The man we know as Thor is a self-professed fan of the original Men in Black movies, and now gets to star in one himself. In a chat with the press during a recent tour in Bali, the actor described it as “an ’80s cop drama injected with aliens”. But in the midst of gushing about action sequences and cool, futuristic weapons, he also gave some insights about the creative process, camaraderie and risk that went into the making of Men In Black: International, which is slated for a release on June 14.
The cast includes noteable talents like Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson, but it was standup comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his CGI character that Chris had a lot to say about. “I’ve worked with CGI characters before, and you don’t often get the pleasure of having the character on set with you, reading the lines off-camera,” said Chris, “We were able to truly form a chemistry between these characters, to capitalise on being in the same room and improvise. Kumail is so quick, witty, smart and fun: those were the most enjoyable scenes to shoot.”
And then, of course, there was Thompson, Hemsworth’s co-actor in Thor: Ragnarok . She has a much bigger role in MIB , as one of the leads, and matches Hemsworth punch for jibe in the trailer. Hemsworth credits their easy familiarity for this: “It is a gift, being able to have pre-established a chemistry, and not chew up a lot of shooting time getting to know each other and find each other’s rhythms. We were able to pick up where we left off and hit the ground running. It was a massive benefit.” In fact, one of the scenes the two share is also one of Hemsworth’s favourites in the film altogether. “One of my favourite sequences was a hovercraft chase sequence through the streets of Morocco: there was a three-wheeled bike that they added pieces on to look like a hovercraft. It was tricky to ride, and the risk factor was certainly elevated. Hopefully, it is as entertaining to watch as it was to shoot.”
And if Hemsworth calls it risky, you better believe it. The actor did a majority of his stunts himself in Men In Black: International . “There wasn’t so much of developing a fighting style here, as there was in Marvel films,” he said, “There was a huge amount of choreography, but less stylised and much more grounded.”
While the action scenes in the film are choreographed, the comedic ones are somewhat less so. Hemsworth explains why, crediting the director for having given his actors that creative freedom. “We had a great script to work on, and F Gary Gray was hugely collaborative. He would shoot what was on the page, and in every setup, on the last take or two, he would say, ‘Okay, this is yours’. That was when we could go outside the box — some of it was terrible, and some of it was unique, but that was where we really started to find our characters,” he said.
This also paved way for some uncharacteristic but funny moments. “I reached out for a hammer instead of a gun once,” says Hemsworth, adding with a laugh, “I’m surprised they put that in the trailer.” It’s not all fun and games, though. According to Hemsworth, comedy is also where his biggest challenge lies.
“Action is fun, but comedy is where I have the most enjoyment. Especially in the improvisational scenes, where we are allowed to use what’s on the page and experiment, have fun with it. I like the risk that’s involved: improvisation in comedy is like walking a tightrope: it has to be hilarious or it just crashes and burns. There is an unpredictability to it, that I find exhilarating.”
What was not unpredictable, however, was the experience of continuing a popular legacy: Hemsworth recalled having felt the same kind of pressure when taking up the mantle of Thor, even though he was the first actor to do so . “There was that added bit of pressure due to that legacy already being built... the comic books had been around for 40 or 50 years, and there was a beloved fan base prior (to the films). For me, the fear and anxiety is a motivator to do it justice, and to give prior fans as well as those who are now following the franchise something to be proud of.”
The writer was in Nusa Dua, Bali, at the invitation of Sony Pictures