The Snow White and the Huntsman star sets the record straight on his whirlwind year.
From humble beginnings in Home and Away to Hollywood superhero Thor, Chris Hemsworth has risen to fame at supersonic speed. With Snow White and the Huntsman on release this week, Avengers Assemble still pulling in record numbers at the box office and a new baby just born, things are certainly not slowing down either. LWLies caught up with the star to talk superheroes, fast cars, and being punched in the face by Kristen Stewart.
LWLies: Firstly, congratulations on your new arrival! That must be pretty exciting for you.
Hemsworth: Yeah, absolutely, it’s taken up most of my attention or all of my attention at the moment. Switch my kind of work brain on, but I couldn’t be happier.
What with that and Avengers, Cabin in the Woods and Snow White and the Huntsman, it’s been such a whirlwind year for you.
Yeah, none of it’s been part of some great plan, it’s all just sort of collided at once and I couldn’t ask for much more. I’d be grateful to just be working in film let alone films like this. You know, with this kind of success and the family side of things I’m just… touch wood it keeps coming.
Do you find it difficult to juggle the family life with the baby just being born?
Yeah, it’s still so new but, you know, I prefer to be active. I tend to get in trouble if I sit too still too long. School was never a great thing for me for that reason so I think I like it, I like the juggling act of it all. I like the excitement, the adrenalin that comes with it.
Much of Snow White is done with special effects. Is it difficult for you as an actor to perform in that sort of medium? To piece it all together?
Oh, this was easy. I mean, for this visual effects were minimal. There were times when, yeah, the actual actors playing dwarves they would switch them out and use the little people doubles who had the prosthetics on but most of the time they were there interacting with us. The troll obviously wasn’t there; that was one day of having to imagine what was going on. The rest of the film, 95 percent of it was real locations. Rupert [Sanders, the director] was very adamant about it being real cathedrals, real churches.
The location is really stunning. Where was the film actually shot?
The lake district, which… Tell me, where actually is that?
North from here.
But I mean is it a different state? I mean, I don’t know the geography of it. I just jumped on a helicopter.
It’s kind of in-between Newcastle and Scotland, in Cumbria.
We shot there, which was incredibly beautiful. Then we shot in Wales, around London in different cathedrals and various forest and river locations around the place. And that was the thing – once you were actually in it, you lived these characters. I mean, Thor and Avengers was green screen after green screen, having to imagine the scenario, whereas most of this is actually real.
I liked that he was a tough character but also a wounded soul, there was some vulnerability there.Your character, the Huntsman, is more human, more down-to-earth than your other superhero roles. Did you enjoy this sort of role more or are you more into those big fictional characters?
Yeah, sure, it’s tricky because with something like Thor you’ve got to constantly try and ground it. You’re fighting that beast or… Thor is a god, otherworldly, so it is a harder job to make that truthful. Whereas this is a pretty real scenario, pretty real character, he’s got no mythical… He’s a human being that’s suffered some great tragedy and has wandered down a path of alcoholism and what have you. So I did enjoy it more, the fact that he was allowed to be dirty and gritty and flawed and conflicted and you’re not trapped in a box of right or wrong, you’ve got much more room for exploration. I liked that he was a tough character but also a wounded soul, there was some vulnerability there.
Why do you think the filmmakers did that? Why turn the Huntsman, the anti-hero, into the hero, rather than go down the traditional path with the Prince?
A lot of that happened in casting because I think they were looking at or speaking with older actors at one stage and there was no possibility of him being the love interest or hero. I think once I was approached about the script, because I was younger than who they’d looked at previously, it took a different turn. Which is what I enjoyed about the story; that it wasn’t the obvious take on the fairy tale.
There’s a definite chemistry in the film between you and Kristen, but did she really punch you in the face?
Yeah (laughs), she did. It was supposedly an accident, but the jury’s still out on that one. It was far too accurate and powerful for me to be 100 percent convinced. But, no, we had a lot of fun. We come from similar worlds; she’d obviously come from Twilight and it sort of overshadows a lot of what she's done. And I’d come from the Marvel world, with a big, dedicated fan base. So both of those you’re fighting to sort of try and prove hey, look, I can act too, I’m not just part of this world – that I’m thankful for being part of – but you’re trying to showcase something or show that you’re supposed to be there. And she has a great work ethic, she has a really passionate idea about the story and characters, and you want to be around that on set.
Talking about being around people on set – the eight dwarves in the film showcase some of the finest British talent [Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost]. What was it like working alongside some of those names?
That was probably the biggest treat for me, working with those guys, iconic on and off screen – they're actors I’ve watched for years. Watching them work and trying to steal their ideas and listening to them just riff and talk back and forth in-between takes about their experiences was just such a treat. It was like I’d won some competition to be on set and listen to them and I felt like an audience member, you know, in the best possible way.
A lot of the humour in those scenes comes across very real as well.
Yeah, a lot of what they did was just improvise. No one’s going to tell them how to approach a script or a scene, you know, they deserve the right to do whatever they want with it. They constructed those moments, and the amount of conversation, endless discussions about those scenes! I remember thinking, wow, even after this many films they still have that passion and dedication to it. It was pretty inspiring.
Going back to your background in Marvel – you do seem to be constantly typecast as the Hollywood hero, often the superhero. How does that make you feel?
Well, the superhero thing is funny, because they keep saying, 'You keep playing a superhero', but Thor was the same character in two films. And Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman and Kenneth Branagh were in Thor, it was hardly an action film. Someone asked me yesterday, 'Did you want to be Schwarzenegger' and I thought, never at any point did I think that was what I was putting out there! I like to think, yeah, there was some action in those films, but there was some solid scripts and great actors were attracted to them because there were some great character pieces at the centre of them, and that’s what attracts me, what interests me. The action is great, it’s fun, but it’s by no means what I sign on for. It’s just another colour in amongst what I’ve been doing.
This is going to sound crazy to a lot of people, but from Home and Away to Avengers, to Snow White to Rush, I approach all my characters the same.If you did have all of the super abilities of Thor, what would be the first thing you would do?
First thing I would do? I'd go and take out people like Joseph Kony. I'd just go and stop them in their tracks if I could and I had those powers.
Thor 2 has also been announced now and the next role in the pipeline for you is Formula 1 driver James Hunt in Rush, right?
Yeah, it's finished. That was a far smaller budget, intimate. But even though this is going to sound crazy to a lot of people, but from Home and Away to Avengers, to Snow White to Rush, I approached them all the same. It's a character that I'm trying to make truthful and a story I need to relate to and Rush was just something that was quite intimidating to walk into because it's an iconic character, you know, a real human being, and that's just so hard to live up to as someone who people grew up with, with posters on the wall, so it's like what right do I have to take that on? You give it your best shot but Ron Howard was just one of the most wonderful people, both on and off the set and so creative and to be around him and be a part of something iconic like that was one of the best things I've ever been through. I have a really good feeling about the movie – it follows two guys in Formula One in the 70's and their rivalry on and off the track was kind of historic and fact is better than any fiction we could come up with so we just put a camera on it and went with what was already there.
Have you seen Senna by any chance?
Yeah I did and what I loved about that was that those guys are just gladiators, especially in the '70s and around that time, when three of four people were dying a year in this competition and it's like – why would you put yourself in that position? But they all talked about the way it brought them – when flirting with death like that on the track - in the moment, or they were at one with God or they were more centred than they had ever been before. There is something addictive and something fascinating about that.
You also took up Patrick Swayze's role in the remake of Red Dawn.
I did that years ago, before any of this – around the same time I did Cabin in the Woods. Both Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn, MGM went bankrupt and then the films got put on hold and they're only just being released. I'm like Benjamin Button, younger and less experienced as they come out.
We can tell whereabouts you are in your career judging by the length of your hair...
Yeah right! That's true – and in Red Dawn I've got a marine cut so there you go, you know it's prior to any of this.
Snow White and the Huntsman is released in cinemas on May 30.