Director Kenneth Branagh had narrowed his list to four actors who might be able to fill the starring role in his blockbuster film Thor, and what may surprise many fans and critics who are raving about the film, that list did not include the name of star Chris Hemsworth. But it did include the name Liam Hemsworth, the star’s younger brother.
Branagh had invited Liam, 21, whose credits include the Miley Cyrus movie The Last Song and the upcoming The Hunger Games, to do a screen test, but the director also decided to re-evaluate a few previous audition tapes, one of those happened to belong to Chris.
“We’re competitive,” Chris says, “but in the best way.” Liam gave his older brother a few tips based on his audition with Branagh. And a phone call from producer Joss Whedon in support of Chris didn’t hurt his chances, either. Branagh and Marvel Studios were both impressed by the older Hemsworth brother.
“We did two or three interview sessions before we tested him,” Branagh says. “We pretty much knew as we were shooting the test that he was the guy. It seemed, across these meetings, he had grown into it. He understood it better. And crucially, he was at ease.”
Chris was a little more than concerned when the filmmakers told him to “get as big as you can.” The actor noted Thor “is 500 pounds or something and looks like Schwarzenegger. And I thought, ‘OK, I’m not gonna get to that.’ But I have to get bigger. And then I came back right before Christmas, just before we started the movie, and had a final sort of camera test and put the costume on and within a couple of minutes, my hands started going numb. And everyone was like, ‘Yeah, that’s not cool.’ And I started getting pins and needles and you’d touch the skin and the blood wouldn’t return to that area so quick. And I thought, ‘OK, it doesn’t fit.’ ”
The actor’s costume needed to be altered, and Branagh instructed Chris to “pull back” on the intense workouts.
Chris will step into the role of Thor again in 2012’s The Avengers. He can also be seen in the remake of Red Dawn ( in the role originated by Patrick Swayze in 1984) and in Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods.
“It’s the normal sort of anxiety that you want it to succeed and do well,” the actor says, “So far, everything is in our favor.”