You may not know his face yet — although it may be staring right back at you as you drink your Slurpee from 7-Eleven — but Australian actor Chris Hemsworth is about to break out in a major way in the comic book film Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh and arriving in theaters May 6. He stars as the title god of thunder, who’s tossed from mythical Asgard to Earth by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to live with humans and learns how to be a true hero. And Hemsworth, who had a small yet important role as Captain Kirk’s dad in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, isn’t the only guy in the Hemsworth clan to be in a major movie — his brother Liam just signed on to the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ mega-popular book The Hunger Games with Jennifer Lawrence. We talked with Hemsworth at our exclusive superhero photo shoot with him and Captain America star Chris Evans (who’s also in The Avengers with him) about his career so far and about playing Thor, so read below for more from the interview for our recent cover story and check out this clip Hemsworth bringing the thunder to an opponent in Thor.
Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures
I’m gonna guess that Thor is a much different character compared to your other roles.
When I watch myself in other things, which have a similar background and foreground aesthetically, a simpler approach, it’s difficult to watch. You get overly critical, and I think most actors feel that way. But with something like this, there’s so much going on and so many other elements that are so impressive, even I get swept up in the journey of it. The trailers and the film have such a sense of fun and adventure that you can’t not get taken for the ride.
Was there anything that you had to do that made you say, “Wow, that seems kind of silly”?
[Laughs] Some of the wire gags and hanging upside down and what have you. I’m a pretty active person, but some of that stuff, I was like, “God, get me down from this thing.” It’s hard work! It’s like you’re an actor one minute and an acrobat the next, spinning upside down backwards for certain things and just wanting to throw up. But it all looks good once it’s up there on the screen.
Do you enjoy the importance of being the on-screen god of thunder for heaps of Thor fans?
It’s a huge mix of nerves and being scared s***less but also excitement. It’s that adrenaline. It’s like doing anything where there’s a great risk, whether it’s bungee jumping or whatever it is you want to throw yourself into – not that I’m a bungee jumper. [Laughs] Jumping out of a plane is thrilling and nerve-wracking, and that’s what I feel about this. There’s all the negative side of your brain, which is going, “Oh [shoot], what if this happens?” but there’s all the great things. I got into this business because I love acting, and this is going to give me hopefully opportunity to continue doing that.
Is it weird to see your face on Slurpee cups and toy boxes and such?
Absolutely. I don’t know if you can ever prepare for it. Maybe you get used to it, I don’t know. You’ve got to have a good laugh about it, be it with my mates or whatever. Beyond that, I don’t overcontemplate it.
Was it a role that you really, really wanted?
I was in and out of the thing for a while — yes, no, yes, no, maybe, hang on, give us another look. The very first time I read for it, I just had a real gut instinct about it: Oh, I got this. I know this.” That’s the way it is sometimes, it just feels right. And then I didn’t get a callback. It was like, “I guess I was wrong.” [Laughs] Then for whatever reason, I got a call again later on and got brought back in. It’s an odd psychology, auditioning. It’s such an emotional game, and you try to find ways to convince yourself that you don’t really care: “If I get this great. If not, doesn’t matter.” If you’re honest, you go in there with the attitude of “[Expletive], I need this because I want to pay the rent but also, what a lot of fun it would be.” Then there’s a desperation, which is unappealing and not helpful when you’re acting. That’s always the challenge, to keep your head in all of it and try to simplify it and not get caught up in the possibilities of the what ifs and whatnots.
Your brother’s also an actor…
He almost got Thor! It was down to the last four or five guys, and then they decided they hadn’t quite found the guy yet so they reopened the search. That’s when I got another foot in the door. I probably should thank him for that, which he reminds me of on a daily basis. “You know, the only reason you got it, Chris…”
Is it cool to be in the same business as your brother and have someone close with whom you can talk shop?
Of course. It’s a huge thing. We both love what we do and when he gets a part or I get a part, we’re both just happy for each other. We’re both aware of the door being closed so many times. We’re in it together, and I find that’s the way it is with a lot of my buddies who are in this business. There’s a real camaraderie with it. You’ve got to because otherwise it’s a pretty tough thing to do solo. We have a lot of fun — we work a lot of our stuff together, and certainly when I went into this audition, he gave me hints telling me what he could about what he felt Ken wanted. “I did this, this and this, and didn’t get the part, so don’t do that!” [Laughs]
You grew up a surfer, but did you play any other sports?
Australian rules football.
That’s the crazy stuff — at least if you’re used to watching American football.
[Laughs] It was tough. I played from probably since I was 9 up until I was 16. When I was 16, I dislocated my shoulder and tore all the ligaments. That was kind of it. I had started surfing more and doing other things, and by the time my shoulder healed, I lost the bug for it. I also did the 110-meter hurdles – that was a thing I was doing for a while when I was competing. I got a couple of state medals, and then just had a different idea. That’s the way it always is. I have different ideas about things all the time and new interests, and I guess [acting] is the thing that I’ve stuck with.
A lot of us know you as Captain Kirk’s dad for a few minutes there in the last Star Trek movie. How is it go from something like that — a small part in a major event movie — to something like this where you’re THE guy.
It was a nice introduction, having had that first. You want to keep evolving and taking that next step, and this is certainly a big step for me.
Are we ever going to see the Red Dawn remake you starred in?
Well, you’ll have to ask MGM. [Laughs] I loved the original and the premise of it was a whole lot of fun and shooting the film was fun. Hopefully we’ll get to see it soon.
Your Avengers director Joss Whedon co-wrote another of your movies that hasn’t been released yet, The Cabin in the Woods. That should help when you get to the Avengers set.
Because I know him, yeah. I’ve got him on my side!
When you get your next film, which will most likely be smaller in scale than Thor or The Avengers, will that be a welcome change for you?
Sure. Not have to put on armor? Absolutely. Just to simplify it all again. As fun as it is, big films like this are exhausting. For me, it’s all about being excited about the material on whatever level.