Ken: Thor Makes Wife Go Phwoar

The Sun, 31 March 2011
By Alison Maloney

Kenneth Branagh knew he had found the perfect male specimen when he cast hunky Chris Hemsworth in the lead role of his epic superhero movie 'Thor'.

Unfortunately Ken, who is directing the blockbuster movie, wasn't the only one impressed by 27-year-old Chris's chiselled looks and rippling muscles - so was his missus! In his first interview about the hotly anticipated movie, Ken reveals his wife Lindsay thinks Chris puts the phwoar in 'Thor'.

He says: "He is physically impressive. Once my wife and her friends started seeing the clips where his extremely impressive torso is on view, it became something of a talking point!

"There's been a fairly vocalised reaction from the girls, and a rather admiring one from the boys. I didn't ban her from the set - I just had to make sure he had his clothes on when she was around."

The big budget movie is based on the flaxen-haired Norse god of the Marvel comics. Banished from the divine realm of Asgard, by his father Odin, he is sent to earth where he meets a beautiful scientist, played by Natalie Portman.

Ken reveals: "She plays a physicist who's in the New Mexican desert studying various phenomena in the skies which leads to her bumping into Thor."

Keen to have the 'Black Swan' star on board, he flew over to his hometown of Belfast to deliver the script, and was greeted with an arresting sight. He recalls: "The first time I met her she had her leg over her head against the wall! She was in a dance studio where she was rehearsing six hours a day for Black Swan.

"You could tell she was such a committed performer and, immediately after she'd finished shooting, she came to us with a sense of relief and achievement.

"Natalie is incredibly sexy but her sexiness is also from her intelligence and her sense of herself. She is someone who knows who she is and she brings passion and fun into this character."

While Natalie was a huge star already, with an Oscar winning performance fresh under her belt, former 'Home and Away' star Chris was best known for a brief appearance as Captain Kirk's father in 'Star Trek'. But he was Ken's first choice for the sought-after role of the hammer-wielding hero.

He explains: "For Thor, you need a six foot blonde who can fight like a beast and act like a god, and who is also sexy. We needed a charismatic actor, and Chris is that. He's terrifically impressive and scary. I wouldn't want to be in an argument with Chris - especially with his hammer in his hand."

Ken is not the obvious choice to direct the latest in the long line of blockbuster comic book movies. With four Oscar nominations to his name, he is better known for his Shakespearean works than huge special effects extravaganzas.

Growing up in Belfast and Reading, he admits he was more likely to bury his head in The Beano than a Marvel mag. And he even has a party trick based on his favourite comic character. "I used to be able to do a shadow puppet, a silhouette of Dennis the Menace. I can still do it if I'm encouraged.

"I wasn't terribly familiar with the American characters like Batman and Superman. It all seemed a bit far away and a bit exotic. But Thor was one of the few I did know as a kid."

So when the British actor and director was approached by Marvel studios three years ago and asked if he would be interested in taking on the project, he was keen to jump on board. And he believes movies such as 'Henry V', for which he gained a Best Director Oscar nod, are perfect training for a CGI movie with a budget approaching 100 million.

"Henry V had an epic battle between savage Europeans so I feel like I started out in big budget adventure and battle films.

"I go to the cinema a couple of times a week and it's a genuine pleasure for me, it never feels like a busman's holiday.

"I see a wide range of movies and always have done, so being asked to direct 'Thor' was less of a surprise for me than it was for other people. Maybe it gave me that extra bit of motivation to surprise people."

Up until now, everyone involved in 'Thor' has given away very little about the movie, except to say that it would stay close to the comics. Now Ken tells The Sun: "Because Thor lives in Asgard, the home of the gods, it involves space travel and journeys to other worlds.

"It's also being presented in 3D, so I hope we give the audience a sense of travelling through space and a feeling that they are in the midst of the various battles involved." And he adds: "We have some impressive villains including a huge metal beast with terrifying power called The Destroyer who cannot be beaten - or can he?

"And we have Laufey, the terrifying king of the Frost Giants and Thor's evil brother Loki, who is possessed of tricks of light and shadow."

As well as computer generated effects, huge sets were built to represent many of the futuristic landscapes originally drawn by Marvel legend Jack Kirby. Many of the fantastic creatures in the film were created using prosthetics and make up, as well as CGI, and the parts set on earth were filmed over two months in the desert of New Mexico.

Ken promises: "We try to give it as much reality as possible and not make it feel as if it is too synthetic. We wanted a grittiness to it that makes you think, 'I can definitely suspend disbelief for a couple of hours and believe these people can all exist in the same universe."

The 50-year-old star has been based in Los Angeles for the last two years but after last minute edits and promotion he is heading home to England for a brief rest before going on to Belfast to star in a play called 'The Painkiller' with Rob Brydon. Then it's off to Sweden to film a new series of 'Wallander'.

"We've loved being in LA and living right on the beach but I miss home and I miss friends and family. I'm looking forward to getting back to where I live, in Berkshire, and to where I was born, in Belfast.

"You have to accept that in a showbiz family, if you're working, you get the old gypsy caravan out and have the thrill of travelling around."

Although he was in LA, Ken couldn't make last month's Oscar ceremony but he was thrilled to see Natalie and old pal Colin Firth pick up the leading actor gongs. He said: "I've known Colin since 1982 and he is an old mate, so we were jumping up and down for both of them. The texts were ringing after that. "Somehow they both managed to send texts minutes after they won.

"Colin is genuinely touched that people are happy for him and for Natalie it was just the icing on the cake along with the great miracle of having a baby. She feels the luckiest girl alive and I think she'll be a great mum. I don't know whether she'll get the kid into ballet lessons - she might have had enough of that now. And it might be a while before those toes go over the head again."

'Thor' is released in the UK on April 27

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