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'Thor' Star Chris Hemsworth Studied Mike Tyson, Shakespeare to Prepare for Role

Chris Hemsworth
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Chris Hemsworth at the "Thor" premiere

The actor says the character's iconic hammer -- as well as a daunting assignment from director Kenneth Branagh -- proved challenging.

Thor star Chris Hemsworth said it wasn't easy preparing for the title role in Kenneth Branagh's movie, which opens Friday.

For starters, the actor said he wasn't quite sure what to do with the character's iconic hammer. One of his concerns was that he didn't want to appear as more of a lumberjack or ax murderer than an ancient Norse god.

"It's hard to know where to start when you come in and you get the hammer handed to you," Hemsworth told the Los Angeles Times.

He also studied the fighting stances of boxer Mike Tyson and worked with "motion coach" Paradox Pollack to get his hammer swing just right.

Meanwhile, Branagh also gave Hemsworth a pretty daunting assignment. The first week on the job, the director gave him a copy of the St. Crispin's Day monologue from Shakespeare's Henry V and told him he needed to be ready to perform it on camera the next day as part of a "regal diction and cadence exercise," as the L.A. Times put it.

But Hemsworth, a former Australian soap star who also appeared in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek as Capt. Kirk's (Chris Pine) father, has nothing but praise for his Thor helmer.

"Having a director who is also an actor makes for that very relaxed way of working and it's empowering," Hemsworth said. "You're no longer walking a tightrope and wondering what you have to hold back. You experiment and play and that's the way it should be. That's when the magic happens."

As for his co-stars, who include Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Rene Russo, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Renner, Hemsworth added: "It's a bit surreal, really, but it's wonderful and it's been really great to work with the best talent and be part of something that is top-level in every way."

Hemsworth also has signed on to star in a Red Dawn remake and reprises the role of Thor in Joss Whedon's The Avengers, which began production last week in New Mexico.