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The Hot Seat: Chris Hemsworth

The star of Thor knows that to succeed, you carry a big...hammer.

Illustration: Dan Park

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You're calling from Australia, so it's a whole day ahead for you. How's the future?
It's interesting! And just as we expected.

Flying cars, then? Awesome.
[Laughs] Exactly. Exactly like that.

As the titular Thor, are you god or alien in this movie?
He's sort of a god. Until he's banished in half-human form. Kind of.

But mostly Thor's kind of a whiny jerk, at least at first?
He's certainly pretty arrogant and cocky. He's prince of the universe, and that's all he knows! Until he's stripped away, broken down.

It's got to be fun to play the prince of the universe.
It was fun to take the character in a lot of different directions. We had 40 or 50 years of comic-book story to play with.

And you read all 50 years of Thor comic books, right?
[Laughs] Not a whole lot. I had to read as many as I could, but I knew more about Viking mythology, that sort of adventure stuff. [Director] Ken Branagh gave me a bunch of comic books and books on Norse mythology. But he said, "This is not a test, I'm not gonna quiz you. If you get something from it, great." I think his idea was to fill my imagination.

Be honest: How much of the homework did you really do?
Quite a lot! I did read a lot of them.

The new Superman, Henry Cavill, and Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, are both British guys, and you're Australian. Are Americans too wimpy to be superheroes?

You guys have a few! I think it's good to have an international mix of superheroes. And Thor doesn't have to be from anywhere real. I can only speak on behalf of Australians, but we're able to have a big education in acting, so we're good to use to get a fresh face for a superhero.

There were reports that when you showed up on set for Thor, you'd bulked up too much to fit in your costume. Are you an overachiever?
I just read that the guy weighed like 700 kilograms [about 1,543 pounds]; that made me anxious! That lit the furnace to get in the gym. I was told to get as big as I could, and then two weeks before we started shooting, we had a fitting. My fingers and hands stared going numb. The costume had no give in it, so I had two weeks to slim down.

How did you do that? Sit on the couch and watch soaps?
I had to run it off, and eat less. I had to change my whole program.

That sounds less fun. How does training to be a superhero differ from training to be on the Australian edition of Dancing with the Stars?
Not much, actually. It was a whole lot of physical exhaustion both times. They're both ridiculous in their own ways. [Laughs] I had fun doing both; you can't take it too seriously. Uh, but I certainly won't be doing dancing again. That I won't be doing.

But you will play Thor again, in the Avengers movie.
We start shooting soon. I've read the latest draft. Highly top secret, I can't tell you anything. The story is... It's the result of all the individual stories leading up to it. You have all the big egos of the superheroes together, it's an interesting mix.

Okay, so back to dancing. Who's a better dancer, you or Thor costar Natalie Portman?
She is. She's a far better dancer. We were talking about our training programs, because she was right in the middle of training [for Black Swan] when we met, and I was in training too. For vastly different things.

Did you ever hurt yourself with Thor's hammer? What was your biggest injury on set?
Hm. Oh, I hit myself in the face with the whip. It wasn't even mine, it was another character's. I was trying to show off. A bit of karma—cracked myself in the face, I had to ice for the next seven hours.

To even get the part, you had to fight your little brother, Liam, right?
Well, we were never competing right at the same time. It was separately. We were certainly in the final ten [actors considered]. Of all the people in the world to also be in it, my little brother.

But you won. Were you always able to take him when you were kids?
I was until he got bigger, but now we're pretty similar size. Now it's done with words.

How did you battle as kids?
Oh, God. We had all sorts of weapons we had made out of sticks and swords that we'd build, there were a few attempts to kill me. It was a very boyish fun childhood. My mum says she doesn't know how any of us survived.

Thor's director, Kenneth Branagh, is known for doing Shakespeare. Is this a Shakespearey superhero movie?
We talked about the similarities between the characters of Henry V and Thor. He's a young prince, ascending to the throne, and there's an old English feel to the family, kings and queens. It's things Ken knows so well. It certainly influenced [the movie]. It was an interesting choice having him involved.

You were in the remake of Red Dawn, which is still in limbo and hasn't been released. When do we get to see that?
And Cabin in the Woods—both shot before Thor. It's something with MGM, I dunno. I hear different rumors. But it's funny, when they come out, I'll look six years younger. People'll think I'm Benjamin Button.

One last question: What's the strangest nickname you've ever had?
Sass. It was because I lived in a place called Sassafras. A little girly, isn't it?

Thor opens Fri 6.

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