"If anyone can save us, it's Chris Hemsworth."
So decrees Kat Dennings, Hemsworth's co-star in "Thor," the next chapter of Marvel's ever growing "Avengers" franchise. Emerging as one of Hollywood's most promising new action heroes with his affable Australian charm, stunning good looks and brickhouse of a body, Hemsworth stars in this comic adaptation about the titular Norse warrior whose arrogance and temper get him cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and exiled to Earth so he can learn humility.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh—better known for his way with the Bard than the CGI sword—Hemsworth was a star in Australia but known in the United States only as tragically doomed George Kirk in the first ten minutes of "Star Trek" when he landed the highly coveted lead.
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When Popcorn Biz asked what made the up-and-comer the perfect choice, Branagh replies, "I like the character of Samson or Hercules, this idea of a strong man who's troubled by his strength, doesn't know where to put it and is a wild man. I loved that reckless streak and I love a hero who's an absolute loose cannon, has no idea what he's doing. Chris had this combination of confidence and charisma and humor that we needed."
For the young Australian star, who his co-star Tom Hiddleston (who pays Thor's duplicitous brother Loki) describes as having "charisma coming out of him in spades," playing a part that is both a god and a superhero was the fulfillment of every childhood dream he'd ever had. Though he admits he didn't know much about Marvel’s "Thor" comics, he says, "I would run around the house pretending to be a superhero as a kid. I had a Superman costume and a Robin costume—which was basically just green underwear and a cape—so to play [a superhero] as a slightly bigger kid just a few years later is just as exciting."
Except that "slighty bigger" is an outrageous understatement. A lot has been made of Hemsworth's physique in the film and it's well deserved praise. In fact, the mere mention of his brief shirtlessness makes Dennings grin from ear-to-ear. "It's like you can't look directly at it," she explains. "It's like good Medusa; if you look for too long, you die. But it's good. You die from happiness."
While Hemsworth is undeniably handsome, like most actors, what he'd really like you to be ogling is his talent and that's why he took his time on set with the two Sirs—Anthony Hopkins, who plays Thor's father, Odin, and Branagh—as his own master class.
"It was the best education," he beams. "Both of them are just a wealth of information and knowledge. To stand opposite them was the best experience I could have."
Undaunted by his luminary colleagues, unfazed by the pressure of a superhero franchise resting on his well-defined shoulders as he makes his debut as a leading man, Hemsworth has a kid-in-the-candy-store attitude when asked about any nerves he might have.
"There's a huge amount of pressure," he admits, "but it's the same sort of pressures as on any set where you want to make a good impression and a good film. But there was also the history of the comic books, the dedicated fan base, this big franchise. But the excitement I think overrode that and I had so much fun."
With his first day on the Joss Whedon-helmed "Avengers" film just around the corner, Hemsworth says he's raring to get back into Thor mode, though he would considering trading places with one of his co-stars. "Maybe the Hulk," he ventures. "Then I wouldn't actually have to work out; they'd do it all with CGI."
"Thor" opens May 6.