Chris Hemsworth has become almost synonymous with Marvel’s Thor, but he’s made a name for himself outside of the titular Asgardian warrior god. In recent years, he’s taken on the biographical genre and portrayed historical figures throughout a steady stream of films. He’s played racing driver James Hunt in Rush, the unfortunate First Mate of the whaler Essex in In the Heart of the Sea, and he will now be playing Captain Mitch Nelson in the biographical film, 12 Strong. 12 Strong will be released in theaters on January 19, 2018.
Screen Rant got a chance to talk to Chris Hemsworth on press day, where we discussed what it was like to preparing to play historical figures, what it was like working on location, and how important it was to build the brotherhood camaraderie among his castmates.
SR: So, first question I have for you. You have played so many real life people in some of your roles, whether it’s Rush or in 12 Strong. What goes into the preparation for playing actual historical figures?
Chris Hemsworth: It just is, you know, obviously you see it was the book basically and I was able to kind of fictionalize the character a little bit more and there was less kind of guidelines I think. James Hunt, there was certainly a, you know, there was a legacy and he was a well known figure and I could talk to people who knew him, watch as many interviews on him, and so on. And, in this instance, I was able to meet with the real guy.
SR: Mark? Mitch?
Chris Hemsworth: Mitch. Yeah. And talk with him and also talk with people who knew him. There is definitely a responsibility in playing a real person, but also the nature of this sort of subject. I think there was an added pressure again and so I sort of felt that the book was a resource of knowledge at my fingertips. It’s always funny. I didn’t want to do an impersonation of Mark, but I wanted to sort of embody his intention, his heart, and get inside his head to figure out what it takes for someone to stand up and go to war. When it is basically a suicide mission, there is not a hesitation. They just go straight into it.
SR: One thing that I also loved about this film is that you could totally see the sense of brotherhood that you and your fellow cast had and, obviously, you grew up with brothers. Did you go in, going in knowing your brothers obviously and having that sense of brotherhood, is it different when you approach it from a perspective of war?
Chris Hemsworth: No. I mean, you want to kind of find that chemistry with any sort of relationship obviously. I think we had this three week training period, which was essential not just from a technical level, but also for us to form that sort of chemistry. You get lucky. You can’t sort of fake it sometimes. There was a real, it was of real great importance for me early on to sort of find the connective tissue to sort of link this exposition together because there was a lot of detail and military speak that, you know, my fear was that your eyes were going to glaze over and then you’d be lost. So I kept encouraging the guys to add their voice in because some of them didn’t have a line and I kept saying the way we’re talking and interacting and laughing and giving each other stick or whatever, like that is going to be coming out. This is how we sort of elevate this thing and that was great. I think all of us once we were sort of given that freedom to loosen up a bit and really kind of add that flavor, that is some of my favorite parts of the movie I think.
SR: Me too.
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah. And Michael Peña has such a great sense of humor and he’d be saying things during the take more to throw off the other actor, not even knowing it was going to be on camera, and we’d be laughing and I’d be like, “Nikolai, we’ve got to get a camera over here and put it on him.” And Nikolai would say, “Okay. Great.” Dude would run over and we’d set up the shot on whatever smartass line Michael was saying and it ended up in the film. That was a lot of fun.
SR: You know, I’ve got to applaud you, man. You disappear in this role. I know you as Thor obviously, but I completely forgot it was Chris Hemsworth and I was completely like, “This is the Captain.” I would follow this guy in any battle. The preparation in which you prepared and, I have a lot of guys who are military guys and the one pet peeve they have is that somebody might be holding something the wrong way. Getting that stuff down, how important was that stuff to you?
Chris Hemsworth: Really important. Yeah. We had numbers of military advisors on set. We did our training. It’s got to be sort of an in built, automatic reaction on how you move and how you hold a guy because, yeah, you have all of these tell tale signs where military guys are just rolling their eyes and going, “That’s not how, you know, you just swept your gun past his head and pointed the barrel at someone when you shouldn’t have.” I think one of the best assets we had, a great asset, was Kenny Sheard who was an ex-Navy Seal, who has been in the thick of it a number of times and a number of tours and he’s now an actor. He often would be there in a scene watching everyone and so on just going over this and this, giving hints and techniques. Even sometimes, I was doing a scene once and he’s looking at me and I said, “Does this sound like bullshit?” And he goes, “Yeah. No one would say that.” And I was like, “Okay. Thank God. Don’t sit there and be quiet. Tell me this.” I was in the rehearsal and he was laughing and was like, “Look. This is a more straightforward and honest way of saying it and this one is too prefaced with sort of, it feels like a presentation. You know, these guys are living in each other’s pockets. There’s a brotherhood. There’s a bond. There’s a casualness to it as well as following the sort of authority. When you are over there and you are amongst it, it changes again.” And so, it was fantastic having him there.
SR: Now what’s harder? Riding a horse or being in a harness on a green screen?
Chris Hemsworth: Riding a horse. [laughs]
Chris Hemsworth: The harness does what it is told. The harness is somewhat predictable. [laughs] The horse, I thankfully had a mellow horse and I had ridden a bit before, but a lot of the guys, you know, some of the horses on some of the days were sort of twitchy and a little sketchy and you can see them sort of, they know when action is coming, you know? Because all of a sudden it goes quiet and all of a sudden they go, “Rolling up!” The horses, they are stunt horses so they are aware of it and some of them don’t love that job and you can tell and the ears start to sort of get back. It was pretty intense. We do all of the training. We had choreographed the scene and then they light everything on fire and start explosions and guns and so on. I’ve got to give credit to the stunt team for training the horses in the way that they were somewhat used to that, but it’s still so much out of your control and we did have a few mishaps. Nothing serious, but it adds a whole other layer of anxiety. [laughs]
SR: Marvel has acquired the X-Men and the Fantastic Four from the Fox properties.
Chris Hemsworth: I didn’t know that. Oh, cool!
SR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so if you wanted to team Thor up with any of the X-Men or Fantastic Four, who would you chose?
Chris Hemsworth: Oh, that’s cool!
SR: You didn’t know that?
Chris Hemsworth: No, I didn’t. I swear. Hmmm. Who would be of great use.
SR: [Laughs] Who would be of great use?
Chris Hemsworth: [Laughs] Who would be sort of cannon fodder that we don’t know as well. I mean, Wolverine, just because I love that character, you know what I mean? I just love Hugh Jackman. Unfortunately, he died in the last movie, didn’t he?
SR: Yeah. There’s always a chance they can bring him back.
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah, we can bring him back to life.
SR: Hugh stated that he’s done. He’s going to let that character rest, but now, you guys being both from Australia, do you have any influence on getting him to come back [laughs].
Chris Hemsworth: Now that you’ve informed me that it’s a possibility I’m going to get on the one phone and try to coax him over or convince him and see if he has one more in him.
SR: With Thor films, you do a lot of green screen. This film is completely shot on location. What’s the biggest difference there? And, obviously, the circumstances of which you are shooting in the real place it’s like it’s own character.
Chris Hemsworth: Yeah. Shooting a green screen can be kind of mind numbing and exhausting from a standpoint of just being kind of bored. I much prefer being busy in the thick of it and being visually sort of stimulated. And when you don’t have to act afraid or full of adrenaline or something because of the environment around you is pressing that upon you and is influencing you in such a way, it is the best. That is definitely my, it would be my choice if I could do it always that way. It’s a bit like the horses as I said before. They are reacting to the environment as much as you are and you can’t sort of fake that.
Stay Tuned for More Coverage from 12 Strong!
- 12 Strong (2018) release date: Jan 19, 2018