Chris Hemsworth (Thor 1 & 2, The Avengers) tackles the role of a convicted American hacker who’s furloughed from jail following a devastating attack on a Chinese nuclear facility and a hack into the stock exchange in the action thriller Blackhat. Hemsworth’s character Nicholas Hathaway is one of the few people in the world capable of tracking the hacker responsible for launching the attacks, and he’s called upon by the U.S. and Chinese governments to hunt down the cyber criminals before any more damage can be done.
In Los Angeles to promote the Universal Pictures drama opening on theaters on January 16, 2015, Hemsworth revealed that he signed on to the film because of director Michael Mann. “Michael’s one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve grown up watching his films so even before I’d read the script, I was pretty much diving into the thing. But then read the script and it was a subject that I certainly hadn’t been involved in on screen, something, in my life was something fairly new to me and was pretty limited in my digital cyber involvement. And it fascinated me,” explained Hemsworth. “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 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 into the opportunity.”
Given that Hemsworth’s not an expert in coding, he turned to experts to help him understand the world and to get into the character. “I asked one of the guys, ‘Knowing what you know…’ because it became evident pretty quick that the majority of us knew nothing compared to what these guys knew. I said, ‘Knowing what you know, you exist behind the curtain, 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. He said, ‘Man, people have no idea how exposed they are and vulnerable and what’s possible.’ That’s the power now is the brain. It’s not just in the criminal world but anywhere. They’re the superheroes,” said Hemsworth. “That highly intelligent alien-type advancement that these guys seem to have within themselves was something that impressed me every day.”
Playing a guy from Chicago meant Australian-born Hemsworth had to work on an accent that would be appropriate for the character. “The voice, we spent a number of days in Chicago and there were endless conversations between Michael and I, working with dialect coaches. It became more an attitude, I think, than anything else. There’s the structural sounds and phonetics and what have you, but the way this guy spoke and the rhythm to his speak we picked up things from friends of Michael’s in Chicago,” explained Hemsworth.
“Also, we went to certain prisons and spoke with people [and learned] how guys in prison speak. There’s a rhythm and a bounce,” added Hemsworth. “I had dialect coaches, but Michael was kind of my guide. He’s from the place and he knew what he was after.”
Hemsworth’s character doesn’t spend the film just stuck in front of a computer screen analyzing code. He’s also heavily involved in chasing down the hackers, engaging in shoot-outs and other physically demanding action scenes. Hemsworth’s in great shape, even when he’s not playing Thor, but the physicality needed for this was different than what was necessary to play a comic book-inspired superhero.
“The training for this, once I’m done with Thor, when I get rid of that bulk and that size because that screams that character, what I wanted to do, instead of just running on the treadmill and trying to get through the wait, mainly built in some sort of martial arts. I boxed a lot in the past and done a lot of Muay Thai. Me and Michael talked about the time that he spent in prison. You go in one person and come out another. Through those experiences, he was going to be able to physically be able to handle himself. Whether that was from the background he’d grown up in or not, but certainly his experiences in prison.”