The summer movie season kicks off this Friday with the release of 'Thor,' the latest superhero from Marvel Comics to arrive on the big screen. But unlike Tony Stark, Thor is no mere mortal -- he is the Norse God of Thunder. Armed with his magic hammer Mjolnir, he crash lands on Earth, ready to continue his superhuman fight against his evil stepbrother, the God of Mischief known as Loki.
Trying to find an actual human being who can convincingly play a god is a tough casting call, but 'Thor' director Kenneth Branagh finally found his son of Odin in Australian actor Chris Hemsworth. Outside of a small part in 2009's 'Star Trek' (as Captain Kirk's dad), Hemsworth is an unknown screen presence in the States. With all eyes on him in his first starring role, the young actor is prepping to enter a whole new world of filmmaking as part of the most audacious big-screen superhero project ever, 'The Avengers.'
Hemsworth spoke with Moviefone about how tough it was to bring a comic book superhero to life, navigating show business with his brother Liam, and having his face plastered on Slurpee cups.
Moviefone: What kind of shape do you have to get into to play the "God of Thunder"?
Chris Hemsworth: Well, I looked at the comic books, and in those, the guy is 400, 500 pounds heavier than I was, so I thought, OK, better start working out. But Ken and I talked and we wanted the character to be obviously physically strong, but functional. We didn't want him to get too bulky that he ended up looking like a steroid body-builder, then it becomes comical. We wanted there to still be a functionality to it -- The workouts were sometimes entertaining, but a lot of times, pretty brutal. At the end of a 15, 16 hour day getting into the gym and eating copious amounts of protein wasn't fun either [Laughs].
What did it feel like to pick up the hammer for the first time?
[Laughs] Yeah, it was awesome. I read so much about the comics and Mjolnir all the way leading up to this, and to actually be on set and finally have it in my hands was very exciting. The thing had a decent amount of weight to it and we had various versions of it, but the one with the most weight to it, you move, when you swing it, and it just looks more powerful.
What aspect of the film are you most excited to see with an audience on the big screen?
[Thor's] sense of adventure, his physicality and his relish in battle. There's a sort of berserker quality, but you can also see that he loves this, this is fun for him. This is as good as going for a surf or playing baseball on the weekends for him. And that was really fun to play with, and I look forward to seeing it on the big screen.
What do Kenneth Branagh and ['Avengers' director] Joss Whedon bring to the Marvel movie universe?
Both have an incredible love for filmmaking and storytelling. They probably have two very different approaches, but I've heard Joss taking about Shakespeare and Ken talking about Superman. At the end of the day, there's still a camera and you've got actors on a set. Depending on your whereabouts in the stratosphere of this business, it's ultimately the same thing. They both really love this business and have a passion for storytelling.
What badass song would you want to play with your first appearance on screen?
If it was my choice? Jeez, what about 'My Hero,' by Foo Fighters.
On your list of career accomplishments, where does having your own Slurpee cup rank?
It's pretty high up there. It's hilarious, I like it. I was talking about with my older brother the other day and his daughter was running around the house with a Thor action figure; he wanted to pull the batteries out of it because she keeps pressing the button and making it speak: "I am Thor!" or "The mighty Mjolnir!" It does nothing but make me laugh, it's great.
Your younger brother Liam is also about to enter the world of blockbuster movies, starring in 'The Hunger Games.' What kind of advice did you have for him about handling heavily hyped movies?
My advice was to approach it the same way you approach anything else; don't get swept up in the size and scale of it all. You still want to be true to the story, your character and that's your job. It doesn't matter the budget. We bounce ideas around all the time about scripts and things; he's got his head on his shoulders, he's a level-headed guy and very talented. He'll have a great time.
He already has some experience as a teen heartthrob. Did he give you any advice on how to romance Natalie Portman?
Did he teach me how to kiss, is that what you're asking? No. [Laughs] It's all rather intimidating and fairly unromantic; you've got fifty people around you and cameras on. It ends up being quite humorous more than anything. You feel like little kids; you've just got to have a laugh and get on with it.
Now that you're part of the world comic book fandom, we have to ask, who would win in a fight -- your Thor or Henry Cavill's Superman?
I've got to back myself here, but I've also got to be very mindful of that particular franchise. But I reckon it would be a bloody battle. I hope you're saying me.