Chris Hemsworth Interview, Blackhat

Chris Hemsworth plays a genius coder and convicted hacker in Michael Mann’s new thriller, “Blackhat,” which explores the rapidly shifting lines and alliances brought about by our new digital reality. Nicholas Hathaway (Hemsworth) is furloughed from federal prison to lead a manhunt with American and Chinese partners who are attempting to identify and locate a dangerous cybercrime network. Opening in theaters January 16th, the film also stars Academy Award nominee Viola Davis, Tang Wei and Wang Leehom.

At the press day last week to promote the film, Hemsworth revealed why he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the project, what it was like having the opportunity to work with one of his favorite filmmakers, his preparation and training for the role, what he learned from the cyber experts who were consultants on the film, his favorite Michael Mann movie, how he developed his American accent, what he liked best about working on location in Asia, and why he wishes he could always shoot like that.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Why did you want to be a part of this project?

CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Michael Mann. He is one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve grown up watching his films, and so, even before I’d read the script, I was pretty much talked into it. Then, I read the script and it was a subject that I certainly hadn’t been involved in on screen before. In my life, it was something that was fairly new to me. I was pretty limited in my digital-cyber involvement. It fascinated me. It was something that a couple years ago, when we were researching the film, did exist. All the things are in the news now, but then it wasn’t as public. The idea that we are as vulnerable as the film talks about was something that I wanted to learn more about and I jumped at the opportunity.

Q: What did you learn from the cyber experts? Is there something you can use in your personal life that you learned from these guys?

HEMSWORTH: Learning how to write code and understanding the brain of the computer and all that was new to me. It became evident pretty quickly that the majority of us knew nothing compared to what these guys knew. I remember asking one of them, “Knowing what you know, and you exist behind the curtains 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 and said, “Man, people have no idea how exposed they are, how vulnerable, and what’s possible.” And that’s it. That’s the power now. It’s the brains, not just in the criminal world but anywhere. These cybercrime fighters are regarded as the superheroes. They’re highly intelligent and have this alien-like, advanced-type knowledge within themselves. It’s something that impressed me every day, and there were a lot of different things that I’d pick up.

Q: What’s your favorite Michael Mann movie?

HEMSWORTH: “Blackhat.” (He laughs.) “The Last of the Mohicans.”

Q: You’re involved in a long-term project where you have to keep your body in great physical shape. Did that inform Hathaway’s philosophy of training his body as well as his mind in prison?

HEMSWORTH: The training for this was [different]. Once I’m done with Thor, I get rid of that bulk and that size, because that just screams that character. Instead of just running on the treadmill and trying to get rid of the weight, I wanted to build into the training some sort of martial arts. I’ve boxed a lot in the past and I’ve done a lot of Muay Thai. Michael and I talked about the time Hathaway had spent in prison. You go in one person and come out another. Through those experiences, he was going to physically be able to handle himself, and whether that was from his background growing up or not, it’s certainly what his experiences were in prison.

Q: How did you get the American accent?

HEMSWORTH: We spent a number of days in Chicago, and there were endless kinds of conversations between Michael and I and working with the dialect coaches. It became more an attitude I think than anything else. 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 with people about the way guys in prison speak. There’s a rhythm to that and a bounce and I think we captured that. I mean, I had dialect coaches, but Michael was my guide. He was from the place and knew what he was after.

Q: What did you like about shooting on location?

HEMSWORTH: You can shoot in the backlot of L.A. and mark it up and throw a green screen, and there’s been plenty of that over the years. But you have a visceral, physical response to being in those (real) places, and the sights and sounds and the smells just bring something else out in you. You don’t have to fake that or imagine that. It’s there. It becomes as much something you bounce off as the other people you’re working with. It was such a treat to work in those places which were loud and noisy. I remember a lot of the time the sound guys were worrying about, “We can’t shoot this because there’s too much noise,” and Michael said, “No, no. Just keep going. This is great.” So, it sounds unlike anything else. It looks unlike anything else. I wish you could always shoot like that. It was great.

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