STACK chats to Chris Hemsworth, Taika Waititi and the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder – the fourth feature to focus on Marvel’s Norse superhero.

It’s a testament to Chris Hemsworth’s irreverent and charming embodiment of the Norse superhero that Thor: Love and Thunder marks the first time Marvel Studios has produced a fourth feature film instalment.

Proving that two Thors are better than one, the hero is reunited with his previous love, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), in the unlikely role of “Mighty Thor”. There may even be a third Thor, but that would be a plot spoiler…

Since his 2011 debut as Thor, Hemsworth’s irresistible God of Thunder has appeared in seven MCU features as well as Marvel Studios’ What If…? animated series, becoming the first character to lead four franchise films.

To fans around the world, Hemsworth simply is Thor, and yet he still feels compelled to explore and evolve his role.

“There was a huge amount of pressure coming into this,” admits the Aussie superstar. “Thor is the only character to make a fourth film so far, so I wanted to do something different. I want to always do better with this character.”

And who is more equipped to help realise his dreams than Kiwi director Taika Waititi, who first began nurturing the character’s irreverent side in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), a comedic, cosmic adventure that was a departure for Hemsworth’s Thor.

If love is the resounding theme of this new movie, then Waititi and his team most definitely brought the thunder, spending 89 days on the Australia-based production beginning in January 2021.

Thor: Love and Thunder feels similar to Ragnarok in terms of tone and style, but we wanted to double down on how vibrant and crazy the worlds are and the situations we put Thor in,” Waititi tells STACK. “Because when you’re dealing with outer space and a Viking, if you run and embrace that incredible combination as the thing that powers the story, you’re only really limited by your imagination.

“I don’t think it’s far-fetched to expect change in a character like Thor,” he adds. “He’s been around for a long time, so there’s time for him to go through different phases. I was relieved when I knew how high he was testing in the Ragnarok screenings, but it was also a sense of pride that we’d managed to reinvent this character in a way that made the film do well, and also made people want to see more of him because he’s so relatable.

“I really feel that Thor, more than any other character in the MCU, lends himself towards big, inventive, colourful creatures from different worlds. He has a casualness and a sort of swagger about him when he encounters these aliens,” suggests Waititi who, once more, does double duty, lending his voice to the character of Thor’s sidekick, Korg.

Hemsworth agrees. “Taika definitely brought out the immature young adolescent quality that I embody and so does Thor now, which he didn’t in the original films, which was exciting and new and fresh.

“Personally, with these kind of films, it’s got to be fun, and that’s what we’ve done and that’s what I’ve related to and that’s what Taika has insisted upon,” he says.

Reunited on screen with his first love, Portman’s Jane Foster, the Oscar-winning actress was thrilled at her new superpowers as Mighty Thor, hitting the gym to meet Hemsworth as an equal kick-ass partner.

Donning Hemsworth’s iconic golden armour, she admits, was pretty wild. “After seeing Chris wear the costume for so many years and then to try the version on myself and getting fitted for all the arm cuffs and the boots and everything, it was pretty surreal for the first time.”

Training with a vigorous weightlifting regimen, she proved a worthy partner for both Thor and Tessa Thompson’s new King Valkyrie.

Just as Portman is about to tell STACK about her process, Hemsworth interrupts, “Some weightlifting. Natalie led the charge in the gym! We went to the gym and everyone was trying to keep up with her.”

“We all went to the gym. But she was there first,” counters Waititi.

“That’s very sweet,” says Portman, almost blushing. “But I was especially grateful to everyone’s imagination to cast a 5’ 3” actress in a six-foot role. I think that takes a real leap of possibility in your mind and probably not something I will get the opportunity to be imagined as by any other group.

“So it was a great challenge, and Tessa and Chris obviously have a lot of experience in that world. I got to learn a lot from them.”

In an attempt to bury his sorrows and loss of purpose, Love and Thunder sees Thor now teamed with the Guardians of the Galaxy’s cosmic crew, much to their barely-disguised annoyance.

Thankfully for the Guardians, Thor’s attention is quickly distracted by the arrival of Christian Bale’s Gorr, the God Butcher, intent on killing off all the gods in the universe.

When we ask the usually serious-minded Bale how he fell in with such a goofy crew, he is nothing but self-deprecating.

“You were talking about what everyone was looking for in Chris, so I think in Gorr they looked for a polar opposite. Someone not relatable, a bit of a loner, creepy, someone no one wants to be around. And nobody wants to see his arse. And so I think they went, ‘Yeah, we found it in Bale’,” he deadpans.

Impressed by Waititi’s work on Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit, Bale says his decision to accept the role of Gorr and head to Australia came down to a kitchen-table talk. “I explained it would mean leaving LA, and my kids said, ‘We’re going!’” recalls Bale. “This is really the only film that my entire family has said I have to do.”

Once a peaceful, pious man, Gorr experiences a crushing event that propels him on a mission fuelled by a desire for revenge.”

Just the notion of this guy… I mean, he’s Gorr the God Butcher, right? The name tells you who he is. Straight away, you know he’s a serial killer bent on killing gods. But it’s a lovely tale, actually. He’s upset and confused, and comes to an epiphany.

“And look, it’s a lot easier to play a villain than it is to play a hero. Chris had a much tougher job. Everyone is fascinated with bad guys, immediately. And then the beauty of it is that Taika can make it bloody hilarious and then really moving as well in this story.

As Gorr blazes a deadly trail through the galaxy, Thor appeals to his allies, and his own ego, to put aside any differences and take up arms. The team even attempts to enlist the support of the legendary king of the gods, Zeus, played by Russell Crowe.

We meet a vainglorious Zeus who spends his days living in excess in the Grand Pantheon in Omnipotence City, oblivious to the growing number of gods gone missing.

In one of the film’s most delightful surprises, Crowe sends up his Gladiator character in his portrayal of a bloated and ineffectual leader, long past his prime with a hilarious Greek accent and lamentable thunderbolt skills.

Recalling her reaction to Crowe’s hilarious performance, Portman says, “It was so much fun to see Russell Crowe play Zeus and have such a great sense of humour with the character. I think we’re so used to him in these very strong, heroic roles, so it was fun to see him be able to let loose.”

Following Hemsworth’s lead in evolving her character, Thompson’s Valkyrie has been on a journey of her own since we first met her falling out of her ship drunk to becoming a scavenger, and now, as New Asgard’s King Valkyrie.

“The thing that I really enjoy about these films and certainly, I think, something that Stan Lee talked a lot about, is whether it’s a villain or a hero, the thing that connects them to their power, whether it’s used for good or bad, is actually their trauma,” says Thompson.

“And so when we first met Valkyrie, she had a tremendous amount of it and she was dealing with that by drinking a lot. And for Taika and I, we talked a lot about upending what a female superhero looks like, that you have this moment where she comes out and you think it’s gonna be sort of that badass thing and then she immediately falls over. And that was really fun to both try to inhabit the spirit and the physicality that it takes to be a hero, which is its own skill. Chris is so tremendous at it, and it’s not an easy thing to do.

“We also talked about the idea of someone that has a job that they really love, but they’re also kind of disgruntled; she was a professional soldier for thousands of years and now finds herself stuck in bureaucracy. So she’s really missing being on the battlefield and missing her sisters, and so it’s been fun to get to have that again with Natalie in particular as Mighty Thor.”

Thor: Love and Thunder is in cinemas on July 6

Thor at JB Hi-Fi