EXCLUSIVE: Talk about spot-on casting. I’ve just learned that Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige and director Kenneth Branagh have chosen their THOR — and it’s Chris Hemsworth, who can currently be seen as “George Kirk” in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot and also just snagged the lead in Red Dawn for United Artists on Thursday. (He’s currently filming Joss Whedon’s horror flick Cabin In The Woods for UA, and I heard the studio was so hot on him that it cast Hemsworth in the action pic.) The 25-year-old Australian hunk is a virtual unknown here in the United States. But he played “Kim Hyde” on 171 episodes of Home and Away, the successful Oz TV series where Heath Ledger started. Hemsworth is repped by partner and co-founder William Ward at ROAR management and agent Ilene Feldman. Marvel Studios has scheduled Thor for a May 20, 2011, release.
The way Chris Hemsworth got the part of Thor is one of those great Hollywood backstories that happens only once in a blue moon. Ward had found Chris during one of the manager’s many scouting trips to Australia. Ward brought him to Los Angeles and really put him out there to casting directors and production executives. As for the major agencies, I hear CAA passed on the meeting, Endeavor took it but passed on repping him, and ICM was interested but dragged their feet. But Ilene Feldman understood his appeal immediately.
Chris had read for the part of Thor but wasn’t given a test because a casting director had nixed him early on. I’m told Chris’ younger brother Liam (who’s also a ROAR client) then tested for the role of Thor, but Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige passed. Then, after a conversation with Ward (“You’ve got to reconsider Chris, he’s your guy”), Feige decided to let Chris read again. And once Marvel put him on tape, it was “Oh my god”. Branagh came to town last week and saw the Chris test and made the final casting decision today.
What a week for Chris since, on Thursday, UA picked him as the Red Dawn lead. Brother Liam, who’s only been in Los Angeles for 3 weeks and doesn’t even have an agent yet, just got cast the male lead in Last Song opposite Miley Cyrus in the Disney film based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. Both brothers live in William Ward’s guest house. Unreal!
Thor’s character, in a nutshell, is the Viking god of thunder who wears a winged helmet and speaks in King James Bible-style English, as well as referring to himself in the third person as “the Odinson.” He wields a magic hammer, and can “fly” by throwing the hammer really hard and hanging on to it. Not only is there the movie Thor, but he’ll also be interacting later with the likes of Iron Man and Hulk. Marvel tapping Kenneth Branagh is considered a smart move to elevate the pic since the UK helmer has so much experience with Shakespearean battle movies.
For months now, I’ve been tracking this Thor process though casting directors, agents and the like. Daniel Craig reportedly turned down the lead role. Other names reputedly in consideration were Rome’s Kevin McKidd and WWE champion Triple-H, who previously entered the Marvel universe as a villainous vampire in Blade: Trinity. And also a host of little knowns. (See my previous, Those Who Would Play Thor: Unknowns?) The following actors were tested: Charlie Hunnam (the British co-star of the F/X series Sons Of Anarchy); Tom Hiddleston (award-winning British actor and RADA graduate who played Winston Churchill’s son in HBO’s The Gathering Storm), Alexandar Skarsgard (Stellan’s son who has appeared in the HBO Iraq War miniseries Generation Kill and vampire drama True Blood), Liam Hemsworth (offered a significant role in The Expendables after Sly Stallone saw his tape), and Joel Kinnaman (some Swedish-American dude).
I’d heard Marvel wanted to finalize casting Thor this month. The pic’s release was recently pushed back from July 16, 2010, to now May 20, 2011.