Chris Hemsworth on Rush, Thor and being a God

From Summer Bay to Asgard, Chris Hemsworth has been in heavy demand from directors such as Michael Mann and JJ Abrams, but he’ll give the best part of the next decade to being Marvel’s hammer-throwing superhero.

Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth

Now Chris Hemsworth, AKA Thor, God of Thunder, crown prince of Asgard, calls me from the M25. It’s 6pm, and he’s just wrapped for the day on Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea, a true story about a ship destroyed by a sperm whale in 1820. It’s shooting at Leavesden Studios, and Hemsworth is in the car home to London, where he and his family have been living for the past few years while he’s been making movies, including last month’s F1 drama Rush. He’ll be here into the spring too, for Avengers: Age Of Ultron. “It’s the new Hollywood,” he says of Greater London, taking care not to reference the weather.

Thor: The Dark World (sequels are all about colons these days) was also filmed a hammer’s throw from the M25, with Pinewood Studios standing in for Asgard, Thor’s otherworldly digs. There is, though, a more grounded feel to the alien environs this time; the film was directed by Game Of Thrones’ Alan Taylor, who wanted it earthier than Kenneth Branagh’s shiny first instalment. Hemsworth loves HBO’s gory breastfest to the point of obsession, he says, so was thrilled when Taylor signed up. How has Game Of Thrones seeped into Thor: The Dark World? “Very much. I just saw the film the other day and was blown away by how expansive it is,” he says. “Everything is broken down that bit more, the costumes, the sets, even the hair… you can certainly see the fusion of where he comes from.” Presumably there’s a little less sex and blood, though. “Yeah, slightly less breasts and swearing.”

Hemsworth cut his chops on Home And Away before quitting in 2007, moving to LA and almost immediately being cast as Kirk’s doomed dad in JJ Abrams’s Star Trek. Yet after wrapping the thriller A Perfect Getaway, he suffered eight months of unemployment (“I couldn’t get hired, I couldn’t get a job”) before finally landing a part in postmodern horror Cabin In The Woods, produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, later to direct Avengers Assemble. It was Whedon who told Hemsworth to go for Thor in the first place. “It was down to four or five people and Joss said, ‘Why the hell aren’t you playing Thor?’ When casting reopened he called Ken [Branagh] and put in a word for me.”

Hemsworth has since turned out to be a no-brainer for studios, a killer combo of pecs and presence, although his incredibly charismatic turn as James Hunt in Rush proves that there’s a whole lot more to him than wham-bam blockbusters. Still, Thor is Hemsworth’s second skin: this is his third outing as the character in as many years. Is it becoming somewhat automatic? “I’m well aware of that danger,” he says. “And that was the challenge, to find those depths and layers and not repeat what we’d done, to see if we could advance it. I felt, this time, much more comfortable in the skin of Thor, but also just as an actor. I’d been working solidly on other films since the first one and had learned a lot. Every time you shoot a film you go, ‘Oh god, I should have done this, or this…’ and in this instance that’s the bonus, you get to attack it again.”

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Simon Costanza
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