Thor: Ragnarok's Chris Hemsworth on reinventing the God of Thunder
We chatted with Hemsworth about refreshing his character with a more grounded and modern approach.
Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston
November 3, 2017
Ask any actor and they’ll tell you one of their greatest fears is becoming bored by a character they play. Sigourney Weaver struggled to find interesting ways to portray Ellen Ripley after four Alien films, and Daniel Craig openly questioned whether he could muster another turn as James Bond before agreeing to play the superspy in Bond 25.
Chris Hemsworth’s moment of truth came when he admitted that playing Thor, the Norse god he portrayed in two Avengers films and two standalone Thor films, had become a chore.
“I’d just become incredibly bored with myself and with my interpretation of the character,” says Hemsworth on the line from Los Angeles. “I called up [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige and I said, ‘Man, we’ve got to find something different for this world and this character, I can’t do the same thing, I feel like I’ve got handcuffs on as an actor.’”
Well, the handcuffs came off with the third pic in the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok, a fantastical romp that redefines Hemsworth’s somewhat sombre superhero as a charming, comedic do-gooder who still knows how to land a punch and fight for justice.
The movie’s place in the MCU
The film, directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi, is set after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and sees Thor leaving Earth to patrol the universe and search for the all-powerful Infinity Stones. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has also left Earth after realizing his growing attraction to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a danger to them both.
The story kicks off when Thor is kidnapped by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), the ruler of the planet Sakaar who pits Thor against a captured Hulk in a gladiatorial match. From there, the action ramps up as the reunited pals set out to stop goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying Asgard and bringing forth Ragnarok, or the end of the world.
Reinventing Thor’s persona
“Thor feels much more grounded in this film,” says Hemsworth. “I wanted to get away from him being too godly and larger than life, I wanted him to feel a little more contemporary. And so we moved away from his Shakespearean tonality, the sort of rhythms that he speaks with, and that gave me a lot of freedom interpret things differently.”
Also different is Thor’s hair — his golden locks are gone.
“As soon as I cut the hair it felt like I could move differently and speak differently,” notes Hemsworth. “There’s really something liberating about it because, on a subconscious level, you put the wig on, you put the costume on, and your body goes, ‘Oh yeah, we operate like this.’ No matter how hard I tried to get out of that, it wasn’t until we did something drastic, aesthetically, that I went, ‘Oh yeah, here we go!’ I feel lighter on my feet all of a sudden.”
The Hemsworth-Waititi bond
The 34-year-old Aussie says credit goes to Kiwi director Waititi for making the cosmic adventure possible. Waititi, now 42, began his career as a painter and then dove into stand-up comedy, photography, acting and filmmaking. His directing credits include Eagle vs Shark, Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows, and Hemsworth says the fact that he and Waititi are from the same part of the world only strengthened their working relationship.
From our archives: Watch director Taika Waititi’s 2017 interview for Thor: Ragnarok
“There was an instant kind of connection or bond, and a similar sense of humour and attitudes we sort of fell right into and also made it such an ease to work together.”
You can hear the genuine excitement in Hemsworth’s voice when he speaks about the movie and a character he’s played time and time again.
“Thor feels much more grounded in this film,” says Hemsworth. “I wanted to get away from him being too godly and larger than life, I wanted him to feel a little more contemporary.
“It’s exciting because I certainly am not losing stamina or motivation to play Thor. You know, I’ve spoken to people in big franchises who kind of feel the fatigue and they’re like, ‘Ugh, yeah, I’m kind of done.’ Whereas this, I think all of us went, ‘Oh my god, this is like a different franchise now. I feel like a different character in a different world.’ Who knows where we go in the Marvel Universe from here, but this is probably the most fun I’ve had playing the character.”
Are you ready for Avengers: Endgame?
First, get your tickets! Then, book some quality catch-up time. You’ll find all the MCU titles (not still in theatre) at the Cineplex store! Whether you should watch them chronologically or by order of release is one battle you’ll have to take on with your friends.