***Spoiler alert! Some very light discussion of the Thor plot follows.***Anthony Hopkins — the Oscar-winning, knighted, overwhelmingly acclaimed star of films ranging from Silence of the Lambs to The Remains of the Day — phoning it in?
That's his opinion, at least, as he expressed during a Sunday press conference promoting the Friday-debuting Thor, where he plays Odin, the title character's father and All-Father of the otherworldly realm Asgard. But this film changed all that.
"Actors need directors," Hopkins said of working with Thor director Kenneth Branagh. "I had gotten lazy over the years. I've begun sort of phoning it in, thinking, 'Ah, to Hell with it.'"
Hopkins credited Branagh with helping him to bring out genuine emotions in scenes such as when Odin casts Thor out of Asgard and onto Earth.
"I always like to play things a little cool, a little bit laid back, and he'ds say, 'Yeah, that's good — but no. Just a bit more.'"
Among Branagh's strengths as a director, according to Hopkins, is the fact that he's an excellent actor himself — as seen in past films including Dead Again and Much Ado About Nothing.
"He doesn’t micro-manage, but he pushes you, so he gets the best of you," Hopkins said. "He'll do a lot of takes, but he gets everything out of you. Some directors will just do take after take after take and don't know what the hell they're doing. But he does it for a specific purpose."
Thor star Chris Hemworth had similar praise for Branagh, specifically in the director giving him opportunity to explore several sides — even a "goofy" one — in his portrayal of the Marvel Comics character.
"Having someone you trust that much, and you want to give him that many options, was the best experience I could have had," Hemsworth said, calling it a "very freeing way to work."
Naturally, reporters were curious as to how Hemsworth got himself into Thor shape for the film — if you've seen any of the shirtless images from the promos that have been running since the Super Bowl, he's a pretty close physical match to comic book proportions.
"I read the comic books and noticed that the character was about 10 times bigger than I was," Hemsworth said. "That certainly lit some fire in me to get in the gym and force-feed myself buckets of protein. It was probably more exhausting than the shooting of the film."
Given Hemsworth's superhero-esque stature, Thor's trusted enchanted hammer Mjolnir packed some suitable heft. Though he couldn't give an exact weight, he assured that it was "pretty heavy."
"We had a few different versions in the beginning," Hemsworth said of the prop. "We found that if it was too light, it looked like you were spinning around a toothbrush. It needed to have some weight to it."
A female reporter was skeptical over what Thor has to offer those without a Y chromosome, but cast members Kat Dennings and Jaimie Alexander were quick to dismiss any notion that the movie is a dudefest."From my experience, as a human being, I love to watch things blow up, and fighting, and action," Dennings, who plays Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)'s intern, Darcy. "I think girls really like that stuff. There is a love story, and there is handsomeness, but there is also incredible acting and directing, and just a really good film."
Jaimie Alexander, who portrays Asgardian warrior Sif, agreed.
"There's something for everybody. There's comedy, romance, action, adventure, sci-fi," Alexander added. "And if you're that person that's really not interested in any of that, then Chris Hemsworth is shirtless."Alexander has stated in previous interviews promoting Thor that she is a comic book fan herself, and said she liked how the movie subtly references the romantic history between her character and the God of Thunder.
"I'm a huge comic book fan, and we had a great, big discussion about how far we wanted to take my admiration for Thor, and I think we did a good job of making it quite subtle," Alexander said. "But it's still there, and of course it leaves the door open for other possibilities in the future, if there are future possibilities."Tom Hiddleston, the movie's Loki, liked how the film followed the comic books in not portraying Loki as a stereotypical villain — currently in the comic book Journey Into Mystery, a child version of Loki is the primary protagonist.
"As the comics evolve and the mythology deepens, you see that there is a psychological complexity to him," Hiddleston said. "I just tried to fill it with as much human truth as I possibly could."
When asked where they'd like to see their characters go in possible future Thor installments, Dennings noted that her character is "sort of a clean slate," since she was created specifically for the movie. Alexander referenced recent Marvel storylines (specifically Loki's "Dark Reign"-era appearance), saying, "In the comic books, Loki takes over Sif's body, I think that would be quite interesting and weird."The movie's Heimdall, Idris Elba (who said that he's had "no specific conversations" at this point about portraying any other Marvel heroes such as Luke Cage of Black Panther), replied, "I'd love to see what happens on Asgard, and the politics of what happens there."
Dennings, who as a point-of-view character provides much of the humor in the film, downplayed the challenge of bringing comic relief to a superhero fantasy epic.
"I didn't really view it as anything, really," Dennings said. "She's sort of the audience's voice."
"It was very strange actually," Hiddleston said of the contrast in the material that he and Dennings worked with for Thor. "In the read-through of the screenplay, some twist of fate had put Kat and me next to each other, and Ken had said to me, 'Go for it' in the read-through. We couldn't believe that we were in the same movie."
Other topics discussed included working with actual physically constructed sets for Asgardian scenes rather than green screen ("I found it visually stunning," Hemsworth said), the challenges of acting while wearing Loki's heat-trapping helmet ("Whenever I would wear the helmet, my brain would slowly turn into scrambled eggs. Which I think is evident in my performance," Hiddleston joked) and Hemsworth's gratitude for starring in such a high-profile film as a relative unknown ("A year and a half ago I was banging on the door trying to get an audition. To be here now working is incredibly exciting").Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!