Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures deliver an origin story about a hammer-wielding god banished to Earth in the comic book-inspired action film, Thor. Aussie Chris Hemsworth (sure to become one of the most sought after actors following this film) stars as Thor, with Tom Hiddleston playing his trouble-making brother Loki and Sir Anthony Hopkins as his father, Odin, the King of Asgard. Kat Dennings co-stars as an intern who, along with Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard, helps Thor during his time on Earth.
Together in LA for a press conference in support of the film, Thor's stars discussed their characters, the costumes, the sets, and working with director Kenneth Branagh.
Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston and Kat Dennings Thor Press Conference
Tom, we heard that you one, thought you were the hero of the movie; and two, that you wanted to be Thor. Could you talk a little about that?
Tom Hiddleston: "Well, I think there are no villains in this world - there are just misunderstood heroes. And Loki definitely...I think 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. And both those sons are two brothers competing for the love and affection and pride of their father, Odin, played by Tony here. And I think there’s just sort of a deeply misguided intention within Loki. And 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, and 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 the man to my right. 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. And so yeah, I think we’re much happier as things are."
Chris, this is a movie about a hero. What kind of hero do you think we need today? And do you have a favorite movie hero?
Chris Hemsworth: "Good question. I mean, growing up my parents were my heroes, you know, and my dad, in the way they conducted their lives. My dad works in child protection. He’s spent many, many years in that line of work. And we, as kids, our experiences shape our opinions on ourselves and the world around us, that’s who we become as adults, because of that experience. So yeah, he’s certainly been my hero."
"You know, in movies, I think the idea of a heightened reality and then the fantasy that we’re able to be swept up in, and then these larger than life heroes and the possibility of someone much more powerful than we are and greater that can come and save the day, so to speak, is inspiring. And 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 who, their concern is the welfare of other people instead of individual, I think that is inspiring and important."
Did you have any favorite superhero characters growing up?
Chris Hemsworth: "Yeah. I think Superman was probably the very first one I was aware of and, you know, 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 is a nice pair of green underwear and a yellow shirt and red cape.
Chris Hemsworth: "Well, I was about six or seven. I was pretty small. Yeah, I don’t know. But I love Han Solo, too."
Chris, could you talk about the most miserable things you did to actually get that kind of physique? And do you know how to spell Mjolnir?
Chris Hemsworth: "Mjolnir - ah, good question. M-L-J-O-I-N-E-R? Is that right? Who’s gonna correct me? Is it even a word? Yeah, 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 plain things. And that was the most exhausting part, I think, out of the whole film, actually was the eating. It wasn’t the fun stuff, either. It wasn’t hamburgers and pizza and what have you."
Sir Anthony Hopkins, what drew you to be a part of this, essentially a comic book movie? Was it getting the chance to work with 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, well, I live in a total state of non-expectation, and I don’t expect things. I keep my expectations very low about everything, especially the last few years. And I had come back from a movie with Woody Allen, which was a big surprise - I enjoyed that. And 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.'"
"Funny thing was, I hadn’t seen Ken for some years. I 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, you know, out here, because I never fitted into British theater and all that. So I wasn’t sure how he’d receive me. But we met [...]down in Santa Monica, and he was very pleasant and friendly. We had a chat about old times and all that. And he said, 'Would you like to play Odin?' I said, 'Yeah, okay.' He gave me the script and I read it. And I thought, 'Yeah, I’d love to work with him,' because I’ve always been a fan of Ken’s, actually."
"I’d never read... I’m not a geek, you know? But it turned out that it 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 think I’d gone through a patch where I was getting very indifferent to everything, you know, and I could care less about anything. And 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? And 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, you know, 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 me - 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."
Chris, physical demands of the role aside, how did you as an actor approach the mighty role of Thor? Did you look into the 600+ issues of the comics, or did you pay more attention to the mythology, like the actual Norse mythology, or did you find a way to combine both? What was important to you when taking on this role?
Chris Hemsworth: "I started with the comic books, but I didn’t read all - however many of them - there are thousands of them, 40 or 50 years’ worth. But I certainly read enough to get a sense of who he was and the world he was from. And then I read some things on Norse mythology and this sort of fatalistic view they have that everything’s preordained and that leads the Vikings into this fearless sort of attitude in battle and with their lives. They certainly back their opinions, I think. They’re not swayed easy. And that spoke volumes to me about the character. But then it was, you know, you fill your head with whatever information and research you have. But on set, it was just about making it truthful and finding a way, a simpler way that I could relate to it. Instead of thinking, 'How do I play a powerful god?' it became about, as Tom said, scenes between fathers and sons and brothers. You personalize that and that helps ground the story, I think, for an audience. And then we can relate to it and hopefully an audience can, too."
Kat, your character held the largest comedic role throughout the film. How was that, in such a serious action film?
Kat Dennings: "Well, I didn’t really have... That’s the thing. I saw the film like a week ago, and I hadn’t seen any of the Asgard stuff. I know when you got to our parts in Santa Fe, you felt like you were on a different film. It’s a totally different thing. So it didn’t feel like, 'Oh, I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.' It kind of felt like he [Chris Hemsworth as Thor] didn’t belong. "
Chris Hemsworth: "And that was what was funny, yeah. Yeah."
Kat Dennings: "Yeah, which is why it’s hilarious. And Natalie and I have been friends for years anyway, so it was actually pretty easy. We just hung out and goofed off and were girls. Poor Stellan had to listen to us talk about, like boys and nail polish. Yeah, so it was pretty easy. "
How does the costume inform your character, in terms of creating and becoming that person?
Tom Hiddleston: "The costumes are - I mean, they are incredibly heavy. It’s like kind of if you got up in the morning and you wear a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and some flip-flops, it’s kind of a signal that you might be going to the beach. And if you get up in the morning and you wear a breast plate and a back plate and a cape, and a pair of golden Satanic horns on your head, it’s quite clear that you’re doing something else. And also, we were so helped by not just the costumes, but by the beautiful sets built by Beau Welch, the production designer. You’ve got no furniture to lean on, really, and no props to busy your performance. So there has to be a kind of simplicity, too. The costumes make you stand straighter. And when you’re in big - it’s like being in a neoclassical museum, and if you go up to the Getty, you have a sense of the size of the place, and that just does stuff to the way you stand."
Anthony, how did you handle the eye patch?
Anthony Hopkins: "Yeah, it’s an interesting. No, I can’t remember. They put it on the wrong eye, first of all. And I said, 'I think you made this for the wrong eye,' because it wouldn’t fit in. They said, 'Yeah, we did.' The only problem with that was I had moments of anxiety because I had no three dimensional vision. I felt like an old...well, I’m not that young anymore, but to be guided onto the set, I felt very embarrassed, you know? 'This way,' because I couldn’t see."
"But no, the thing would come off very quickly. But it was a costume and it helped and all that. You don’t have to do too much, except speak up, I guess. But you don’t have to act. It’s like John Wayne said, 'When you’re in the desert, he doesn’t have to act; you let the desert do it for you.'"
"But I think those guys, those movie actors of that time, you know, they knew what they were doing. They just got on their horses and they did it and they were wonderful. So I take a page out of their copy book and try not to do too much. But Ken challenges you all the time, in a very nice, gentlemanly, charming way. I like the way he says, 'My learned, esteemed colleague, I would like you to stand here.' It seemed like at the end, he said, 'Ah, my esteemed colleague, Mr. Hopkins,' and he’s very cunning. He said, 'I’d like you to stand here, and then Chris will come up behind you.' He said, 'Do you have any suggestions?' I said, 'Yeah, but I’m not gonna tell them to you because you want me to stand here, don’t you?' He said, 'Yes.' 'So you just tell me where to stand and I’ll do it.' See, and you know with someone like that, he knows so much. And that’s the most comforting thing. You don’t have to work; you just do what he tells you. And I know that sounds pretty wimpy to do that, but why not? He knows what he wants. A good director knows what he wants, and what it’s gonna look like."
Anthony, is saying this film is Shakespearean in tone putting too much weight onto what’s essentially a comic book story?
Anthony Hopkins: "No, I don’t think so. I don’t trouble my little brain with that stuff, because I don’t think about too much of anything, anyway, when I go on a film set, because you can analyze and analyze, and I leave that to the guys, you know - the boss, the director. They decide what it’s gonna be like, and you just follow. I’m not trying to demean my role in it, but you follow certain guidelines. 'This is what he wants,' if you’re working with a director - like Spielberg or Clint Eastwood or Ken Branagh or whoever, or Scorsese - you follow the guidelines of what their style is. And he mentioned Shakespeare quite a lot and we referred, in the readings beforehand, we had about a week’s readings down in Manhattan Beach."
"We talked, not extensively, but a bit about the good old Westerns. You know, Shane, one of my favorite all time Westerns, when the bad guys come in and they have a conference and they try to negotiate - and Jack Palance looks innocent and all that - to have that sort of feeling of the autocratic father and the troublesome sons. There’s a wonderful film called Law Man, which Ken and I talked about, with Burt Lancaster - a great movie about rival factions. There’s the father, played by Lee J. Cobb, and all these bad sons he’s got. There’s always one son who’s a little in the middle, not quite sure where he belongs."
"We have those points of reference. On the horse when I meet...I don’t know if it’s in the film...I meet my enemy and I say, 'Let’s talk about this. We don’t need any bloodshed.' That was taken from an idea of a Western negotiation. I love those points of reference because I was a fan of all those early Western movies, Gary Cooper and all those guys, yeah."
Tom, Loki’s such a great villain because he is so relatable and dimensional, and you don’t really know if he’s right or if he’s wrong, or what he’s feeling or thinking. When you guys were crafting this, was it with a trajectory towards the Avengers, and are we going to continue to see Loki as that kind of a character in The Avengers or is it going to be a little more diametrical?
Tom Hiddleston: "Well, really, I just took the character that I saw in the comics. I mean, Loki is a master of magic. And he is, in the Marvel universe, he is the agent of chaos. And really, his superpower is his intelligence, if you like. He’s a shape shifter and it’s his ability to stay 10 steps ahead of everybody else. So absolutely, Ken and Chris and Tony and I all talked about having those layers in a way that he’s someone with a fierce intelligence, but also a very damaged heart."
"I’m not sure but I think a red dot will form on my forehead if I give any more information about Loki and The Avengers. All I can tell you is that Loki will be in The Avengers, and it’ll take more than the man to my right to stop me this time."
For Chris and Tom, regarding The Avengers. You play very larger-than-life roles in this film. You’re going into a movie with four or five other larger-than-life characters. So what’s the biggest challenge that you guys see in combining all these archetypal heroes and villains into this one film?
Tom Hiddleston: "I think the thing that looks like a challenge is actually the reason it’ll work. As in, how can one movie contain so many different flavors and colors and characters? And I think Joss Whedon has probably made that his strength. The conflict between each of them will be something that will be expanded on, I think. Would you say?"
Chris Hemsworth: "Yeah, sure. Also, we don’t balance all the other characters, I guess. That’s just the writer and Joss Whedon, who’s the writer/director. His job is to sort of navigate that. And kind of like Tony was saying, we come in and do our bit. And that’s sort of all you can really concern yourself with. But I definitely think it’ll be an interesting combination. And as Tom said, why it will work is that conflict in those larger than life characters and egos clashing. I think there’ll be some great tension there."
Kat, is there another character in the Marvel universe you'd like to play?
Kat Dennings: "I don’t know. It’d be cool to see Darcy become something else, or to go up to Asgard. That’d be pretty amazing. I didn’t have expectations going in. I got this role and then got to read the script. I didn’t read the script before I got this. So I didn’t now who Darcy was, and Darcy’s not in the comics; she became bigger through the rehearsals. So I’m just thrilled that she’s still in it. I can’t believe I didn’t get cut."
For Chris and Tom, could you talk a little bit about the dynamic between yourselves as actors, vying for the attention of Sir Anthony Hopkins, as well as the brotherly dynamic that went from brotherhood to rivalry - and the bloody nose one of you received on set from said rivalry?
Chris Hemsworth: "I nearly caught Tom talking about having breakfast with Tony at one point. And I said, 'What? He’s having breakfast and I’m not?' But, no, Tony, actually you said it, that it’s much easier to, I think, hate someone on screen if you actually like them off screen. It’s just a more enjoyable ride. And this is nothing sort of personal about it. We got along and came into this at the same point in our careers, with the same sort of enthusiasm, you know, and love for these types of films and just had a great time doing it. Yeah, and you either have chemistry with someone or you don’t. And, thankfully, I think it was there. So to play brothers was, it was easy and fun."
Tom Hiddleston: "It’s quite literally a bromance. Right, it’s the bro - the bro aspect of the word is for real. But Chris is absolutely right. I can’t imagine having to go to sort of the emotional extremity that we both have to go to if we actually didn’t like each other. It’d be just horrendous to go to work. And I think, you know, the fact that we get along makes it kind of like - we just egg each other on between takes. Maybe we’d like raise each other’s game or something. And we just had a really, really good time."
"And, also, there are so many things that went wrong, that were just accidents that make you laugh. And it’s such a huge journey. We both spent two years of our lives working on this film, and it’s so nice that there’s somebody else who’s kind of alongside. Like Chris had a few drinks at the wrap party, and was like hanging out the window on the way back to the hotel, saying..."
Chris Hemsworth: "That’s not true. You’re ruining my career right there."
Tom Hiddleston: [Laughing] "Sorry. And he said to me before we went up to our rooms, he was like, 'You’re the only one who understands me.'”
Chris Hemsworth: "I have no idea what I was talking about. Yeah."
Tom Hiddleston: "But in terms of vying for the attention of Tony, Tony was amazing. And I haven’t actually said this on record, but on our days working with Tony, he would just regale us with stories of when he was a young actor and starting out in The Lion in Winter with Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. I’ll never forget that story you told about Katharine Hepburn saying, 'Stop acting, Tony. You’ve got a good face; you’ve got a good voice. You’ve got a good body. Stop acting.'”
Anthony Hopkins: "Yeah. She said, 'May I talk to you like your mama?' And I said, 'Yeah.' She says, 'Don’t act; you don’t need to act. Watch Spencer Tracy.' I said, 'Oh, okay.' It was good advice. But she was good. Yeah."
Tom Hiddleston: [Laughing] "And, actually, then we did the scene in the vault where Loki finds the sort of big, dark secret of his personal history. And I think after the first couple of takes, Tony leaned across and said, 'Have you got a good agent?' And I said, 'Yes, I think so.' And he said, 'You’re going to need it.'"
Anthony Hopkins: "Obviously, I love to have a laugh. I like to tease people. Ken is part of that, as well. I said, 'Is he gonna play it like that?' He said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'That’s all the young actors.' 'Is that the way you’re gonna play it? It’s your career.'”
Chris Hemsworth: "I remember that, being on set with Tom, our first day with Tony. And going through the rehearsal, and Tony giving us that reaction. 'Is that how you’re gonna do it?' And going, 'He’s kidding, right?'"
Anthony Hopkins: "It would be terrible if you had met somebody who didn’t have a sense of humor."
Tom Hiddleston: "But then there was something he said, when we were walking down towards the casket and he said, 'Can I tell you something, Tom?' And I went, 'Absolutely. Say it up straight. Tell me, tell me anything.' And he said, 'You’re doing this very strange thing with your wrists.' 'Oh, my god, what am I doing?' And he said, “You’re just...it looks a little bit camp. Maybe you can butch it up a bit.'”
Chris Hemsworth: [Laughing] "And he said, 'Isn’t he, Chris, don’t you think?'
Anthony Hopkins: "I remember this story, briefly. My first film was Lion in Winter and we had a couple of sound engineers. I was a new actor and there were three of us and we were three new actors on the block, you know? And this guy called Tom Buchanan, he was the sound engineer. He walked behind me once with his sound mixer; he said, 'I hate actors.' He did it to tease us, you know? He’d be sitting there with the headphones on, and I’d be doing a scene. And he’d go, 'What?' That humor gets you sort of up, because you have to have humor. Because if you don’t have humor and you take yourself seriously, you’re dead in the water."