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May 31, 2012

‘Snow White and the Huntsman’: Chris Hemsworth talks vulnerability

Posted in: Movies

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Fran Kranz, left, Chris Hemsworth, center, and Anna Hutchison in a scene from 2012's "The Cabin in the Woods." (Divah Pera / Lionsgate)

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Chris Hemsworth plays the title character in the 2011 Marvel film "Thor." (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios)

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth, left) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in the 2011 film "Thor." (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios)

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Robert Downey Jr., left, Joss Whedon, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans on the set of "The Avengers." (Marvel)

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Chris Hemsworth at the Hollywood premiere of "The Avengers." (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

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Chris Hemsworth, right, and his wife Elsa Pataky, left, arrive for the European premiere of "The Avengers." (Daniel Deme / European Pressphoto Agency)

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Chris Hemsworth, left, and Kristen Stewart in "Snow White and the Huntsman." (Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures)

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Kristen Stewart, left, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron at the world premiere of "Snow White and the Huntsman" in London. (Stuart Wilson / Getty Images)

As of Friday, Chris Hemsworth will be on screen playing a fairy-tale character (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) and a larger-than-life demigod (Thor in “The Avengers”). Both roles are rooted in fantasy and science-fiction, but the Australia-born star said his goal as an actor was to find real-world truthfulness in the characters. Hero Complex sat down with Hemsworth, 28, to talk about his new movies, the directors he’s worked with and what’s next for him.

HC: What did you learn from “The Avengers” and “Thor” that you were able to bring to “Snow White and the Huntsman”?

CH: I remember years ago, an acting teacher said to me, “Vulnerability is such a great asset on screen.” And I think in life, too. Vulnerability, it’s the heart of the truth of who we are. The vulnerability of you doubting something, it’s usually based around a fear of showing who you truly really are. You put on some sort of bravado or mask or something, and there was a vulnerability to Thor, but also an incredible sort of strength. And any time you thought the character fell into an arrogant sort of world, hopefully you empathized with him because, you know, there was something he was quite uncertain about. And the Huntsman, he was a pretty damaged character. He doesn’t start out as a hero or privileged by any means; he’s the drunken brawler and mercenary. And it was nice to have that more grounded in reality, that character. His wounds or vulnerability were nice to sort of contrast with also a strength and a humor.

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Chris Hemsworth stars in “Snow White and the Huntsman.” (Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures)

HC: How was working with “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart?

CH: It was great. She had a very strong sense of who her character was and a real sense of right and wrong with the story and how it should be, which is great. The worst thing is having someone who doesn’t have an opinion, who kind of floats along the boundaries of it all.

HC: Your wife, Elsa Pataky, is also an actress and a newcomer to action films. Do you two share notes and war stories from the set?

CH: She’s pretty new to the action world. She’s from Madrid and has done 20 films and speaks five languages, so she’s done French films, Italian films, Spanish, English. So she’s pretty new to it, too. I think both of us. But we both apply probably the same attitude, which is you gotta make it truthful. The spectacle of these kind of films is taken care of by director and story and the stunt team. You have to just play the truth in those moments, I guess, and simplify it.

HC: “Thor 2″ is around the corner. Are you excited to work with “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor?

CH: Yeah, yeah, actually my wife got me into “Game of Thrones,” and we started sort of on the Internet watching them every week and became obsessed with them. And then I was given the whole series because Alan was meeting to do “Thor 2.” What I loved is [that the show] had a sort of mythical element to it, yet it was grounded in a really organic reality. And that’s what I think would be nice about “Thor 2″ — if there were more sort of tangible environments to be involved in. The first “Thor” was sort of science-fiction, and there were a lot of sets and things. It would be nice to kind of have Asgard as somewhat relatable and have big waterfalls and cliffs and mountains, and then have in the distance maybe several moons or suns or some sort of science-fiction element. But I think as an audience, it’s much easier to be drawn in if it’s something you feel a part of.

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Chris Hemsworth plays the title character in the 2011 Marvel film “Thor.” (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios)

HC: You’ve been with this character for a while now. How have you developed Thor since the first film? What changes did you make for “The Avengers”?

CH: Look, obviously I didn’t write the script. Joss did. But one of my earlier conversations was what worked so well in “Thor” was, I think, the naïveté of that character. That’s where the humor played so well. But we left the film with a maturity to him, so we couldn’t have that same attitude with things. It was the “Crocodile Dundee” kind of thing. You know, a fish out of water, and that’s where the comedy was, but we couldn’t redo that. And also the concern that “Thor 2″ was going to come, but how do we not take away from that story line and have a diversion here. I think [Joss] did a great job of giving “Thor” a very personal objective — it’s his brother caught in chaos — and a nice kind of segue through the Jane Foster/ Natalie Portman’s character — she had to be put aside for this story because it was too dangerous, which works, ’cause now we can pick that up in our sequel. But it was kind of like the maturity he learned from the first film was now put to the test in this one. He might have once upon a time wanted to come and tear his brother’s head off or tear everyone else’s head off, you know, that barbaric kind of rage, but he had to temper that and show some maturity.

HC: Like his father.

CH: Yeah, that’s the objective. That’s who he’s sort of hoping to be.

HC: So this was your second time working with Joss Whedon. You also appeared in “The Cabin in the Woods,” which was released earlier this year.

CH: Joss didn’t direct “Cabin in the Woods.” He wrote it. But he was there. Obviously he was a big influence. Drew Goddard, who directed “Cabin,” I just had such a great time with him. A similar sort of school of thought as Joss. He wrote the script so therefore had a very attached kind of opinion to how the story should go. Both of them, very much like J.J. Abrams when I worked with him in “Star Trek,” they know these worlds better than anyone. They have a great wit and a sense of humor about them. “Cabin” was just a whole lot of fun.

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Robert Downey Jr., left, Joss Whedon, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans on the set of “The Avengers.” (Marvel)

HC: You also have “Red Dawn” coming out this year.

CH: Jeez, I mean that was — I’m just going through this with “Cabin in the Woods,” because both those films were shot three years ago. Both with MGM, and MGM went bankrupt, and the films were kind of put on hold. And both of those were before “Thor” or any of this. I keep having to try and scrape through what happened. “Red Dawn” was great. It was an opportunity to work and play a lead and get some real kind of experience in the field.

HC: What else do you have coming up?

CH: I just did the film with Ron Howard [2013's "Rush"], which was a Formula One film in the ’70s, and that was fantastic.

HC: Did you get to do a lot of driving?

CH: I did, yeah. It was great. But that was the thing about the film. That was the backdrop — the Formula One world — but it was about two incredibly contrasting characters who were people. One was the playboy rock star of the Formula One, and one was a very intellectual sort of calculated approach to life and racing. And he knew the risk assessment of that race, and the other guy, which is my character [James Hunt], was kind of head down, foot down and visceral approach to it. On and off the track, both of them. And it was really interesting. I’d never played a real person before, someone who had existed previously, so it was nice to have that resource to draw from. A lot of fun.

– Noelene Clark

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