April 18, 2011

Chris Hemsworth is “ THOR”


It’s fair to say that Chris Hemsworth is a great believer in fate. “You never know what’s going to happen, do you?” he grins. “But I guess you have to keep the faith.” You do indeed. It wasn’t so long ago that he was seriously considering giving up on his adventure as an actor seeking work in the cut throat environment of Hollywood and heading back home to Australia but fate clearly had something entirely different in store for this immensely likable young actor.

Now, as he contemplates his starring role in one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, Thor, it’s hard to imagine that he was ready to give up on his American dream after long, frustrating months of inactivity and returning to Melbourne, his home city, and re-group. But at the time – back in early 2009 - it just wasn’t happening. And that’s when fate took a hand and Hemsworth’s life changed forever.

“I hadn’t worked for eight months, I was living in Los Angeles and I was literally about to pack up and go home,” he recalls. “I was just asking myself ‘what am doing here?’ You know, the usual questions and the doubts that you have as an actor crop up.

“Then I got a phone call from Joss Whedon who wanted to see me about a film called Cabin In The Woods and I went off and shot that in Vancouver. Once I was there, I got a call about another film, Red Dawn, on the Thursday and then, the very next day, they called me about Thor.

“So I went from not working at all to working flat out –and finding myself being offered the this incredible opportunity of playing Thor. It’s been amazing. But like I said, the lesson is to just keep believing and sometimes fate takes a hand.”

It’s somehow fitting that Whedon – creator of ground breaking series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, director of critically acclaimed sci-fi film Serenity – should be a key player in jump starting Hemsworth’s Stateside career.

It will be Whedon who will direct The Avengers, the all star, multiple super-hero adventure that will feature Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and of course, Hemsworth as Thor.

“I love that cross pollination that’s happening with the Marvel characters,” he says. “I love it as a fan and of course, it’s an amazing ensemble cast and it’s a privilege to be part of it.”

But first comes Thor. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Hemsworth leads an impressive cast that includes Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Sir Anthony Hopkins as Thor’s father, Odin, Tom Hiddleston as his brother, Loki and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, a character who has already featured in the two, hugely successful Iron Man films.

For Hemsworth, the chance to work with Branagh, a boyhood hero, was simply irresistible. “Absolutely. The first play I ever did was in High School was Much Ado About Nothing and I remember we watched Ken’s film of the play.

“And so my very first introduction to it all was watching Ken, looking at what he’d done, talking about the film and analysing his decisions and choices he had made.

“So when I got the call asking me to go and audition for him for Thor I remember laughing to myself and thinking ‘who would have thought it?’ You dream about possibilities but then you start meeting those people who have inspired you over the years – who sort of seem like Gods – it’s an incredible feeling.

“You’ve seen these people up on the big screen, and they seem untouchable, like they come from another world, and so it’s a surreal journey. And I have to say, I think he’s absolutely brilliant and a very likable, very down to earth guy. He did a fantastic job with this.”

Branagh is closely associated with Shakespeare both on stage and on screen, directing no less than five film versions of The Bard’s work, including Henry V and As You Like It. But Branagh has also directed thrillers (Dead Again, Sleuth), contemporary dramas (Peter’s Friends, In The Bleak Midwinter) and big budget, gothic horror (Frankenstein).

Some observers were surprised that Branagh had taken on Thor but for Hemsworth it was a perfect fit. “Ken is the number one guy in my opinion,” he says. “And yes, he has obviously done a lot of Shakespeare and done it brilliantly and he’s also used to handling big budget films.

“And you know, the themes of our film – fathers and sons, royalty, feuding brothers – that’s all territory that Ken instinctively knows so well. I think it’s a beautiful fit. And he also happens to be a really inspiring person.”

Thor does indeed deal with timeless themes – sibling rivalry, feuding families, love and duty. The young, brash and at times, arrogant God of Thunder angers his father who casts him out of the Norse Gods’ realm of Asgard and banishes him to Earth. Once there, Thor is drawn into a battle against the evil forces that threaten the planet. But his past – in the shape of his brother – will return to haunt him.

“Ken said to me very early on that the story is about fathers and sons and brothers and I have a very close family so there was a lot of that I could relate to,” says Hemsworth, the middle of three brothers who grew up in Melbourne, Australia.

“I have two brothers and a father and I’m very close to them but I could relate to the dynamic, that theme. It’s also about people discovering their way in life and working out who they are, what their purpose is and how they choose to live.

“Ken gave me a book, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, to read and it’s a beautiful story about a young man discovering who he is, and that helped with the background. He gave me lots of books actually – on Norse mythology, comic books, Buddhism, all sorts of different subjects.

“He just said ‘read them all if you want or don’t read any of them. If it gives you one look, one moment, then it’s worth it..’ It was like ‘fill yourself with these things, you can’t have too much going on..’ So that was just great.”


Playing Thor did, of course, represent a considerable physical challenge for Hemsworth. His character is a Norse God – physically imposing and super fit. He began his preparation whilst still filming Red Dawn and by the time he’d finished, he’d added 20lbs of pure muscle to his already impressive build.

“I’ve always been pretty active and I’ve played a lot of sport in my life – I love surfing, boxing and Aussie Rules Football – but it was exhausting, especially at first, because I’d never really done any muscle building stuff which was what was required for Thor.

“So I had to learn a new way of training and we had a bunch of different people that I would work with. A lot of it was about going to the gym and lifting heavy weights and eating what was needed to maintain that kind of regime.

“My diet was the usual story – tons of chicken and eggs and protein and then the right carbs and vegetables. And lots of all of it, because you need it as fuel. But it gets very boring I can tell you.

“There weren’t any foods that I missed eating. But what happens is that you eat so much so I missed not having to eat! You have to keep it going because if you don’t it will effect your muscles because you aren’t feeding them.”

Since the production finished, Hemsworth has maintained his fitness programme because he wants to stay in great shape for the fast approaching Avengers shoot. “But not at the same level,” he says. “I’ve lost a little weight now just because it’s really hard for me to naturally sit at that weight. But hopefully it won’t take too much to get back there.”

There are times when an actor’s life produces a moment that’s both vivid and memorable – one that stays with them forever. For Hemsworth, trying on the Thor costume for the very first time was definitely one such moment.

“The first time I tried the complete costume on was for a camera test and it was just mind blowing,” he laughs. “I was like ‘oh my God..’ I actually wear a wig in the film and as my hair grew longer it blended into the wig and it looked great.

“A lot of people on set didn’t even know it was a wig – that’s how good it was – and I turned up at the wrap party with short hair and everyone was like ‘oh, you’ve cut your hair!’ I was like ‘it wasn’t real!’ This is after four months of working with these guys so it must have looking convincing.”

Thor’s iconic hammer came in various different weights, he reveals, and using it in some of the explosive actions scenes was a huge thrill. “We have a few different versions of it,” he explains. “There was one we used for hand to hand combat and that’s lighter, made of this rubber like stuff, and really, you don’t want to break someone’s nose when you are doing an action scene, so it was safer.

“But you know, using the hammer was part of the excitement of doing a character like this. It’s part of Thor’s make up. It’s like when you play a police officer you put the uniform on and you feel like a police officer should.

“And with this you put on the Thor outfit and you get right into it – you don’t look in the mirror and think ‘I feel like a farmer or a shopkeeper.’ There are no other options - it’s Thor. And that’s a huge bonus.”

Hemsworth clearly enjoyed being part of such an impressive cast on Thor. “They were great,” he says. “Natalie (Portman) is fantastic. She is, and always has been, one of my favourite actresses and to work with her was just incredible. She plays Jane Foster, who is the love interest. She’s so talented and funny and we just had a hell of a lot of fun.

“Anthony Hopkins plays my Dad and he’s honestly always been the guy for me, he’s an inspiration and to end up working with him playing my father was just amazing. He’s at the very top of the game and yet he is so humble and appreciative of being there – he kept looking at me and going ‘this is exciting, isn’t it?’ And a number of times he said to me ‘Ken is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with..’ And I’d go ‘wow, yeah, me too!’”

Hemsworth, 27 (on August 11, 2010), was born in Melbourne and grew up on the outskirts of the city. His older brother, Luke, and younger brother, Liam, are also actors.

“I’m not really sure where the acting comes from, to be honest,” he says. “After we’d all gotten into it, Mum said ‘oh I always enjoyed drama at school but never took it anywhere, partly because you boys came along and I had to raise a family..’ So maybe it was in there somewhere. Mum actually started doing drama courses a couple of years back for fun, then ended up meeting an agent and in this crazy, roundabout way, she’s been doing jobs back in Australia, which is great – in amongst her teaching work.”

Hemsworth spent three years on the popular Australian soap opera Home and Away, which provided invaluable experience in front of the camera. “It was the greatest thing. Honestly, my roots and my foundations as an actor were built there. It gave me the chance to learn how to act, to figure things out and it taught me all the basics – hitting your marks, building character, everything. It was awesome.”

Hemsworth’s films include the blockbuster hit Star Trek – portraying Captain Kirk’s father – the psychological thriller, A Perfect Getaway, the crime caper Cash and the yet to be released Red Dawn, The Cabin in the Woods and, of course, Thor, a film that will thrust this down to earth, modest young man into the international limelight.

“It’s funny because I’ve been in LA for three years and I’d got close to some big films and at the time, I was disappointed that I didn’t get them. But looking back, I’m kind of thankful I didn’t because I got to sort out a lot of stuff. And now I feel like I know what I’m doing and it feels like the right time to take on a big movie like Thor.

“I love the business, I love the work and I have a solid group of people around me. I got to make my mistakes without being under the microscope and now I feel like I’m more prepared for it than I ever was. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but this is my job and I love it.”



Thor was obviously a huge experience for you. Are you pleased with the way it turned out?

Absolutely. I couldn’t have had a more enjoyable time and I felt happy with my commitment, everyone’s commitment - everyone knew they were part of something special, something that had existed long before we were involved. It had a fan base for many years before us, and so I knew there would be pressure. But it was a combination of excitement and adrenaline and I kind of rode through the whole shoot on that! (laughs). It was great – Ken, Anthony, Natalie, the whole cast. Ken is a very down to Earth, good human being and he wanted to work with similar people who were all excited to be there.

Were you a comic book fan as a kid?

No I wasn’t. I’d never really read a comic book. It just wasn’t in my circle and I never really came across them. It’s funny but since I moved to America, you see comic book stores everywhere, far more than I ever saw growing up in Australia. And of course, lots more comic books are being made into films. But since I got Thor I’ve dived into reading this stuff and it’s incredible – great writing, incredible art work. So my hat goes off to an art form that I came to a little late. But I’m very excited to be part of it now.

But were you aware of Thor as a character?

Yeah. He’s the God of Thunder! (laughs) Definitely. Maybe it was through a cartoon on TV, maybe it was Norse mythology I’d picked up along the way, the Vikings and all of that stuff that I’m fascinated with, maybe it was via something else. But yes, I definitely knew who Thor was.

So then you get a call from Kenneth Branagh saying he’s interested in casting you as Thor. That’s got to be a good call…

Yeah that’s a great call (laughs), I’ll tell you a story. I hadn’t worked for eight months, I was living in Los Angeles and I was literally about to pack up and go home. I was just asking myself ‘what am doing here?’ You know, the usual questions and the doubts that you have as an actor crop up. Then I got a phone call from Joss Whedon who wanted to see me about a film called Cabin In The Woods and I went off and shot that in Vancouver. Once I was there, I got a call about another film, Red Dawn, on the Thursday and then, the very next day, they called me about Thor. So I went from not working at all to working flat out –and finding myself being offered the this incredible opportunity of playing Thor. It’s been amazing. But like I said, the lesson is to just keep believing and sometimes fate takes a hand.

That’s incredible. You’re life tuned around almost overnight. It must be fate…

You never know what’s going to happen, do you? But I guess you have to keep the faith. It’s exciting, it really is. I was talking with someone about it the other day and about different experiences in life and what they teach us and the best lessons are the hardest ones. And that period of not working, I really focused on being okay about not relying on exterior force to make me happy. I wanted to enjoy life and I wanted to stop thinking that I’d only be happy when I had a job. It became about me enjoying the moment. And it’s funny because as soon as I took that load off, things started happening.

A lot of people are intrigued by the prospect of Kenneth Branagh directing Thor. What did you think?

I think it’s great. . The first play I ever did was in High School was Much Ado About Nothing and I remember we watched Ken’s film of the play. And so my very first introduction to it all was watching Ken, looking at what he’d done, talking about the film and analysing his decisions and choices he had made. So when I got the call asking me to go and audition for him for Thor I remember laughing to myself and thinking ‘who would have thought it?’ You dream about possibilities but then you start meeting those people who have inspired you over the years – who sort of seem like Gods – it’s an incredible feeling. You’ve seen these people up on the big screen, and they seem untouchable, like they come from another world, and so it’s a surreal journey. And I have to say, I think he’s absolutely brilliant and a very likable, very down to earth guy. He did a fantastic job with this.

How old would were you when you saw Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing?

Seventeen, sixteen. (laughs)

So what’s he like to work with?

I’ve never worked with anyone like Ken. He wants to have options in the editing room and you know, he really does have a few different versions of the film. We’d do one thing where Thor would be like this berserk warrior, then another where he’s this cocky, brash young guy who laughs his way through everything and than another when he’s very cold, like steel. Every scene we set up, Ken was challenging me – ‘try this, now try that..’ It was great. I think actors can slip into bad habits where they think ‘this is my character and he doesn’t do this, he only does that…’ But with Ken he is constantly making you think about all the options, about how you can play a scene and you discover all of these little notes where it’s like, ‘maybe I wouldn’t have gone for that, but now I’m hitting it, it works..’ And it’s a great way to work.

Thor is an interesting story with its roots in Norse mythology. What would you say are the main themes?

Ken said to me very early on that the story is about fathers and sons and brothers and I have a very close family so there was a lot of that I could relate to. I have two brothers and a father and I’m very close to them but I could relate to the dynamic, that theme. It’s also about people discovering their way in life and working out who they are, what their purpose is and how they choose to live. Ken gave me a book, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, to read and it’s a beautiful story about a young man discovering who he is, and that helped with the background. He gave me lots of books actually – on Norse mythology, comic books, Buddhism, all sorts of different subjects. He just said ‘read them all if you want or don’t read any of them. If it gives you one look, one moment, then it’s worth it..’ It was like ‘fill yourself with these things, you can’t have too much going on..’ So that was just great.

It’s clearly a very demanding, physical role. How did you prepare?

I’ve always been pretty active and I’ve played a lot of sport in my life – I love surfing, boxing and Aussie Rules Football – but it was exhausting, especially at first, because I’d never really done any muscle building stuff which was what was required for Thor. So I had to learn a new way of training and we had a bunch of different people that I would work with. A lot of it was about going to the gym and lifting heavy weights and eating what was needed to maintain that kind of regime.
My diet was the usual story – tons of chicken and eggs and protein and then the right carbs and vegetables. And lots of all of it, because you need it as fuel. But it gets very boring I can tell you.

Were there things that you missed when you were on that diet?

There weren’t any foods that I missed eating. But what happens is that you eat so much so I missed not having to eat! You have to keep it going because if you don’t it will effect your muscles because you aren’t feeding them.

You look very fit right now. So have you maintained that training because you’ll be playing Thor in The Avengers?

Yes, but not at the same level. I’ve lost a little weight now just because it’s really hard for me to naturally sit at that weight. But hopefully it won’t take too much to get back there.

How do you feel about The Avengers, and the cross over between the Marvel films?

I love it. I love it as a fan whether it be books and different characters who meet in different series of books or whether it’s films or TV, I love that cross pollination. Like I sit here thinking, ‘hmm, who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman?’ You start pairing them off and this, with The Avengers, is doing that same thing. I also love that we’ve done the individual films first, like Iron Man, Thor, so that you get to know these people rather than bringing them together and introducing them all at the same time, when you would have just ten minutes or so to get to know each one. I think Marvel have been very smart about that. Look, I’d be excited to see it as a fan, so to be a part of it is a blessing.

Tell me what it was like when you put the Thor costume on for the first time. That must have been a memorable moment…

(laughs) Oh yeah. The first time I put the complete costume on was for a camera test and it was just mind blowing. It was like ‘oh my God!’ I actually wear a wig in the film and as my hair grew longer it blended into the wig and it looked great. A lot of people on set didn’t even know it was a wig – that’s how good it was – and I turned up at the wrap party with short hair and everyone was like ‘oh, you’ve cut your hair!’ I was like ‘it wasn’t real!’ This is after four months of working with these guys so it must have looking convincing.

And what about the hammer? How was that?

It was the same sort of thing – it was like ‘wow, this really is Thor’s hammer!’ (laughs). We have a few different versions of it. There was one we used for hand-to-hand combat and that’s lighter, made of this rubber like stuff, and really, you don’t want to break someone’s nose when you are doing an action scene, so it was safer. But you know, using the hammer was part of the excitement of doing a character like this. It’s part of Thor’s make up. It’s like when you play a police officer you put the uniform on and you feel like a police officer should. And with this you put on the Thor outfit and you get right into it – you don’t look in the mirror and think ‘I feel like a farmer or a shopkeeper.’ There are no other options - it’s Thor. And that’s a huge bonus.

How much of the action were you able to do yourself?

Well, it’s not like playing Batman or Iron Man where the character is wearing a mask and so someone else could do the action – I had to do it myself as much as I could. And it’s exhausting because they are very restrictive costumes but we had an incredible team there with me, fantastic stunt directors, who choreographed these amazing fight sequences. And we kind of developed it together. It was like ‘how does this guy fight?’ We looked at the comics, we looked at his posture, and I worked on the functional aspect of actually wielding the hammer.

Did you think of anyone for inspiration during the fight scenes?

Actually, we talked about Mike Tyson who has that sort of low crouch, strong legs and all his power seems to come up from the ground. My guy uses head butts, he uses the hammer, of course, and it became very gritty and heavy. And it was exhausting but it looks fantastic. You’re running on adrenaline – everyone does – and it’s like ‘yeah, let’s shoot now! Let’s try this..’ And sometimes we’d forget our moves and start making it up (laughs). It was a lot of fun.

What do your family make of you landing this incredible role?

Oh they love it. I started this journey when I was finishing school and said ‘I want to be an actor..’ and my parents went ‘good luck..’ (laughs). But they were very supportive but there was a moment when they went ‘you want to be what?’


And both of your brothers are actors now?

Yeah, (laughter)…

So where did the interest in acting come from for you?

I’m not really sure where the acting comes from, to be honest. After we’d all gotten into it, Mum said ‘oh I always enjoyed drama at school but never took it anywhere, partly because you boys came along and I had to raise a family..’ So maybe it was in there somewhere. Mum actually started doing drama courses a couple of years back for fun, then ended up meeting an agent and in this crazy, roundabout way, she’s been doing jobs back in Australia, which is great – in amongst her teaching work.

It must be great when you get together with your brothers and swap acting stories..

Yeah, we get together and just sort of giggle and go ‘god, what are you doing?’ Or my parents will come over for a premiere or something and stay at a flash hotel and we’re all just laughing, like ‘oh god, who would have thought this?’ You wouldn’t have imagined it from where we grew up. But experiencing everything with them is just the greatest thing. I get more of a kick out of it when they are able to be part of the ride than I do when I’m just doing things on my own. My family has always been a big motivation for me. We’ve always been very close and for them to be part of all of this means a lot to me.

What was the whole Home and Away experience like for you?

It was great, started at high school and three and a half years in front of the camera, we could shoot up to 20 scenes a day, one or two takes, like three cameras going…

So that must have been a big learning experience…

It was the greatest thing. Honestly, my roots and my foundations as an actor were built there. It gave me the chance to learn how to act, to figure things out and it taught me all the basics – hitting your marks, building character, everything. It was awesome. I mean, that show has been going for something like 20 years now..

Are you still based in LA now?

Yeah. I love it, yeah, I really do.

I’m sure there are bits of home you miss…

Yeah, I love Australia - family, friends, I love the surf there, I love the country, it’s a beautiful place, but in LA you really feel like you have access to the whole world. There is so much going on and most people who live there are from somewhere else originally and they’ve come to LA for something. I really enjoy it. It’s a great climate and I’ve got some really great friends there. And you know what, I see more Australians than I do back home in Australia (laughs).

“Thor” is released and distributed by United International Pictures thru Solar Entertainment Corp.

1 comments:

lala_sky said...

Chris Hemsworth is GORGEOUS. period.

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