I could do that. It was not something that was a big stretch from the one sound of Thor in Hulk Vs. to the other sound and feel of Thor in Tales of Asgard.
TZN/MAA: Did they ask you to audition for Thor in the Avengers TV series?
MATTHEW WOLF: Yeah, I did read for that. What happened was that there was a change of guard from the Marvel animated features to the TV series, so it involved very different people who had their own ideas, and so they should. The producer for the TV series came with a very specific idea which wasn’t the same as for the animated features, so they went with someone else. I had no problem with that at all; as I said, they should have their own ideas for it and that’s what keeps Marvel evolving. I think it’s nice if you can have some continuity, as it were, but then one is a film and the other is a TV show. I think he does a great job with Thor and I was pleased to do the 2 films, and if there are any more animated features involving Thor in the pipeline, perhaps I’ll be involved in those. But there hasn’t been any talk of those at the moment, although Thor is getting a lot of love at the moment because of the live-action film, of course, and there’s some buzz around Thor: Tales of Asgard coming out next week. So who knows? Maybe the Thor-mania will continue and there will be more. But we’ll see what happens.
TZN/MAA: I know it’s been a while since you recorded it, but do you remember having a favorite scene from Tales of Asgard?
MATTHEW WOLF: Yeah, good question. There’s a really fun scene…and I don’t want to do any spoilers, you know, but there is a fun scene that takes place in a tavern or an inn at the beginning of the journey that Thor goes on with Loki. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was a fun scene because it was playful and, as I said before, there’s a sort of impetuousness that comes with youth often, so it was fun to play with that. Thor is having ideas above his station, and that was just fun to play with, because as you get older (and I’m not that much older (laughs)), you recognize your foolishness in similar situations. But it was fun to kind of throw that understanding of the foolishness of youth away and just sort of play with it, you know?
MATTHEW WOLF: From what I remember, it was only really with the actor that played Loki, Rick Gomez. In Hulk Vs. I think I did some stuff with Graham McTavish, who played the older Loki in that. He’s a good friend, so that was fun, but yeah, I seem to recall that Tales of Asgard was only with Rick Gomez, which was nice because—going on your question about favorite scenes—a lot of the scenes that were with him were really fun to play knowing where they end up in the overall story. It was really interesting kind of sowing little seeds of the relationship between Thor and Loki, as we all know later how that develops. That was fun.
TZN/MAA: What are you working on now? What else can we expect to see you in soon? Or hear you in?
MATTHEW WOLF: Well, I did a nice little …and I stress little…role in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the American remake. Working with the great David Fincher, so that was a lot of fun. That’s obviously not going to come out for a little while. I’ve been doing some voice stuff, lots of bits and pieces here and there. Something I did in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, just a fun little quick character as a voice on the other end of the phone to Jim Carrey. A far cry from Thor, I can tell you, so people might be hard-pushed to recognize that that was me. I’ll be playing the role of Arthur Holmwood in an upcoming radio version of Dracula for LA Theater Works, and Ben Cross will be playing the title role. I’ll start recording this the week Thor comes out. There’s various bits and pieces. I’m always doing Theater in Los Angeles. I’m doing Pinter right now, in fact. Always things in the pipeline. We’ll see. I feel good about the rest of the year, put it that way.
Toonzone News and the Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Matthew Wolf for taking the time to speak with us, and to the folks at Click Communications and Lionsgate PR for arranging it. Thor: Tales of Asgard is available on DVD and Blu-ray disc now.