Chris Hemsworth was best known to his fellow Australians for his appearance on the soap opera Home and Away, but the rest of the world knew comparatively little about him until he was cast a Marvel’s mighty god of thunder in 2011’s Thor. The role catapulted him to international stardom, a path followed by his onscreen foil Tom Hiddleston who played his step-brother Loki. Hiddleston – classically trained and enjoying a steady diet of BBC productions before landing the role – was actually more of a surprise. He turned out to be so good that he reprised Loki for 2012’s The Avengers, and now again in Thor: The Dark World opening on Friday. Both men evince an easy chemistry that helps their onscreen dynamic work so beautifully. They spoke about the roles that changed both their lives at a very lively press conference for the new film.
Question: the subject of trust is prevalent within the film, and I wondered, having worked together now on a number of films, whether you’re free to experiment because there is a trust between you as actors.
Chris Hemsworth: Sure. There’s certainly a shorthand that comes after working on three films together, and you don’t have to spend a chunk of your shooting time getting to know one another. We’re able to pick up where we left off, and have developed a great friendship along the way. We were lucky. From the beginning, we had a chemistry and the same kind of enthusiasm.
Tom Hiddleston: I love you, man.
CH: I love you.
TH: It’s absolutely true. From the beginning of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, all the way through Joss Whedon’s Avengers and into Alan Taylor’s Dark World, it has been an amazing adventure for both of us. The two characters define each other, and need each other. All acting is about what happens in the space between people. And the more you trust each other, the deeper you can go. When I’m on set with Chris, whatever he serves I’ll return, and he’ll return back. That is the joy of it for me.
Q: Sibling rivalry plays a huge role in this story. Chris you’ve got two brothers; did you draw on your relationship with them to inform your interactions with Loki?
CH: Neither of them has ever attempted to take over universe just yet. [Laughter.] I think I’d have the same reaction if they did. We’re competitive as siblings are, in kind of everything: from sport and backyard cricket and football, surfing, to who’s controlling the remote control watching TV. But that doesn’t extend to our work in this industry. All three of us understand the sort of frailty and inconsistency of the work. We help each other with auditions and always have in whatever scripts we’re working. It’s more of a team effort with this profession than anything else.
Sibling rivalry is definitely a part of this story. There’s a point in the film when we’re both on a ship exiting Asgard, and Tom and I were pretty insistent on saying, “No, this has gotta feel like you’re in the back seat with your siblings.” That stems from experiences with my brothers. We couldn’t get 100 meters down the road before, you know, “Get off me! Don’t touch me! Don’t do this!” We certainly played into that. You understand what it’s like to have that kind of love-hate relationship. You’d do anything for them, but at the same time, the simplest things can annoy you. And I certainly draw from whatever experiences I’ve been through or can empathize with: frustration towards one’s sibling being part of it.
TH: I have sisters, so it’s a little different dynamic, but I suppose the thing about siblings is that they know you. Better than anyone. And there’s that thing of always being bound together by your shared histories. There’s something very honest about the interaction; you can’t lie in front of your siblings. I love that Thor is able to demand from Loki that he play his hand here. Loki’s someone who’s constantly in control, but he’ll never show you how he really feels. And the only person who gets close to the truth is Thor, and that seems very true of sibling relationships. And I absolutely second the spaceship scene. I’ve actually been on a road trip with Chris and Liam [Hemsworth]; it’s very similar to that.
Q: Natalie Portman gets a much bigger hand in the action here. How nice was it for you to this time have a very beautiful third wheel to your dynamic?
CH: Natalie’s wonderful in general, and our scenes together were great. It’s nice having a beautiful woman break up the godly testosterone between Loki and Thor.
TH: I loved working with Natalie. Loki’s aware of Jane Foster in the first film, and refers to her. But it was so fun to see what happens when the two share the same space.
Q: Chris, you recently called Britain the new Hollywood, as a place to film. What’s it like compared to filming in Hollywood? How different is it filming in the UK?
CH: The interesting thing about Hollywood is that… I don’t know that a lot of stuff gets shot there anymore. Obviously, once upon a time it did, but it’s predominately sets and studios. The nice thing about the UK is there’s incredible studios, but also brilliant locations to take advantage of. I love the aesthetic this film has, because we get not only Asgard, but London as well. Most of these films are set with New York or an American city as the backdrop. I love the difference, and I do love shooting there.
Q: If Comic-Con’s anything to go by, people really love Loki. What do you think it is about Loki that people seem to really love over Thor?
TH & CH: Whoa, whoa, whoa! [Laughter.]
CH: Can I tell you what I love about Loki? I don’t know that it was ever the plan to have Loki in this many films. I think it has to do with everything that Tom brought to the table in the first one, and how incredible he was, and the mixture of strength and villainous mischief and vulnerability, which is such an access point. You can immediately kind of empathize with this misunderstood guy. I don’t know that was ever the plan, but my hat goes off to Tom for making that happen. Hopefully we can keep sneaking him in more some way.
TH: I love you, man.
I think Loki is defined by Thor. He’s defined in opposition to him. They are yin and yang. They are the sort of the sun and the moon; they are defined by opposition. And the popularity of the character has been such an amazing surprise. I had never expected it in my wildest dreams. I found him a fascinating prospect, because he’s a mixture of playfulness and charm and mischief. That’s his moniker. But he’s also such a broken character. He’s grief-stricken and bitter and jealous and angry and lonely and proud. The cocktail of all of that – the psychological damage coupled with his playfulness – it’s just a really interesting thing to inhabit.
Q: Chris, how do you feel you’ve developed as an actor from the first film till now this?
CH: This is my third film with this character. Every time, I look back and go, “Oh, okay, now I get it.” And then I start the next one and go, “Oh, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.” It’s nice to be able to approach a character again, and attack it in a different way with a different director with a whole new bag of ideas and influences and ways to approach it. I grew up a great deal as a person in the last few years, as did Thor. So that echoes into whatever you’re doing in your work. It was nice to have a more mature Thor here, who was sort of less petulant and arrogant and adolescent the way he was in the first film. That transition – understanding the darker side of the throne and that responsibility and the sacrifices he would have to make – it was fun to play with.
Q: Do you think Loki is really evil, or is it just a jealous façade on the outside?
TH: It’s a question that I’ve asked myself three times. Every villain is a hero in his own mind. People make choices, and they always justify those choices, no matter how misguided their motivations. The great privilege and thrill for me to play this character across three films is that he didn’t start out that way. The storyline that was afforded to me in the very first film was marvelous: this idea of a young prince who was brought up believing in his right to a throne, only to find out that this whole story was a lie, that he was adopted and left to die on a frozen rock. That essentially breaks his heart. And all of his villainy – all of his bad guy credentials – come from something deeply vulnerable. That’s a gift as an actor, because it means – across Thor, across The Avengers, across The Dark World – that I can play the dynamic with Chris and with Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo. To what extent is he redeemable? Can he be pulled back towards the light? That’s such a wonderful fault line to dance on, especially with three such great actors to serve as dance partners.