How Taika Waititi’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ saved Chris Hemsworth
Hollywood franchises ask a lot of their actors. For most professionals working in the film industry, variety is key. Of course, the nature of the Hollywood blockbuster means that actors are frequently typecast in the same roles or, as is the case with long-running series like Thor, asked to reprise the same characters and time again. Sure, it’s not working in a mine. But if you’re an actor who, like Chris Hemsworth, thrives on taking on new challenges, working for a franchise can become laborious.
Hemsworth was cast as Thor back in 2011, making his debut as the hammer-wielding Marvel superhero that same year. He has spent the last decade portraying the character, revealing new sides to him in films like 2013’s Thor: Dark World, Avengers and even Guardians of The Galaxy.
Despite the character’s appearance in a diverse selection of interconnected films, Hemsworth found himself struggling to bring sufficient life to Thor. This changed with the arrival of director Taika Waititi, who was bought in for 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. “He brought out the immature, young, adolescent quality that I embody,” Hemsworth told Straitstimes, describing how Waititi rejuvenated his approach to Thor. “It’s been fun as the character evolved over the years. There’s sort of a set of rules and guidelines in the original film, and you have to stick to it as it’s familiar to people.”
In casting Thor as somebody with a distinct sense of humour, Waititi gave Hemsworth room to explore the jocular side of his own personality.“I’ve become friends with Chris,” he later noted. “He is the kind of person that I’d want to be on an adventure with. He’s someone you can trust to be there, to look after you like a real-life hero,” Waititi said. “I just wanted to tap into his personality and energy, and sort of make Thor more Chris, really.”
Hemsworth’s initial approach was to play Thor as he imagined leading characters ought to be depicted. By the time Ragnarok came around, he’d grown tired of the character’s relentless stoicism. “I spoke to Taika Waititi, the director on the film, and I’m like, ‘I’m just, I’m so sick of myself.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m sick of you too,’” Hemsworth told Build. “And I said, ‘Let’s dismantle this thing, let’s destroy it, throw out everything and be totally comfortable with making a fool of ourselves.’”
It was a masterstroke. Together, Chris and Taika made Thor accessible and likeable. Fans found themselves rooting for the character because they liked his personality, as though they were rooting for a friend. Thor was no longer an immortal but a human with a rich inner life. Perhaps Waititi understood that even superheroes contain multitudes. Sadly, Waititi’s latest Thor film, Love and Thunder, failed to live up to the hype, You can read about that here.