Chris Hemsworth on his dark new movie role: 'It's the most free I've ever felt'

2018-11-09 14:32
Chris Hemsworth in the movie Bad Times at the El R

Cape Town – Australian actor Chris Hemsworth is known for playing wholesome roles. In Bad Times at the El Royale he plays his darkest character to date - a Charles Manson type cult leader.

Hemsworth reunites with Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard for the mystery thriller set in the 1960s which tells the story of seven strangers who cross paths at a run-down hotel. 

The film was birthed out of Goddard's love for the crime fiction and film noir. 

In an interview with writer Elaine Lipworth, for Twentieth Century Fox, he said: "I just wanted to play around with those genres. I also wanted to do an ensemble film. I wanted to play around with a large cast, so that you don’t know who the protagonist is. All those things came together - along with a love of hotels."

For the film, he rounded up an A-list cast – Jeff Bridges plays a priest Father Flynn, Dakota Johnson a mysterious woman called Emily Summerspring, Jonn Hamm plays vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan and Cynthia Erivo plays lounge singer Darlene Sweet.

At the centre of it all is charismatic cult leader Billy Lee played by Hemsworth. 

Goddard wanted to write something different for Hemsworth.

"I knew that it was time for him to do something different. I was excited to write something that would give him a chance to explore darker territory," Goddard told Russ Fischer from Variety in a recent interview.

For Chris the role was a welcome change from playing the hero. 

"I’ve spent a lot of my career playing the ‘hero’. That becomes kind of predictable and so to be able to be unpredictable and turn left when you should turn right was great," he told Lipworth in an on-set interview. 


Speaking about the character, Hemsworth says that he sees himself as a God-like figure who believes he is rescuing people from the government or forces controlling them.

"But it is all a façade for his own psychotic ego. He is essentially a lost soul himself. I desperately wanted to do something like this and not just for the sake of being a villain," said Hemsworth.

To prepare for the role Hemsworth did a lot of research on cult figures. 

His approach to the character was to create someone who had charisma, who was alluring and attractive and who moved with confidence, he told Flickering Myth.

This charisma was key when it came to exploring one of the themes in the film's toxic masculinity and how it is used to achieve power. 

In an interview with Trey Williams from The Wrap, Goddard said cults are still thriving today and that they are lead by men who have dangerous charisma. 

He praised Hemsworth saying: "He understood the darkness that came from the charisma of a character like Billy Lee and how seducing people, and the audience makes them complicit in the darkness, and so with Chris, he very much embodied that."

For the role Hemsworth had to dig deeper into the psyche of someone different which also allowed him freedom. 

"It was also the most free I've ever felt, because there is so much texture to the role," said Hemsworth

One of the interesting challenges the production faced with the character was dressing him. 

Costume designer Danny Glicker says that they wanted to find an out that would express his effortless sensuality he uses to get what he wants. 

"The shirt he’s wearing has hand embroidery all over it and really represents the efforts of his followers – because he’s not doing the embroidery, they’re doing it."

Bad Times at the El Royale is now showing in SA cinemas.


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