Having spent much of his career in television in his native Australia, actor Chris Hemsworth was virtually unknown in this country until director J.J. Abrams gave him a small but plum role in the 2009 blockbuster Star Trek: that of Starship commander George Kirk, who sacrifices his life at the start of the movie in order to save his wife and newborn son, James T. Kirk.
Even though he spent barely five minutes on screen, Hemsworth was so touching in the role that his Hollywood career suddenly kick started. He moved to Los Angeles and landed a part in the thriller A Perfect Getaway, co-starring Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich. But that movie bombed, and although everyone said how great he had been in Star Trek, “I kept saying ‘That’s great, but how about a job?’’’ the actor says, laughing. “I went through an eight-month period where I couldn’t land a single role. I was at the point where I was going to throw in the towel and move back to Australia.”
Then Kenneth Branagh sent Hemsworth the script for Thor. “I knew a little bit about the character, but I obviously knew who Kenneth Branagh was. The first piece of acting I ever did was in a play called Much Ado About Nothing, and since I didn’t know a whole lot about Shakespeare, I just watched Branagh’s film and ripped off what I could from that. So it’s funny that years later I ended up working with him.”
Hemsworth says he understands how fans were originally taken aback by the decision to hire Branagh to direct a giant comic-book adaptation.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a group of actors standing on a set with a camera,” he says. “There’s just a lot more money involved. What was so interesting about Ken doing this film is that his background is very Shakespearean and Old English, and that is very much Thor’s world, so there was a familiarity there. Also, having a director who is so devoted to character was a sure way that the story would be taken care of. The special effects in these films are often great, but sometimes little effort is put into the characters.”
Hemsworth is currently working with another director, Joss Whedon, known for his emphasis on ensemble casts. “We started shooting on The Avengers last Monday, and it’s been great so far,” he says. “I’m astonished how he’s been able to bring all these characters together and yet keep them as distinct individuals. To have all these great superheroes get mashed together is going to be a hell of a ride.”
Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth at the "Thor" premiere in Los Angeles