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Thor Feature: Chris Hemsworth Talks About Asgard and Being The God of Thunder

In line Thor's fast approaching release in the Philippines, here is a special interview transcript of Chris Hemsworth talking about his involvement to the project shedding some infos about the set and even giving some early insights about the upcoming crossover: The Avengers.

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).

God's of Asgard will descend on all cinemas nationwide on April 29 (Philippines, May 4 in US) to be distributed by United International Pictures Philippines from Marvel Studios.

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