Australia’s Chris Hemsworth hit the big time when he was cast as George Kirk in J.J Abrams’ “Star Trek”. Now, the former Summer Bay resident is bracing for super-stardom, something that’s inescapable for an actor playing as large and legendary a character as Thor.
Feeling the pressure playing Thor, Chris?
There’s a lot of pressure with something that has existed for so many years. You try not to let it affect the way you approach the film. For me, you do it as well as you can whatever it is, whether it’s a small film or whether it’s something like this here. But yeah, it’s both exciting and daunting.
Now the relationship between Thor and Jane in the movie. Is it important in this first film?
There’s a bit of it in this one. It’s a big sort of breaking point in Thor’s journey, learning some humility. He starts out as a brash, cocky young warrior and she certainly influences him to go in a different direction.
Do you balance Thor’s hubris with his heroism?
I think so. I think it’s his ongoing battle, taming the berserk kind of warrior that is in him. Certainly that’s a big part in this film, he’s still got to be that warrior. He still has to have those elements. That’s what makes him Thor but also, you don’t want to watch a guy on screen that is just a jerk all the time. It’s all about finding that balance.
Are your mates back home treating you differently now? What about your brother Liam? Is he trying to get you to score him a role as an Asgardian in the film?
Ha. Nah, I had enough trouble getting myself a part, let alone trying to help Liam. We both auditioned for the role of Thor funny enough. I had an audition, didn’t hear anything, then he was in Australia and sent a tape across. The next minute I heard they were flying him over to meet Ken and he was down to the last four guys, and I was like, “What?” He went in, did a great job and it didn’t end up happening. Then I got another phone call and was like, “Shit, what worked, what didn’t? Tell me what he said.” I got some advice and here we are.
What was it like working with Kenneth Branagh?
Brilliant. It was the most amount of character development and discussions on scenes and backstory that I’ve ever had. We talked for hours about books and all that sort of stuff. That’s part of the fun for me, that research and speaking to as many people as you can and soaking up that stuff. Ken gave me Siddhartha, actually a Herman Hesse book about a man trying to find his place in life and going through all the temptations. Thor in effect was different to Siddhartha but it was a human being trying to find out his purpose and how he was going to go about his life. That was the same thing. It’s certainly one of my favourite books.
What training did you do for the role?
I had to drink a lot of protein shakes and eat a lot of chicken breast. There was an intaking of a lot of calories, a lot of food, a lot of working out and try to get as much rest as you can. That’s the other 1/3 of the equation. I put on 20 pounds and lost a lot of it since shooting purely from not eating that amount.
What about prosthetics?
No fake arms. When it’s me, it’s me.
Do you have a favorite Thor story from your research?
The stuff with The Avengers I really liked. There’s one particular one where they approach him and Thor’s sitting on a beach in a party or something. There’s fire and people sitting around playing guitar. Thor’s there drinking a beer and up walk out SHIELD and I think Iron Man. They’re like, “Supposedly you’re a god and we want you to join our team.” He’s like, “Psh, I’m not joining nothing.” I think one of them says something like, “I don’t believe he’s a god anyway.” Thor makes big rain and thunder and they scurry away. I enjoyed that moment.
Did you study any fighting techniques for Thor -stuff you could use with the hammer? What did you ultimately go with?
A lot of different stuff because it really is a very impractical kind of weapon in a sense – big head, tiny little handle. We talked about boxing a lot actually. I’d done a lot of Muay Thai for years and Muay Thai is much more on your toes and legs involved. Boxing is more of a grounded sort of technique. We’d talk about Tyson, low to the ground and power through the legs. A lot of that I think influenced Thor and certainly big open shoulders, big shoulder movements. It becomes a very gritty kind of street fighting stuff at times and happens to have a big old hammer in his hand as well.
What’s the biggest challenge about starting a movie where the fans know so much of the backstory, and you still have to surprise them somehow?
Its a challenge. You walk into something which has a pre-existing fan base. People are very passionate about it and know what they want to see. As far as how you bring the excitement or challenge, a lot of that, the script comes along. That’s not my department. For me it was reading as much as the comic books and things that inspired me.
Do you hope mainstream audiences discover the film?
That’s another challenge. You’ve got to look after the fans, but you’ve got to make the film appealing to audiences outside of the fan base too. You can’t think about it too much though. You sort of simplify it and just do the best you can and respectful of what already exists, take it to where you’re trying to go with it.
Have you accidentally let slip any secrets about the film yet?
No, but I think some photos leaked at one point. I was just hoping they weren’t my photos. Look, the thing is this is already based on sort of comic books which the stories are there. Now which particular story we’ve decided to tell is I guess the secret, but a lot of the essence of it already exists and people know about it. That’s not secret.
Do you say “verily” or “I say thee name?” in “Thor”?
Nay. Like in the comic books, it’s much more Shakespearian old English speak. We didn’t go down that path. We certainly made them standard sort of English accents. It was certainly well spoken and very formal but it wasn’t Shakespearian.
How do you hope Thor will fit in with the Avengers?
I just hope it works. It’s going to be great. I’m not so much interested in seeing all the characters fight each other as I am seeing a dinner party with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. What the hell would they talk about?
What’s one thing you’ve learned from Branagh on the film?
I’ve learnt tons. I’ve never had so much work on character and script analysis and story as him and never been asked so many questions about who is this guy, what do you think you’d do in this situation, why do you think he does this? What’s this about? It was very odd questions at times. Ken also was about constantly doing it different ways and attacking from a different angle. We’d done this. Now let’s hit it from here. It gets you out of that zone of a certain way of thinking and limiting yourself.
Did you enjoy doing stunts?
I’ve played a lot of sport, so I enjoyed it. Any time I can get in there and do that stuff, and get paid for it, I’ll do it.
When will we see ”Red Dawn”? Or will we!?
I don’t have a date for it but I know it all depends on what happens with MGM. I know they’re excited about it. A lot of people are excited about it and with what they’ve seen so hopefully early next year.
“Thor” is released May 2011