In the hotly anticipated new film, The Avengers, actor Chris Hemsworth faces off against forces of
unimaginable menace as Thor, a brave and brawny demi-god from the far-away land of Asgard. In the real world, however, he finds himself engaged in a far friendlier rivalry: one with his own little brother.
"He's got a few bruises, currently," the actor joked of his brother, Liam, who starred in The Hunger Games earlier this year. "But we have a healthy, competitive relationship. The Avengers also happened to have a trailer in front of his film, so I was excited about that. The box office seems to sway and be more unpredictable now than ever, so [The Hunger Games] doing so well was just a huge benefit for anyone in the business."
Today, as he hits the big screen with a stellar cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson, the eldest Hemsworth brother seems primed to lay claim to the box office throne in a big way. Already a huge hit overseas, The Avengers stands as the cumulative effort of multiple superhero franchises, dating back to 2007's Iron Man. Written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), this new film directly expounds upon 2011's Thor, in which Hemsworth first picked up the demi-god's hammer.
"In Thor, my character learned a whole lot about humility and gained a new respect for humans, because they were able to help him discover who he needed to become," Hemsworth said. "But joining the Avengers team is tricky [for Thor], because his brother Loki is the one causing chaos. Thor fears the other Avengers may just want to kill [Loki], instead of just stopping him and taking away his powers."
As the plot of The Avengers drew heavily from Thor's contentious and complicated feelings for his villainous adopted brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), it also supplied each of its stars with challenges both physical and psychological.
"Joss did a great job of giving each of us a clear objective," Hemsworth said. "The idea of all of us being an ensemble and just turning up on set could have been the climax of it all, but thankfully, that wasn’t the thrust of [the story]. Everyone had quite a strong throughline or two in the film and... that fit in well with the bigger picture."
Hemsworth, who can currently be seen in Whedon's cheeky horror film, The Cabin in the Woods, credits the Avengers writer-director with an ability to infuse any project (and any film set) with healthy strains of humor and humanity.
"Humor, I think, is the strongest personality trait that we identify with and remember afterwards," Hemsworth said. "We learn more [from] things based in humor than from things read straight from a book or from some generic conversation. That’s exactly why, I think, Joss has been so successful. There is a comedic line through all of his work, which is great, because if we’re not all having fun, what are we doing here?"
That sense of joy and camaraderie spilled out amongst all of the film's cast and crew, who, in their off-hours, hosted "Dance Dance Revolution" parties and banded together for a few drinks. "Chris [Evans] sent a text that said 'Avengers assemble at such-and-such bar at nine-o-clock," Hemsworth joked. "That was a good group effort. We paid for it at work the next day, though."
Because the life of a superhero is so often packed with action and danger, Hemsworth says he fully embraced the physical demands of his role, whether that meant tussling with Iron Man, squaring off against the Hulk or swinging his hammer at creatures from another dimension.
"I enjoy doing my own stunts when I can," Hemsworth said, "because I know it adds so much to the final product. You get the blood pumping and adrenaline going... but there’s no real athletic ability that [prepares] you for smashing head-first into a wall, sometimes. It’s just one of those things that hurts a bit, but you get up, brush yourself off and do it again."
Since making his United States big screen debut in 2009's Star Trek, the Australian-born Hemsworth has seen his star rise at a rapid pace. But even as a major force in two of the hottest movies of this summer, the actor remains pragmatic about the industry and his place within it. Whatever the future holds for The Avengers franchise, the man who plays Thor is grateful for the grounded and familial experience he enjoyed among the ranks of heroes.
"I realize I have pretty limited experience in this business," Hemsworth said, "but I think the days of big egos and the drama and bullshit that actors pull on set is kind of passed, you know? The business has changed, and I think we’re all far more replaceable than we’ve been, previously. So we all know this is a humbling sort of thing to walk into. I can honestly say that each of those guys on the set, they’re a great bunch of people. Everyone was positioned to bring each other up."
The Avengers assembles in theaters on May 4.
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