Thor is a 2011 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, it is the fourth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It was directed by Kenneth Branagh, written by the writing team of Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz along with Don Payne, and stars Chris Hemsworth as the title character alongside Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, and Anthony Hopkins. After reigniting a dormant war, Thor is banished from Asgard to Earth, stripped of his powers and his hammer Mjölnir. As his brother Loki (Hiddleston) plots to take the Asgardian throne, Thor must prove himself worthy.
Sam Raimi first developed the concept of a film adaptation based on Thor in 1991, but soon abandoned the project, leaving it in “development hell” for several years. During this time, the rights were picked up by various film studios until Marvel signed Mark Protosevich to develop the project in 2006, and planned to finance and release it through Paramount. Matthew Vaughn was assigned to direct the film for a tentative 2010 release. However, after Vaughn was released from his holding deal in 2008, Branagh was approached and the film’s release was rescheduled to 2011. The main characters were cast in 2009, and principal photography took place in California and New Mexico from January to May 2010. The film was converted to 3D in post-production.
Thor premiered in Sydney on April 17, 2011, and was released in the United States on May 6, as part of Phase One of the MCU. It received generally positive reviews from critics and was a financial success, earning $449.3 million worldwide. Three sequels have been released: Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).
Sam Raimi originally envisioned the idea for Thor after making Darkman (1990); he met Thor co-creator Stan Lee and pitched the concept to 20th Century Fox, but they did not understand it. Thor was abandoned until April 1997, when Marvel Studios was beginning to expand rapidly. The film gained momentum after the success of X-Men (2000). The plan was for Thor to be made for television. UPN was in talks for airing it; excited by the prospect, they pushed for a script and approached Tyler Mane to play Thor. In May 2000, Marvel Studios brought Artisan Entertainment to help finance it as a film, but by June 2004 the project still had yet to be patronized by a studio. Sony Pictures Entertainment finally purchased the film rights, and in December 2004 David S. Goyer was in negotiations to write and direct. By 2005, though there were talks between Goyer and Marvel, Goyer was no longer interested, though at this point the film was still set to be distributed through Sony Pictures.
Mark Protosevich, a fan of the Thor comic book, agreed to write the script in April 2006, and the project moved to Paramount Pictures, after it acquired the rights from Sony. That year the film was announced to be a Marvel Studios production. In December 2007, Protosevich described his plans for it “to be like a superhero origin story, but not one about a human gaining super powers, but of a god realizing his true potential. It’s the story of an Old Testament god who becomes a New Testament god”. In August 2007 Marvel Studios signed Matthew Vaughn to direct the film. Vaughn then rewrote Protosevich’s script in order to bring down the budget to $150 million, as Protosevich’s first draft would have cost $300 million to produce. After the success of Iron Man, Marvel Studios announced that they intended to release Thor on June 4, 2010, with Iron Man 2 being used to introduce the character of Thor.
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor:
The crown prince of Asgard, based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name. Director Kenneth Branagh and Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige chose Hemsworth after a back-and-forth process in which the 25-year-old actor was initially dropped from consideration and then given a second chance to read for the part. Hemsworth stated that he gained 20 pounds (9 kg) for the role by eating non-stop and revealed that “It wasn’t until Thor that I started lifting weights, it was all pretty new to me.” Regarding his take on the character, Hemsworth said, “We just kept trying to humanize it all, and keep it very real. Look into all the research about the comic books that we could, but also bring it back to ‘Who is this guy as a person, and what’s his relationship with people in the individual scenes?'” About approaching Thor’s fighting style, he remarked, “First, we looked at the comic books and the posturing, the way [Thor] moves and fights, and a lot of his power seems to be drawn up through the ground. We talked about boxers, you know, Mike Tyson, very low to the ground and big open chest and big shoulder swings and very sort of brutal but graceful at the same time, and then as we shot stuff things became easier.” Dakota Goyo portrays a young Thor.
- Natalie Portman as Jane Foster:
A scientist and Thor’s love interest. Marvel Studios stated in an announcement that the character was updated from the comics’ initial portrayal for the feature adaptation. When asked why she took the role, Portman replied, “I just thought it sounded like a weird idea because Kenneth Branagh’s directing it, so I was just like, ‘Kenneth Branagh doing Thor is super-weird, I’ve gotta do it.'” Portman stated that she really wanted to do a big effects film that emphasized character, and getting to do it with Branagh was a new way of approaching it, relative to Star Wars. Regarding her preparation for the role Portman remarked, “I signed on to do it before there was a script. And Ken, who’s amazing, who is so incredible, was like, ‘You can really help create this character’. I got to read all of these biographies of female scientists like Rosalind Franklin who actually discovered the DNA double helix but didn’t get the credit for it. The struggles they had and the way that they thought – I was like, ‘What a great opportunity, in a very big movie that is going to be seen by a lot of people, to have a woman as a scientist’. She’s a very serious scientist. Because in the comic she’s a nurse and now they made her an astrophysicist. Really, I know it sounds silly, but it is those little things that makes girls think it’s possible. It doesn’t give them a [role] model of ‘Oh, I just have to dress cute in movies'”.
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki:
Thor’s adoptive brother and nemesis, based on the deity of the same name. Hiddleston was chosen after previously working with Branagh on Ivanov and Wallander. Initially, Hiddleston auditioned to play Thor but Branagh decided his talent would be better harnessed playing Loki. Hiddleston stated that the character was “a comic book version of Edmund in King Lear, but nastier.” Hiddleston had to keep a strict diet before the start of filming because Branagh wanted “Loki to have a lean and hungry look, like Cassius in Julius Caesar. Physically, he can’t be posing as Thor”. Hiddleston looked at Peter O’Toole as inspiration for Loki as well, explaining, “Interestingly enough, [Kenneth Branagh] said to look at Peter O’Toole in two specific films, The Lion in Winter and Lawrence of Arabia. What’s interesting about … his performance [as King Henry] is you see how damaged he is. There’s a rawness [to his performance]; it’s almost as if he’s living with a layer of skin peeled away. He’s grandiose and teary and, in a moment, by turns hilarious and then terrifying. What we wanted was that emotional volatility. It’s a different acting style, it’s not quite the same thing, but it’s fascinating to go back and watch an actor as great as O’Toole head for those great high hills”. Ted Allpress portrays a young Loki.
- Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig:
A scientist doing research in New Mexico who encounters Thor. Skarsgård stated that he was not initially familiar with the comic book version of Thor. As to why he took the part, Skarsgård remarked, I “chose Thor because of [director] Kenneth Branagh. The script was nice and we got to rehearse and talk to the writers and do some collaborating in the process to make it fit us. So I had a very happy time on it. What I always try to do is immediately do something I just haven’t done so I get variation in my life. I’ve made about 90 films and if I did the same thing over and over again I would be bored by now. I try to pick different films, I go and do those big ones and having done that I can usually afford to go and do some really small obscure films and experiment a little”.
- Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis:
A political science major who is Jane Foster’s intern. Dennings described her character as Foster’s “little helper gnome”. Dennings stated that her role was expanded during the rehearsal process. Dennings explained, “She’s kind of like a cute, clueless, little puppy or maybe a hamster. There wasn’t much on the page for the Darcy role to begin with and I didn’t even see a script before I took the job so I didn’t really know who Darcy was at first. But she really evolved—she’s so much fun now even. She’s very Scooby-Doo if that makes sense. She’s always three steps behind and reacting to what’s happening with these great expressions … She gets things wrong and doesn’t care.”
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson: A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Gregg reprises his role from the Iron Man films.
- Colm Feore as Laufey:
King of the Frost Giants and Loki’s biological father, based on the mythological being of the same name, who in myth was actually Loki’s mother. Feore stated it took five hours for his makeup to be applied. About his character, Feore remarked, “I am the King of Frost Giants. And if you’ve seen any of the Frost Giants, you know that I am, of course, the Napoleon of Frost Giants. We’ve got some massive, fabulous guys who dwarf me and come in at around eight-and-a-half feet, nine feet. But, no. Can’t you tell by the commanding presence? I am the boss”. He said the Shakespearean training he shared with Hopkins and director Branagh helped keep production moving briskly, saying that “during the breaks, Tony, myself and Ken would be talking in Shakespearean shorthand about what the characters were doing, what we thought they may be like, and how we could focus our attention more intelligently. These were discussions that took no more than a few minutes between takes, but they allowed Ken, Tony and [me] to understand each other instantly without Ken taking an hour away to explain to the actors exactly what was going on. So that was enormously helpful.”
- Ray Stevenson as Volstagg:
A member of the Warriors Three, a group of three Asgardian adventurers who are among Thor’s closest comrades, known for both his hearty appetite and wide girth. Stevenson previously worked with Kenneth Branagh in the 1998 film The Theory of Flight, and with Marvel Studios as the titular character in Punisher: War Zone. Stevenson wore a fat suit for the role, stating, “I’ve tried the suit on, and what they’ve done is kind of sex him up: he’s sort of slimmer but rounder.”. Stevenson said, “He’s got every bit of that Falstaffian verve and vigor, and a bit of a beer gut to suggest that enormous appetite, but he’s not the sort of Weeble-shaped figure he is in the comics. He’s Falstaff with muscles. I’ve got this amazing foam-injected undersuit that flexes with me.”
- Idris Elba as Heimdall:
The all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry of the bifröst bridge, based on the mythological deity of the same name. Elba said Branagh’s involvement was a major incentive to take the role: ” called me up personally and said, ‘I know this isn’t a big role, but I would really love to see you play it.’ It’s Kenneth Branagh. I was like, ‘Definitely'”. About the role Elba remarked, “I did green screen for the first time! I wouldn’t like to do a whole movie of green screen, though. You kind of forget the plot a little—like being in a Broadway play and doing it over and over and forgetting your line halfway through”. Elba stated he has made a four-picture commitment with Marvel Studios. Elba’s casting prompted a proposed boycott by the Council of Conservative Citizens and a debate amongst comic book fans, some insisting it was wrong for a black man to play a Nordic god. In response Elba called the debate “ridiculous”.
- Jaimie Alexander as Sif:
A warrior and Thor’s childhood friend, based on the mythological deity of the same name. Alexander was best known for her portrayal of Jessi XX on the ABC Family series Kyle XY. Alexander said that she was familiar with Marvel Comics before having taken the part, having grown up with four brothers. Alexander said the part required hours a day in the gym, though training is not unfamiliar to her, explaining she was one of few girls on her Colleyville, Texas, high-school wrestling team. Alexander described her character as “one of the guys” and that, “She’s a very talented, skilled warrior and can stand on her own against any villain in the film”. About her relationship with Thor she stated, “She is very loyal to Thor and cares a lot about protecting him and protecting Asgard”.
- Rene Russo as Frigga:
The wife of Odin, queen of Asgard, mother of Thor, and adoptive mother of Loki, based on the mythological deity of the same name. Russo stated in March 2011 interview that she has signed on for possible sequels, although she stated that “who knows how many I’ll do”.
- Anthony Hopkins as Odin:
The ruler of Asgard, father of Thor, and adoptive father of Loki, based on the mythological deity of the same name. In an interview Hopkins stated he knew nothing of the comic. About the film he said, “It’s a superhero movie, but with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in”. Hopkins stated, “I’m very interested in that relationship between fathers and sons”, and that, “My father’s relationship with me was cold. He was a hot-blood character but to me, cold. When I was young, he expressed his disappointment because I was bad in school and all of that. He didn’t mean any harm, but I felt I could never meet up to his expectations.” Hopkins expressed that he found a personal resonance in the Odin role, saying, “He’s a stern man. He’s a man with purpose. I play the god who banishes his son from the kingdom of Asgard because he screwed up. He’s a hot-headed, temperamental young man… probably a chip off of the old block but I decide he’s not really ready to rule the future kingdom, so I banish him. I’m harsh and my wife complains and I say, ‘That is why I’m king.’ He’s ruthless, take-it-or-leave-it. Women are much more forgiving; men are not so forgiving. I know in my life, my karma is, ‘If you don’t like it, tough, move on.’ And I move on. I’m a little like Odin myself”. In May 2016, Mel Gibson stated he was approached about the role but “didn’t do it”.
May 2, 2011
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