When Kenneth Branaugh was set to direct Marvel comic-based “Thor,” the first move he made was to cast its title character. Speaking to HitFix at San Diego's Comic-Con 2010 last weekend, the veteran thespian and director knew precisely what kind of actor he wanted in mind for the auditions: “It had to be somebody we hadn’t seen before… and somebody needed to walk into the room and be prepared to work out and be a sensitive actor at the same time."
He “struck gold” with Aussie Chris Hemsworth
– though, perhaps, very nearly did the same with Hemsworth’s brother Liam. Both men had auditioned for Thor, but then it “didn’t go any further" initially for Chris. Hemsworth the Younger, on the other hand, was actually flown out from Australia to meet with casting shortly after his audition.
“I was as excited as I was secretly angry,” Chris laughed. The casting process went on. Both were in the running but in the end it was just Chris. He said that he and his brother gave each other feedback all along the way.
Meanwhile, as Hemsworth built up body mass, Branagh had been sorting what to do with such a big budget for a film.
“If you have an idea, if you have inspiration and if the creativity is flowing, it’s possible for it to be expressed and encouraged. It all costs money and, at some point, you have to have difficult conversations in that way, but basically, the prime thing is: ‘How can we make this the best it can be, on a scale that it needs to have and at an intense pitch?’” he said, adding that part of the pitch was to “deliver a spectacle -- not only in the execution of visual effects, but also in the concept of visual effects, really trying to push the envelope.”
Part of the appeal of “Thor”
to Branagh was that larger-than-life magnitude of production, which the story itself demands. “I definitely had a passion for Thor. I didn’t have a huge history with the comic books, but I loved what this story represented. I loved its epic scale, the color, the grandeur of it, the fact that it traveled across space, all the vivid contrasts in the runs of the comics, and the blood and guts of it. And, paradoxically, there is a great human story at the center of a story about Gods.”
Keeping the film to the “Marvel look” and feel was not only important for fans of the “Thor” comic, but for avid “Avengers” fans as well. Branagh says, “An important thing we wanted to do at Comic-Con is show how ‘Thor’ fits into ‘The Avengers
’ world. It can live there, but it also brings a pretty exotic thing that is going to be much more present in the film.”
Hemsworth hasn’t seen a script yet for Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” but the key to acting in it will have everything to do with personnel.
He notes, “The key to acting is… hopefully you’ve got someone across from you that’s going to give you something to react to. All day, throws it at you.”
Read about what co-star Anthony Hopkins had to throw at Hemsworth in our video report here.
Check out what Thor rival Loki (Tom Hiddleston) had to say about his character and Branagh here.
opens nationwide and in 3-D on May 5, 2011.