Chris Hemsworth is a big, brawny guy from Australia with a passion for surfing and a bit of boxing experience — but how did he find the physicality of a thunder god? That was a key challenge for the 27-year-old actor, who said he studied fight footage of Mike Tyson and worked with a movement specialist to find the proper way to swing a magic hammer.
“It’s hard to know where to start when you come in and you get the hammer handed to you,” Hemsworth said, adding that he didn’t want to come off as a lumberjack or an ax murderer onscreen. ”I was working on Red Dawn and talked to Tom Cruise [whose son Connor is in the movie] and he asked me, ‘Have you been doing sword-fight training and all of that to get ready [for ‘Thor’]?’ — he has an interest after The Last Samurai — and I said, ‘No, I haven’t, because it’s not really a sword, it’s a hammer.’ We talked about how odd that is.”
Mjolnir, the blunt-faced stone hammer of Thor, is an artifact of galactic power but, well, it’s not the most graceful of weapons when you first see it. In the film the actor does a credible job, to say the least, as he swings, slings, twirls and brandishes the hammers that were crafted to evoke the magic mallet as envisioned in the pages of Marvel Comics. There were more than 150 different versions created for the production, some quite heavy and detail-rich, others little more than a blocky bit of foam used for onscreen smiting.
“It’s not the most practical thing, when you first come to it, to think of a giant, flat hammer as a weapon,” Hemsworth said. “Realistically, it wouldn’t be weighted right for anyone to use it if the handle was only so long. So the main thing coming in was to make the hammer an extension of Thor. We had to develop a style of movement that was singular, really, to this character. We looked at Mike Tyson and that very low, powerful, very aggressive stance — a big-shoulder, big-hip stance that suggests coiled strength. We had a movement guy come in too, a guy named Paradox Pollack, and we worked together a lot.”
Pollack helped Hemsworth view Mjolnir as something more than a heavy possession or even a treasured totem.
“I met him on Star Trek,” Hemsworth said of Pollack. “He was teaching all the people who were playing aliens how to move around. How do you get that job? He’s a fascinating guy. He’s got a circus background and acrobatics and he was a real help. He came in on this and he had read every ‘Thor’ comic book and he had a lot to show me about the hands and postures and these poses that evoke the comic book character and then how, as an actor, you could do some of those things to put it on the screen. He had this idea too of this electricity, this energy, that’s surrounding Thor. There’s an aura of thunder and lighting and energy around him, and if you start with that, then there’s a way you can move that kind of fits with that. And it affects the relation to everybody else, the way he interacts; if this exists and it extends to out here then you wouldn’t stand that close to a 9-foot monster. It was all very helpful to me.”