Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment present the highly anticipated motion picture adaptation of "Thor," the latest from the Marvel pantheon of legendary super heroes who have inspired generations of readers.
The epic adventure "Thor" spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the mystical realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, Thor is banished to Earth, where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.
"Thor" is the tale of one man's mythic journey: from a petulant prince born to inherit the throne, to a humble super hero who earns the right to lead.
The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh. The screenplay is by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne, with a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.
Indeed, there are many surprising elements to "Thor," not the least of which is a cast that includes Academy Award winners sprinkled among the accomplished veterans and a plethora of up-and-comers. The list of crew reads like a 'who's who' among lauded motion picture artisans.
To see such a high-profile, high-octane project helmed by a famed interpreter of William Shakespeare, might surprise the fans of the Superhero genre. And yet, quite possibly, the person least surprised by his involvement is Branagh himself. Kenneth Branagh closes, "It's got everything that I love. A hero who is a reckless, headstrong young man who has to confront his past and deal with a complicated relationship with his father. There are a lot of savage Europeans hacking each other to death at various points and actually, it sounds very much like 'Henry V' to me. 'I've been down this road before…' So, you could say that I started in super hero films - the only difference in my previous ones, is that people talk funny!"
A FORMIDABLE CRASH OF THUNDER
In 1962, the now-legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced The Mighty Thor to readers of Marvel Comics, unleashing a new era of action-adventure with their take on the hammer-wielding Norse god. Despite the somewhat odd-sounding names, the story was rooted in familiar, universal conflicts that have driven human drama since the beginning of time: a son impatient to prove his worth to his father; a lethally resentful brother; and a woman who helps a man see the world anew. Royal bloodlines, a deadly vendetta, pride that goes before a fall--in any world, these are stories well worth telling.
A founding member of the super hero team known as "The Avengers," Thor emerged from the same Marvel Comics bullpen that had previously given rise to Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and Spiderman.
"Thor" motion picture producer and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige remembers, "Stan Lee tells the story that after he and Jack Kirby created these other heroes, they thought, 'Let's do a god--and let's bring a god down!' And in a brilliant move, he looked at Norse mythology--a lot of people were familiar with the Greek and Roman mythologies, not so much with the Norse. When you read those stories, it's like the best of the Marvel Comics, because it's people who are very human, despite their powers--despite their calling down the storm, the thunder and the lightning. They have family issues, in the two brothers fighting, Thor and Loki. It's a family drama, and they're just as flawed as any of us, or any of the Marvel heroes. That's what makes the Marvel characters so relatable.
"On film, we've explored a lot of the ground-based Marvel heroes," Feige continues. "But it's called the Marvel universe for a reason. It's a big place, and we're going to a cosmic level with 'Thor.'
It was the larger-than-life Thor that also captivated director Kenneth Branagh as a boy growing up in 1960s Belfast. "It rained a lot in Northern Ireland and could sometimes seem grayish," Branagh recalls. "The color of the Marvel Comics covers would pop out from the book shelves, and The Mighty Thor was the one I was always drawn to.
"I liked its primal qualities--the connection to something ancient, the weaponry, the Stonehenge feel of the lettering, and the character's sheer physical heft. He's the first in line to fulfill that cliché of never asking anybody else to do what he wouldn't do himself. In fact, half the time you've got to try and stop him from doing something you might never consider."
Coincidentally, it is that very determined and headstrong nature that stands between Thor and succeeding his father as the King of Asgard. A celebrated physique and success in battle are not enough to prepare the prince for leading his people--flashes of anger, shortsighted decisions, rash actions, these are things that will prove the ultimate downfall to a king. They are also the traits that can and do make for the self-destruction of a human, even without the weight of a crown hanging in the balance.
"The success of the Marvel connection with Norse mythology is an understanding that the human dimension at the center of epic tales is the glue that holds everything together," observes Branagh, who knows a thing or two about mythic tales, having made his reputation interpreting (as performer, theatrical director and filmmaker) Shakespeare's stories of royal family intrigue. "There's an exhilaration, a visceral kind of enjoyment in seeing those kinds of characters go through the same things we do."
Producer Feige seconds, "When characters respond to situations the way one would, when they're thrust into overwhelming situations and just can't deal with it very easily, when there are trials and tribulations to overcome just like all of us deal with all the time--that's real, that's relatable. So it doesn't matter if you're a billionaire weapons manufacturer, or the son of Odin, if you've got these problems or issues to overcome--even character flaws deep within yourself--that makes you, essentially, one of us. There are a lot of fun things that Stan and Jack did in the early Thor comics--that Walt Simonson brought to life later--that J. Michael Straczynski has done an amazing job handling in the recent comics. He has taken the myths and brought them home. You may have heard of Thor, Loki, Odin…what you didn't know is that they're real. And that if you could get intergalactic transportation, and bust through a few dimensions and other spatial rifts in the process, you would come upon them. That's the concept that has been developed and has been brought to this adaptation."
J. Michael Straczynski, an award-winning screenwriter (2008's multi-Oscar®-nominated "Changeling") and writer of Marvel's Thor comic from July 2007 until November 2009, was thrilled that Branagh was chosen to direct the hero's motion picture debut: "With his classical training and his grounding in language, Ken has the ability to make this both lofty and accessible. He can bring these gods down to where a person can understand them."
Feige expands on why Branagh was Marvel's choice. He notes, "As has been pointed out by minds far greater than mine, comic books are modern-day mythology, and Ken Branagh is someone who can adapt literature in a way that no one else can. He is, at heart, a gifted storyteller, and that's what we wanted, someone who can tell the story. Centuries ago, these tales were handed down around the fires--it's really sort of the same today, only the fire is the light of the projector."
It goes without saying that the comic books were the key source material for everyone involved in the production, but as the project underwent its transformation from the four-color page to the motion picture screen, other works of literature also became touchstones for the filmmakers, Team Thor and the actors. Those involved in pre-production--and later, the actors given the task of breathing life into the Marvel characters--were given reference materials on the Vikings and Norse mythology along with their armload of comic books, with several novels thrown in for good measure (Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, for one). Chris Hemsworth, the towering Aussie cast as Thor, explains, "It was like a college course--I got books about people finding themselves and then coming to terms with the reality of their existence. Ken knew that these were relative to the story we were going to tell."
"Thor's nearly invulnerable," offers screenwriter Ashley Edward Miller. "He's supernaturally strong, he has the ability to fly and he is gifted with a great hammer that controls the storms. As the prince and golden boy, he's never heard the word 'no,' and he's been allowed to do practically everything he's ever wanted to do. Now, at the point in the other stories where the hero is bitten by a spider or hit by a gamma blast, Thor is stripped of every quality and possession that makes him what he believes he is. And on top of that, he is banished to a strange place. That makes him a displaced prince who is now a pauper--and so, he's one of us."
Well, one of us if we were built and look like…a god, walking around a desert in New Mexico…the very desert where a certain research scientist, Jane Foster, is conducting fieldwork on some unexplainable phenomena in the night sky. "Jane is very focused on her research," says Natalie Portman, who plays the esoteric scientist. "She's probably on the fringe of astrophysics, because she believes in things that a lot of her colleagues might find nutty. His arrival seems to demonstrate things she supposes to be true.
"At first, Jane thinks of Thor as a study subject," the actress continues. "Apart from her own research team, he's the only witness to this extraordinary event they've observed in the night sky over the New Mexico plains, so he's important to her work. Slowly, she starts to relate to him and, well, her emotions start to get the better of her--then she faces that ever-present challenge for any scientist or academic involved in research--remaining objective."
Much like his character, who comes to appreciate his time as a stranger in this strange land, Hemsworth savored the smaller, non-heroic interchanges that help to transform the fallen prince: "'Thor' is full of big moments, some huge action and pyrotechnics, but some of my favorites are the sequences between Thor and Jane - normal, everyday conversations. We shot those scenes in New Mexico, with a beautiful backdrop of mountains. Now, we had to wait until the snow melted, but it created a beautiful environment. These were the scenes where the character research, the books on looking at existence and coming into your own, paid off. And getting to play these with Natalie…well, sort of dream time for me."
This is not Thor's attitude, however, when he lands--first with an explosion, and then with a thud of Jane's careering SUV--on Earth. But living among humans, who seemed irrelevant from his lofty perch in his home planet of Asgard, is a revelation for Thor. Of course, nobody knows who he is--in fact, Jane and her crew believe him to be a slightly odd (and perhaps homeless) desert nomad.
"Thor learns through Jane Foster how much humans are capable of," says screenwriter Zack Stentz. "It's one of the best facets of human nature--when we find ourselves pushed to the wall and all hope is lost, that sometimes, that's when we find the measure of who we are--those can be our greatest moments. This is where Thor is transformed, this is his journey. He is this close to packing it in, because he's not who he used to be. But then, he discovers what he can be."
Hemsworth agrees and comments, "It's all about Thor learning humility. He comes in as a brash young guy with a ton of power at his fingertips. When he goes against his father, he's punished by being sent to Earth to learn a lesson, on equal terms with other earthlings--as a mortal.
"Ken said very early on that fathers and sons are what this is about," Hemsworth continues. "The backdrop is a film about gods, but at the core, it's about human beings."
Mythic though they may be, the characters in "Thor" had to be cast using mere human beings. But it would take a handful of talented performers (who met a well-established set of criteria for everything from stature to physicality) to breathe life into the inhabitants of the three worlds that comprise Marvel's tale of the god of thunder and his family, fellow warriors and mortal enemies. Read more
ABOUT THE CAST
Australian actor CHRIS HEMSWORTH (Thor) is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. He made his U.S. film debut in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek," playing the pivotal role of George Kirk alongside Chris Pine, Eric Bana, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana and Karl Urban.Read more
NATALIE PORTMAN (Jane Foster) most recently received her first Oscar for her performance in Darren Aronofsky's critically acclaimed film, "Black Swan." For her role, Portman also received a Golden Globe, BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Critics Choice Award. Read more
A GOD FALLS
The story begins in Asgard, the celestial realm at the top of the universe ruled by the aging King Odin, as he prepares to pass his crown to his son, Thor. Odin has maintained a peace-through-treaty throughout the universe, despite long festering grievances on the side of Odin's enemy Laufey, who rules over the frozen celestial realm of Jotunheim. On the day that Thor is to be crowned, a small group of Laufey's forces breach palace security, in direct violation of the longstanding treaty. Appalled by the affront, Thor takes great liberties in his willful pursuit of revenge, and his actions lead to near-catastrophic results. Odin banishes Thor to Earth--a lower realm called Midgard--stripped of everything that defines him, including Mjolnir, the massive hammer he wields in battle. Read more
WELCOME TO THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT
As "Thor" fans know (and as moviegoers will come to know), the gods travel from one realm to another via a celestial portal (or, as Jane Foster would call it, "a wormhole.") They launch from Heimdall's Observatory at the edge of Asgard, in a blast of Bifrost energy. That's how Thor and his small band of warriors get themselves to Jotunheim (seeking revenge), and how Thor ends up in New Mexico (paying the price).Read more
CAPES AND ARMOR FIT FOR A KING
Creating realms inhabited by gods is one thing; dressing those gods is another. That job fell to costume designer Alexandra Byrne, an Academy Award winner in 2008 for her contributions to Shekhar Kapur's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Read more
THE GOD/MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH…FIGHTING ALL THE WAY
Principal photography for "Thor" began January 11, 2010 in Manhattan Beach with a huge fight sequence between the Asgardians and the Frost Giants. Thor shows how deadly he and his hammer can be, which gave Hemsworth the opportunity to show what he'd accomplished in four long months of training. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
KENNETH BRANAGH (Director) is one of the world's most consistently acclaimed filmmakers. As an actor and director, his work is trademarked by quality, truth and passion.
Branagh recently completed directing the anticipated Marvel action adventure, "Thor," starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Sir Anthony Hopkins. At the center of the story is the Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war and, as punishment, is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans. Once there, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth. Recently, Branagh wrapped production on "My Week with Marilyn," in which he stars opposite Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Dame Judi Dench and Julia Ormond. The film is based on the tense interaction between Sir Laurence Olivier (Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Williams) during production of "The Prince and the Showgirl," as documented by Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's. It is directed by Simon Curtis.
Branagh's first venture into filmmaking met instant success. His 1989 production of "Henry V," which he adapted from the Shakespeare and both starred in and directed, won a score of international awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Director. He was subsequently invited to Hollywood to direct and star in "Dead Again," which was a huge international hit, and next directed himself in the ensemble film "Peter's Friends," which won the Evening Standard Peter Sellers Award for Comedy.
Branagh's second Shakespearean film success as actor, director, writer and producer was "Much Ado About Nothing," which was invited to screen at the Cannes Film Festival; in the same year his short film of the Chekhov play "Swan Song" received an Academy Award® nomination. He went on to direct Robert De Niro in the commercial hit "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" and his black and white film "A Midwinter's Tale" opened the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and won the prestigious Osello d'Oro at the Venice Film Festival. Branagh's critically acclaimed full-length version of "Hamlet," in 70mm, received four Academy Award nominations. His fourth Shakespeare film adaptation was a 1930's musical version of "Love's Labour's Lost." More recently, Branagh directed HBO Films' "As You Like It," a film version of Mozart's opera "The Magic Flue" and "Sleuth," written by Harold Pinter and starring Jude Law and Michael Caine.
His other film work includes acting roles in Pat O'Connor's "A Month in the Country"; Oliver Parker's "Othello"; Robert Altman's "The Gingerbread Man"; Woody Allen's "Celebrity"; Danny Boyle's "Alien Love Triangle"; Paul Greengrass' "The Theory of Flight"; Barry Sonnenfeld's "Wild Wild West"; Philip Noyce's "Rabbit Proof Fence"; "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"; the Richard Curtis comedy "PIRATE RADIO"; and Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie."
Branagh has appeared in several outstanding television dramas, including a recent turn as Detective Kurt Wallander in the BAFTA-winning series "Wallander," which earned him Emmy and Golden Globe® nominations. He has also starred in the title role of "Shackleton" for Cannel 4; A&E's "Conspiracy," for which he won an Emmy for Best Actor and earned a Golden Globe nomination; "Warm Springs," in which he played Franklin Roosevelt and for which he received Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations.
Branagh's stage work began when he made his West End acting debut in "Another Country," which earned him the Society of West End Theater's Award for Most Promising Newcomer. He founded the Renaissance Theatre Company, for whom he either starred in or directed the following works: "Twelfth Night," "Much Ado About Nothing," "As You Like It," "Hamlet," "Look Back in Anger," "Uncle Vanya," "King Lear," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Coriolanus" and "The Life of Napoleon." He also wrote the plays "Public Enemy" and "Tell Me Honestly."
Numerous stage appearances include the RSC's "Henry V," "Love's Labour's Lost" and "Hamlet." His more recent theatrical endeavors include directing the hit stage comedy "The What I Wrote," which transferred from London's West End to Broadway, where it received a Tony nomination, and five-star performances on the British stage in "Richard III," Mamet's "Edmond" and "Ivanov." He will be returning to the stage for the reopening season at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast in the new comedy "Painkiller."
Branagh is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he won the Bancroft Gold Medal. He received the prestigious Michael Balcon Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), for outstanding contribution to cinema.
MARK PROTOSEVICH (Story by) was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up on a steady diet of movies, rock and roll, and comic books, of which "Thor" was his favorite. For him, working on the film version was a childhood dream come true. Read more
In addition to co-writing the story for "Thor," J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI's (Story by) produced screenplays include "Changeling" for director Clint Eastwood, "Ninja Assassin" for the Wachowki Brothers, and "Underworld 4," currently filming in Vancouver. Read more
A rabid fan of Marvel comics since childhood, DON PAYNE (Screenplay by) is a screenwriter and a writer/consulting producer on the hit animated television series "The Simpsons." Read more
The writing team of ASHLEY EDWARD MILLER (Screenplay by) & ZACK STENTZ (Screenplay by) has a slate of projects in various stages of production at multiple motion picture studios. Read more