Marvel's 'Thor' Assembles All-star Cast, 25 November 2009
By Jim Dixon

Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Depp are beginning to look like the only big names not cast in "Thor," the next big Marvel Comics adaptation to be headed for the big screen. Okay, that's an exaggeration. Woody Harrelson isn't in it either. But the cast list is expanding rapidly and impressively as the movie gets closer to its January production start date.

Actor/director Kenneth Branagh will direct the production which is scheduled to start principal photography in January. It is not believed that Branagh, who has directed himself on numerous occasions with excellent results ("Henry V," "Dead Again") will appear in the film.

The series chronicles the adventures of the Norse god of thunder, played by Chris Hemsworth, on modern day Earth. Anthony Hopkins will play Odin, the divine King of Asgard and the father of the title character. Also cast in the movie are Natalie Portman as Thor’s mortal love interest, Stellan Skarsgard and Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s nemesis, Loki. It has not yet been disclosed who Skarsgard will play in the film. At one point Skarsgard's son Alexander, a regular on HBO’s popular vampire series, “True Blood,” was considered a prime contender to play Thor.

Colm Feore and Jaimie Alexander are also cast. Alexander, best known for the TV show “Kyle XY,” will be playing Sif, an Asgardian warrior who “can hold her own against any man.” Before working on “Thor,” she will be joining Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in “Love and Other Drugs.” Feore's role has not yet been announced.

Stuart Townsend (“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), Ray Stevenson (“Punisher: War Zone”) and Tadanobu Asano (“Mongol”) will play “The Warriors Three,” a trio of buddies who have Thor’s back.

Idris Elba will play Heimdall, guardian of Asgard. Elba has costarred in Screen Gems’ recent thriller, “Obsessed,” opposite Beyonce Knowles, and is in due to be seen in Screen Gems’ upcoming “Taken.” He is also in the cast of the Warner Brothers/Dark Castle DC comic book adaptation “The Losers,” starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Kat Dennings, lately seen in “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist,” has joined the cast in an undisclosed role.

Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, recently told this writer exclusively that Branagh’s involvement in the project came after a “lot of meetings and a lot of phone calls.” According to Feige, the well-known Shakespearean (and Prof. Gilderoy Lockhart in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets") was “intrigued by the material and really connected to it.” Feige had been initially impressed with Branagh’s ability to make the classics accessible to the masses, as with "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Henry V", which he will also bring to "Thor".

“People who expect Thor to be speaking in ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ will be surprised,” Feige says.

"Thor" will be one of the movies leading pack in an anticipated onslaught of new mythology-based movies. "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" and "Clash of the Titans" are scheduled to open early next year.

Filming on "Thor" is scheduled to begin in LA mid-January, then move to Santa Fe, New Mexico from March till late-April. That means director Kenneth Branagh’s production is going to be in principal photography for a good four months, assuming there isn’t more coming after the Santa Fe leg of the production.

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