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Chris Hemsworth on having Jessica Chastain kick his butt

The Australian actor says his daughter will have someone to look up to in the female-centric "The Huntsman: Winter's War."

Chris HemsworthThe Huntsman: Winter's War

Chris Hemsworth is the last of the old school alpha male movie he-men, but he doesn’t do old school movies. Once upon a time he would have been the main draw. Now, in the Marvel movies — in which he’s the resident Thor — and the new “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” the actor, 32, is surrounded by a diversity of strong characters that aren’t just hulking white dudes. In the film, a prequel that turns into a sequel to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman,” his do-gooder fights alongside and with mighty women, both good (a love interest played by Jessica Chastain) and evil (Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron’s nefarious queen sisters). That’s a great thing, Hemsworth thinks.

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It’s refreshing that you’re the lone man amidst a batch of strong female characters.
It’s not something I realized prior to shooting. It suddenly dawned on me how wonderful these three strong female characters were. I thought how great it is for my daughter to see women not portrayed as damsels in distress, needing to be rescued by the prince. Instead these women control their own destinies, they lead armies, they rule kingdoms. That’s really encouraging.

Eric the Huntsman is a little lighter this time. He has flirty-angry banter with Chastain, who’s as strong as he is.
I didn’t want him to be brooding and depressed — that sort of hulking what-you-call-it. There was certainly a different attitude to him. He was hopeless romantic and completely in awe of these women. They were equals. It was nice to spar with someone who was the same as me. Jessica, her character kicks my character’s ass [laughs] quite a few times in the film. Which he may or may not deserve.

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Chastain isn’t someone who’s done a lot of physical roles before. How did she fare?
[Laughs] I was blown away by her skill set and athleticism. A few times I was watching her do fight scenes and was a little jealous at how acrobatic she was and what she was able to pull off. She came at it with the best attitude: She wanted to do something different, something fun.

When you're watching effects-heavy films like this, do you sometimes think, “I don’t remember doing that”?
[Laughs] That’s part of the fun for me. You don’t see all the creatures and the goblins you’re fighting. There’s usually a tennis ball on a stick. I get a real kick out of seeing what things were beating me up.

They probably don’t teach how to act with a tennis ball on a stick in school.
It’s wildly underestimated. When I do non-fantasy-based films, I think, “Oh, this is refreshing and a lot easier.” I find “Thor” and those types of films more challenging. Simple character drama is completely truthful. It’s much easier to draw a comparison to what the character’s going through or identify with an emotion as opposed to, “OK, there’s a goblin who’s threatening to rip my arms off and I’m going to try and steal gold from his kingdom.” I can’t relate to that. That’s tricky.

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You did “Ghostbusters” recently. Are there other types of roles you wish you were offered more?
“Rush” was a pretty special experience for me — things you can draw comparisons to from your own experiences. I’d love something contemporary — jeans and a T-shirt. I’ve been in so many fantasy-heavy costumes, which I do love. But just to mix things up, I’d love to do something set now with jeans and a T-shirt.

You did do that in Michael Mann’s “Blackhat,” which not enough people saw when it came out but has a strong, passionate fanbase. Have you seen the new, third cut that Mann released earlier this year?
I saw the first cut of the film, which was different from the one released in cinemas. [Ed. And similar to the latest one.] I like that cut more. It’s more effective than the cinema release one. [Laughs] Bit of a bummer, isn’t it?

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 

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