For Blackhat star Chris Hemsworth, it didn’t matter -- honestly -- what the story was that landed in his hands. It was all about the director below the title. That helmer was the legend Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider, Miami Vice and Collateral).
“Michael's one of my favorite filmmakers from growing up watching his films. So even before I'd read the script I was pretty much diving into the thing,” Hemsworth told Movie Fanatic.
But then he explored the story of a hacker released from prison so he could help the U.S. and Chinese governments pursue a Blackhat hacker who was causing world mayhem, as teased in the Blackhat trailer.
“It was a subject that I certainly haven't been involved in on-screen, but in my life it was something that was fairly new to me,” Hemsworth admitted.
When it came to computers and the like, he was more a novice than a nerd.
“I was pretty limited in my digital, cyber involvement and it fascinated me. You know, as Michael said, it was something that a couple of years ago when we were researching the film, it did exist, all the things that are in the news now, but it wasn't as public. The idea that we are as vulnerable as you say and as the film talks about was something that I wanted to learn more about and jumped into that opportunity.”
One of the things that helped Hemsworth was the continual presence on set and during the preparation process by people who had lived what his character was doing. These were guys who even went to jail for a spell for their cyber crimes. Hemsworth dove deep into their minds to make his portrayal as real as possible.
“It became evident pretty quick that the majority of us knew nothing compared to what these guys knew. I remember asking one of the guys, ‘Knowing what you know and you exist behind the curtain, so to speak, and you see behind the curtain, do you look at the world differently? Do you feel you have an upper hand?' He just started laughing,” Hemsworth said and smiled.
“He said, 'Man, people have no idea how exposed they are and vulnerable and what's possible.' That's it. That's the power now, is the brains. Not just in the criminal world but anywhere. They're the guys that are the superheroes, you know? That sort of highly intelligent, alien-type advancement that these guys seem to have within themselves was something that every day impressed me.”
Fresh from working on Thor: The Dark World, Hemsworth was in pretty amazing shape. But, although his character would have been working out all the time in prison, there is a difference between being a gym rat and a Norse god!
“Once I'm done with Thor, when I get rid of that bulk and that size -- because that just sort of screams that character -- I wanted to do my training differently. Instead of just running on the treadmill and trying to get rid of the weight, I built in some sort of martial arts and I've boxed a lot and done a lot of Muy Thai,” Hemsworth said.
“Me and Michael talked about the time he'd spent in prison. You go in one person and come out another, and through those experiences he was going to physically be able to handle himself, whether that was from his background growing up or not, certainly from his experiences in prison.”
Hemsworth also had to tackle a Chicago accent. Playing American is tough enough for this Aussie, but there is something inherently unique to someone from the Windy City. “The voice, we spent a number of days in Chicago. And then there were endless conversations between Michael and I, working with dialect coaches, and it became more an attitude than anything else,” Hemsworth said.
“There was the structural sound to it and the phonetics and what have you, but the way this guy spoke and the rhythm to his speech, we picked up things from friends of Michael's in Chicago. Also we went to certain prisons and spoke to people. The way guys in prison speak, there's a rhythm and a bounce. But Michael was my guide. He was from the place and knew what he was after.”
Another plus to the Blackhat experience was Mann’s insistence of shooting on location. He has since the beginning and, in fact, Blackhat shot in over 70 locations across the world.
“Michael's right. You could shoot on the backlot in L.A. somewhere, in some parking lot and mock it up, or a green screen, which I've had plenty of over the years. But you have a visceral, physical response to being in those places. The sights and sounds and smells just bring something out of you and you're not having to fake or imagine that it's there,” Hemsworth said.
“It becomes as much of an actor, something you bounce off, as the other people you're working with. So that was such a treat, to work in those places, which are loud and noisy. It sounds unlike anything else. It looks unlike anything else. I wish you could always shoot like that.”
Check out Hemsworth’s last work and watch Thor: The Dark World online and prepare to enter the world of Blackhat when it hits theaters January 16.