Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, Jaimie Alexander and Idris Elba Put the Hammer Down for Thor
by Brad Balfour
Originally posted May 5, 2011.
Inspired by in the very chilly Scandinavian country of Norway, the Marvel Comics-based Thor – with its roots in the legends of the Norse Gods and their fabled home of Asgard – puts a grand and glorious… verging on the absurd… spin on the pulp-ish superhero.
Okay, putting a Nordic spin on director Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, the latest cinematic rendering of a Marvel Comic character, might be pushing it – but this flick hits most of the grandiose marks and certainly won’t dissuade the interest in anything mythic or even Shakespearean.
As quality genre flicks go, this huge, effects-laden epic looks like it’s worth the $150 million dollars that it cost.
The film starts in 899 AD Norway, when the Gods, led by Odin (Anthony Hopkins), defeat the Frost Giants who have plaguing Midgard (Earth). The victory is won at a cost – Odin’s eye – and the enemy is pushed back to their home world of Jotunheim.
When several giants try to regain the Casket of Ancient Winters, the source of their power which had been seized by Odin, his hot-headed, arrogant elder son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leads a band of fellow warriors to attack them, thus defying his father’s will and abrogating the fragile peace.
As a result, he’s banished to Earth without his powers. Thor must now prove himself worthy in order to regain his hammer Mjolnir, his power, and then battle his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has betrayed Odin and the other Gods.
Without going into the endless plot permutations, the Shakespearean-trained Branagh turns out to be an inspired choice to helm this tale, told with over-the-top theatrical excess and incredible effects. It also adds to the set up for the upcoming epic The Avengers.
The recent Los Angeles press conference for the film – which included Hemsworth, Hopkins, Hiddleston, Kat Dennings (sidekick to scientist and love interest Natalie Portman), Idris Elba (who plays Asgard’s stolid guard Heimdall) and Jaimie Alexander (who plays, Sif, one of Thor’s warrior allies) sat down to talk about Thor and turned out a few grand and glorious comments as documented below.
Tom, is it true that you thought that Loki was the hero of the movie and that you wanted to be Thor?
Tom Hiddleston: I think there are no villains in this world; there are just misunderstood heroes. Loki thinks he is the hero. There’s an aspect of Loki that is, essentially, that if you boil this film down to its barest elements, it’s about a father and two sons. Both of those sons are two brothers competing for the love and affection and pride of their father, Odin, played by Tony [Hopkins]. There’s just a deeply misguided intention within Loki. He has a kind of a damage within him. And he just goes about getting that pride in the wrong way.
I didn’t actually want to be Thor, but my hair is in all sorts of trouble at the moment. I was born with very blonde, curly hair, not unlike Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m 6’2”. So like every other English-speaking actor over 6 foot who’s got blonde hair, I went up for the part of Thor. But I’m not built like a house, like [Chris]. And there’s no way in Odin’s Asgard I could have delivered what Chris has done. It was always meant to be this way, I think. We’re much happier as things are.
Chris, what kind of hero do you think we need today? And what’s your favorite movie hero?
Chris Hemsworth: Growing up, parents were my heroes… in the way they conducted their lives. My dad works in child protection, and he’s spent many years in that line of work. As kids, our experiences shape our opinions on ourselves, and the world around us, and that’s who we become as adults, because of that experience. So yeah, he’s certainly been my hero.
In movies, the idea is of a heightened reality and the fantasy is that we’re able to be swept up in these larger-than-life heroes. And the possibility of someone much more powerful and greater than we are can come and save the day, which, so to speak, is inspiring. It’s the people who put themselves on the line and sacrifice their own safety for the greater good and for others. I think anyone in any sort of profession [in which] their concern is the welfare of other people instead of individual: that is inspiring and important.
Growing up, I had a lot of different [heroes from] films. Superman was probably the very first one I was aware of, and I would run around the house pretending to be him, at some stage when I was a kid. I also had a Robin costume, Batman’s sidekick, which a nice pair of green underwear and a yellow shirt and red cape. I was about six or seven. I love Han Solo too.
Could you talk about the most miserable things you did to actually get that kind of physique?
Chris Hemsworth: The most uncomfortable thing was the eating. I didn’t mind so much the working out. I’d never really lifted weights to that capacity beforehand, and it was certainly a whole new sort of education, for a good six months. I just don’t naturally sit at that weight, so I had to force feed myself with 20 chicken breasts and rice and steak and all very boring to the plain things. That was the most exhausting part, I think, out of the whole film; [it] was the eating. It wasn’t the fun stuff, either. It wasn’t hamburgers and pizza and what have you.
For Sir Anthony Hopkins, what drew you to be a part of this comic-book movie? Was it a chance to work with Thor director Kenneth Branagh, or was it the material itself?
Anthony Hopkins: It’s Ken Branagh, basically. If they gave me enough money to read the phone book, I’d do it. See, I live in a total state of non-expectation. I don’t expect things. I keep my expectations very low about everything, especially the last few years. I had come back from a movie with Woody Allen [You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger], which was a big surprise. I enjoyed that. Then I had an agent and I left them, because I wasn’t very happy. I got a new agent, and within two days they said, “Would you like to meet Ken Branagh?” and I said, “Yeah. What about?” He said, “Odin.” I said, “Oh, that’s a god, isn’t it?” He says, “Yeah.”
The funny thing was, I hadn’t seen Ken for some years, and wasn’t sure how he would respond to me, because I was one of the bad boys who ran away from England many years ago, and I came out to Cuckoo Land out here. I never fit into British theater and all that. So I wasn’t sure how he’d receive me. But we met at the breakfast down in Santa Monica. He was very pleasant and friendly, and we had a chat about old times and all that. He said, “Would you like to play Odin?” I said, “Yeah, okay.” He gave me the script and I read it. I thought, “Yeah, I’d love to work with him,” because I’ve always been a fan of Ken’s, actually.
I’m not a geek, but I read Captain Marvel as a kid, and that’s all. It turned out that [Thor] was the most enjoyable film I’ve been involved in for a long time, principally because of the cast here, and Chris and Tom and everyone. And Ken. I’d gone through a patch where I was getting very indifferent to everything, and I could care less about anything. Then to work with Ken, he just pushed the right buttons to get me to give of my best. I really value that in him, because I’d gotten lazy. He’s one of the best directors I’ve worked with, and so that was the principle reason.
And hey, I wanted the work. Gotta pay the rent, you know? I thought this was a nice part. Didn’t have to do too much. The only thing was, I wish I’d gone down to New Mexico, because I had such a good time in the studios. My time was so brief. I think I was only on it about three weeks, on those great sets and everything. And then, no acting required. I wrote in my script, NAR — no acting required, let the armor act for me on the sets. So I let the armor do it for it, and the beard, and that was about it. And showed up and put on my voice and that was about it, but I really enjoyed it.