For the Thor press conference we were joined by Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Jamie Alexander, and Anthony Hopkins. It was a fun chat, and the group talked about the hardships of maing a big franchise production, and the fun of being in comic book movies. For more with Hopkins, there’s another great interview. But check out the press conference…
We heard from the last panel that Tom 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: 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 if you boil this film down to its barest elements, it’s about a father and two sons. And both those sons are competing for the love and affection and pride of their father, Odin. And I think there’s a deeply misguided intention within Loki. And he has a kind of a damage within him. He just goes about getting that pride in the wrong way. I didn’t actually want to be Thor, but 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. And there’s no way in Odin’s Asgard I could have delivered what Chris has done.
Chris, could you talk about the most miserable things you did to actually get that kind of physique?
Chris Hemsworth: 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 – 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 20 chicken breasts and rice and steak – and all very boring to the plain things. And that was the most exhausting part out of the whole film was the eating. It wasn’t the fun stuff, either. It wasn’t hamburgers and pizza and what have you.
With the physical demands of the role aside, how did you as an actor approach the mighty role of Thor? Did you look into the six hundred-plus 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?
CH: Yeah, 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. And they certainly back their opinions. And they’re not swayed easy. And that spoke volumes to me about the character. But then it was filling your head with whatever information and research you have. But on set, it was just about making it truthful and finding 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. And 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, how did you enjoy it in such a serious superhero film?
Kat Dennings: That’s the thing. I saw the film 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. So it didn’t feel like, “Oh, I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.” It felt like he didn’t belong, which is why it’s hilarious. Natalie and I have been friends for years so it was pretty easy. We just hung out and goofed off and were girls; and poor Stellan had to listen to us talk about boys and nail polish.
For the actors who played as Guardians – was it more challenging or more fun to wrap your mouth and your mind around the film’s mock heroic middle English? And as a follow-up for Mr. Elba, how much of a pleasure was it to not have to do a fake American accent?
Jamie Alexander: I had a good time. It was fun learning the accent and training for the film and goofing off with these buttheads. We all trained together, prior to shooting. And it made for a good time.
Idris Elba: One of the challenges for the script and the story and now the audience is that you have these two huge worlds, but they’re equally as well thought out, well written. And Kenneth wanted us to all have a sort of uniform sound. Even though you do say mock English, it was set in that world, but exactly “not English,” which is what I was told. And yeah, fake American accents? Try some Asgard, you know what I mean?
Sir Tony had mentioned facetiously that the costume really does the work for you. But I’m just wondering for the other actors that were in elaborate costumes and the eye gear and things, how does that inform your character, in terms of creating and becoming that person? Or is it just, you’re pretending?
TH: The costumes are incredibly heavy, and if you got up in the morning and you wear a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and some flip-flops, it’s 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. We were so helped by not just the costumes, but by the beautiful sets built by Bo Welch, the production designer. You’ve got no furniture to lean on 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 set – it’s like being in a neo-classical 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.
CH: With Kenneth, one of my biggest notes for me was “just let the costume do it,” because I had this huge helmet on my head and couldn’t hardly see. And Kenneth would just say, “Don’t worry. Just live in it, and just stay as still as you can and just let the costume and the opulence of where I was – my bridge, which is beautiful – do the work.” And the script, of course.
Future Projects/ The Avengers
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. So when you guys were crafting this, was it with a trajectory towards The Avengers, and are we gonna continue to see Loki as that kind of a character in The Avengers, or is it gonna be a little more diametrical?
TH: I took the character that I saw in the comics. Loki is a master of magic. And he is – in the Marvel universe- the agent of chaos. And his superpower is his intelligence, if you like. He’s a shape shifter; and it’s his ability to stay ten steps ahead of everybody else. So 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 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.
Regarding the Avengers, you guys 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?
TH: 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. Joss Whedon has made that his strength. And the conflict between each of them will be something that will be expanded on, I think. Would you say?
CH: Yeah, sure. Also, we don’t balance all the other characters. That’s just the writer and Joss Whedon, who’s the writer–director, his job is to navigate that. We come in and do our bit. And that’s all you can 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 it’ll – there’ll be some great tension there.
Since we now know that Tom secretly wants to be Thor, is there another character in the Marvel canon that anybody would like to take on?
JA: Oh, I have one – X-23. Yeah.
TH: Keep the – yeah, the horn in the family. The horns are all yours, Man. Yeah.
IE: I think I’d like a stab at Luke Cage at some point.
KD: I’m just thrilled that I’m still in Thor. I can’t believe I didn’t get cut.
Could you talk 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 so much as to the bloody nose one of you received on set from said rivalry.
CH: 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 Tony said it, that it’s much easier to like someone on screen if you actually like them off screen. It’s just a more enjoyable ride. And we got along and came into this at the same point in our careers, with the same sort of enthusiasm 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, and so to play brothers was, it was easy and fun.
TH: 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 the fact that we get along makes it easier to just egg each other on, and between takes, we’d raise each other’s game. We had a really, really good time. Also, there are so many things that went wrong, 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 nice that there’s somebody else who’s alongside. Like Chris had a few drinks at the wrap party, and was hanging out the window on the way back to the hotel, saying -
CH: That’s not true. You’re ruining my career right there.
TH: Sorry. He said to me before we went up to our rooms, he was like, “You’re the only one who understands me.”
CH: I have no idea what I was talking about. Yeah.
TH: But in terms of vying for the attention of Tony, Tony was amazing. And I haven’t actually said this on record, but whenever we had 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 Katherine Hepburn. I’ll never forget that story you told about Katherine 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: She said, “May I talk to 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 a – she was good. Yeah.
TH: And actually, then, then we did the scene in the vault, where Loki finds the sort of, the big, dark secret of his personal history. I think after the first couple of takes, Tony leaned across and said, “Have you got a good agent?” And I said, I said, “Yes, I – I think – I think so.” And he said, “You’re going to need it.”
AH: 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 to all the young actors. “Is that the way you’re gonna play it? It’s your career.”
CH: I remember that, being on set with Tom, our first day with, with Tony. And, 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?”
TH: But then there was something he said, when we were walking down towards the casket and I said – 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.”
TH: “Oh, my god, what am I doing?” And he said, “You – you’re just – it looks a little bit camp. Maybe you can butch it up a bit.”
Thor opens May 6. Check it out.