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Chris Hemsworth’s hammer time -- young star primed for ‘Thor’ and ‘Red Dawn’

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On Sunday, the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times will feature a list of 10 rising names in Hollywood, among them actors, filmmakers and one long-dead author. I’m one of the contributing writers and I did this snapshot of the ramping career of Chris Hemsworth, who will soon play the Odinson on screen. This version is longer than the one that appears in the paper.

In the pages of Marvel Comics there are plenty of magical weapons, but the most famous is an ancient stone hammer with this inscription: ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’

Considering the fact (and the fiction) that Thor is the Norse god of thunder, that’s a lot of pressure on anyone who dares to reach for the mystical mallet. No one knows that better than Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, the just-announced title star of the upcoming ‘Thor,’ which will be the fourth movie from upstart Marvel Studios. Hemsworth will be just the third leading man for Marvel, following acting heavyweights Robert Downey Jr. (‘Iron Man’ and its sequel next summer) and Edward Norton (‘The Incredible Hulk').

“As new actors make their way into feature films, it is a rare thing to find someone who is not only immensely watchable and engaging, but can also represent a timeless and key character from the Marvel universe in such a compelling way,” says Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. ‘We have been watching Chris hone his craft over the last several months, and due to his persistence and talent he rose above everyone else embodying the actor we were looking for.’

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Hemsworth reached a huge audience this summer with his role in ‘Star Trek,’ even though he didn’t have much time to do it; the 25-year-old portrayed George Kirk, the doomed father of James T. Kirk, in a brief but powerful opening sequence in the J.J. Abrams space adventure. Alex Kurtzman, one of the screenwriters on ‘Trek,’ said Hemsworth’s fleeting screen time became a signature moment for the revival of the storied franchise.

‘So many people seemed to marvel at the fact that they cried in the first 10 minutes of ‘Trek,’ and that’s directly a result of the amazing work Chris did,’ Kurtzman said. ‘As long as he plays the part, there could be an entire ‘Star Trek’ movie devoted to the heroic adventures of George Kirk.’

In February, Hemsworth will have far more screen time with ‘The Cabin in the Woods,’ a horror flick written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, with the latter directing. Hemsworth will channel a different sort of rural jeopardy in MGM/United Artists remake of ‘Red Dawn’ that adds post-9/11 shadings to the Reagan-era resistance-fighter fantasy. Hemsworth has the role of Jed, played by Patrick Swayze in the original, released 25 years ago. Then it’s hammer time with ‘Thor’ in 2011, with Kenneth Branagh directing.

-- Geoff Boucher

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Images: Marvel Comics


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