Sib­ling ri­valry

As one of three brothers, Chris Hemsworth had plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on for his lat­est turn as Thor, writes James Wigney

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AT the heart of Chris Hemsworth’s three Thor movies so far have been squab­bling sib­lings. In the first two films, 2011’s Thor and its se­quel, Thor: The

Dark World (2013) — as well as

The Avengers film that came be­tween them — Hemsworth’s God Of Thun­der was pit­ted against mis­chievous, pow­er­hun­gry younger brother Loki, played by Tom Hid­dle­ston.

And in the ea­gerly awaited third stand-alone film,

Rag­narok, which opens to­mor­row, Thor finds an­other deadly foe in his hith­erto un­known older sis­ter, Hela, with Os­car-win­ning com­pa­triot Cate Blanchett bring­ing the Norse God­dess of Death to life with de­li­cious en­thu­si­asm.

It’s a lit­tle case of art im­i­tat­ing life — Hemsworth is also the mid­dle of three sib­lings, and he freely ad­mits that phys­i­cal con­flict was par for the course when he was a kid grow­ing up in the sub­urbs of Mel­bourne, and later in the out­back and on Phillip Is­land.

“We had our fair share of dis­agree­ments,” Hemsworth says dryly. “But it was mostly love in my house­hold.”

Hemsworth’s older brother, Luke, (who makes a cameo in

Rag­narok) has most re­cently been seen in the HBO hit

West­world. But it was younger brother Liam, an early ri­val for the part of the Mar­vel su­per­hero who went on to find fame on his own in The Hunger

Games, who copped the worst of the high jinks.

“My grand­fa­ther gave my older brother a BB gun that my mother didn’t know about,” re­calls Chris. “So we made Liam put a mo­tor­bike hel­met on and a cou­ple of jumpers and some gloves and we said ‘run’. And we had to hunt him around the house. He didn’t love that game as much as we did.”

Hemsworth is speak­ing from Syd­ney, fresh from the

Rag­narok pre­miere there and on the Gold Coast, where the big-bud­get Mar­vel ex­trav­a­ganza was mostly shot. The Hol­ly­wood hunk, who first got his big break on Home

and Away more than a decade ago is in high spir­its: not only is the press trip with co-star Mark “Hulk” Ruf­falo a kind of home­com­ing for the film, but Rag­narok has gar­nered over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive re­views for the smart, snappy way in which Kiwi di­rec­tor Taika Waititi has rein­vented what was in dan­ger of be­com­ing a rather tired fran­chise, and pos­si­bly the weak link in the oth­er­wise im­preg­nable Mar­vel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse.

While Ken­neth Branagh’s first film suc­cess­fully kicked off the big-screen life of one of the comic book jug­ger­naut’s lesser-known su­per­heroes, with a mix of Shake­spearean-tinged grav­i­tas and fish-out-of-wa­ter lev­ity, its se­quel was crit­i­cised for its rather dour and down­beat tone, and be­came one of the least loved of the 17 (and count­ing) Mar­vel movies. And af­ter hav­ing al­ready played the char­ac­ter five times, Hemsworth him­self ad­mits he was be­com­ing a lit­tle bored with the im­pos­si­bly buff, ham­mer-swing­ing, prac­ti­cally in­de­struc­tible As­gar­dian.

The ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion for an en­tirely dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion — and one em­braced by the stu­dio, the di­rec­tor and the star — was to play the al­ready slightly ridicu­lous char­ac­ter for laughs. And with Thor and Ruf­falo’s Hulk hav­ing sat out last year’s hero-packed Cap­tain

Amer­ica: Civil War, the chance emerged for both to ap­pear in what the lat­ter called an “in­ter­ga­lac­tic buddy road-trip movie”, and both ac­tors were keen to take their char­ac­ters to places that fans had never seen them.

“I think we both be­came a lit­tle fa­mil­iar with it all and there was a bit of bore­dom about our­selves and we just thought ‘what can we do?’,” Hemsworth says.

“So we just sort of threw away any­thing that we knew and any time it felt fa­mil­iar we went in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. On a number of oc­ca­sions, we looked at each other and said ‘are we wreck­ing this film?’ and Taika would say ‘yes, wreck it, it needs to be wrecked and re­built’.”

Hemsworth rel­ished the chance to build on the comedic work he had loved do­ing so much on Satur­day Night Live and in Va­ca­tion and

Ghost­busters and was thrilled when he dis­cov­ered the stu­dio felt the same way. Sim­i­larly, the im­pro­vi­sa­tion skills he’d honed op­po­site Melissa McCarthy and Kris­ten Wiig as the hunky, dopey sec­re­tary in the much­ma­ligned Ghost­busters, held him in good stead on Waititi’s loose, spon­ta­neous set.

“The Mar­vel guys were keen to do more of that in this set­ting and I al­ways thought that these films were cer­tainly grounded by the hu­mour — if you didn’t have hu­mour it all be­comes overly dra­matic and ir­rel­e­vant.

“It’s some­thing we can re­late to, what­ever world or planet you’re on, if there’s a com­mon thread of hu­mour, then you buy into it all. And they should be fun, these films.”

As an in­di­ca­tor of his Hol­ly­wood clout, Hemsworth had a strong in­flu­ence on the film be­ing shot an hour away from his adopted home of By­ron Bay and while he didn’t have fi­nal say on hir­ing Waititi, he was a vo­cal cham­pion of the Kiwi di­rec­tor of Boy, What We Do In the Shad­ows and last year’s hit com­edy Hunt

For the Wilder­peo­ple.

“I have an in­put, cer­tainly they would ask my opin­ion,” he says. “His name came up in among a bunch of peo­ple, but he was the one I was scream­ing about. Boy is one of my favourite films, this was even be­fore Hunt For the

Wilder­peo­ple, which I loved equally as much. So he had my vote but there were a few (other) votes that needed to step in and make that de­ci­sion.”

The shoot in Aus­tralia — de­spite the thou­sands who turned out to see Hemsworth and Hid­dle­ston when they shut down the cen­tre of Bris­bane, dou­bling for New York — also af­forded Hemsworth some wel­come time away from the celebrity glare. The fa­ther of three chil­dren with Span­ish ac­tor wife Elsa Pataky says he finds the lo­cals on the north coast of New South Wales much more chilled than the fren­zied at­mos­phere of Los An­ge­les.

“There might be fans of the films or what­ever, but it’s not quite as ob­ses­sive as it might feel like in, say, LA,” he says. “Be­cause peo­ple come from all over the world to LA to see celebri­ties and take pho­tos and walk down Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard — so they’re kind of in that mode.

“Whereas here, I’ve been sur­prised by, but re­ally been happy with (the re­ac­tion), too, es­pe­cially go­ing around with kids and so on.”



SEE THOR: RAG­NAROK opens to­mor­row


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