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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Chris Hemsworth relishes the good times in 'Bad Times at El Royale'

The ‘Avengers’ star tells us what it feels like to play a bad guy in his latest movie

Chris Hemsworth plays cult leader Billy Lee in ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’. 20th  Century Fox
Chris Hemsworth plays cult leader Billy Lee in ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’. 20th  Century Fox

Chris Hemsworth has come a long way since he first worked with director Drew Goddard on the 2012 horror Cabin in the Woods. In the intervening years, the former Home and Away star has gone on to become a household name, thanks to regular appearances in successful franchises such as The Avengers, Star Trek and The Huntsman. ­Goddard, over the same period, has focused largely on producing movies and TV shows including Alias, Lost and Cloverfield.

This weekend, the pair are reunited on screen, and Goddard returns to the director’s chair, in the atmospheric dark comedy Bad Times at the El Royale, and Hemsworth clearly enjoyed the repeat performance: “Goddard is just one of the most gentle, kind people you’ll ever meet. He’s also one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. He is a true creative genius. I remember having a great time [shooting Cabin in the Woods]. I didn’t notice at that time what I did this time round though, which is what a wealth and resource of knowledge I had at my fingertips with Drew in terms of detail on the set,” he explains.

“There wasn’t a piece of clothing, furniture or a dialogue that wasn’t absolutely intentional and layered for a specific reason. Everything was driving the story forward, making it richer and more interesting. The collaboration with Drew was inspirational. There was something about being on a set with him and constantly exploring scenes over and over again and trying them in different ways that was amazing. We did so many takes. What normally would have been mind-numbing, became the most freeing experience I’ve ever had on a set. I felt that we were continually delving deeper and deeper into the character.”

It wasn’t just the director that the actor enjoyed working with. The film’s ensemble cast includes the likes of Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Jeff Bridges: “The cast was incredible,” he says. “Every character was an integral piece of this puzzle. If one person had dropped the ball, it wasn’t going to work. It was one of the most collaborative sets I’ve been on. There was such exploration within all our characters and we were encouraged to find different elements to these people we portrayed.”

Though the film is undoubtedly an impressive collaboration between cast members, Hemsworth reserves particular praise for one co-star, the six-time Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges: “It was very intimidating to walk onto a set with someone who’s that talented, who is such a great actor,” the star admits. “You are instantly absorbed into the scene because of what he is doing and how present he is. His energy and talent forces you to be 100 per cent in the moment, to react and act with him. It was a pretty special experience.”

Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, and Cynthia Erivo in 'Bad Times at the El Royale.' Kimberley French / 20th Century Fox
Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, and Cynthia Erivo in 'Bad Times at the El Royale.' Kimberley French / 20th Century Fox

As for his own character, Hemsworth seems to have relished the chance to play a baddie as villainous cult leader Billy Lee, a psychotic narcissist who offers to rescue guests at the rundown titular El Royale Hotel from their daily grind. It is a distinct change from the heroes like Thor and Captain George Kirk we’re used to seeing him play: “I desperately wanted to do something like this, and not just for the sake of being a villain,” he explains.

“There are certain rules when you are playing the hero of a film. I’ve spent a lot of my career playing the hero, which becomes predictable, and so, to be unpredictable and turn left when you should turn right, and continually keep yourself guessing was great. I wanted everything to feel foreign and different from what I’d done before. Part of that was having such an incredible script. You know, I think it is really good to roll the dice and take new risks like this. It was very satisfying and enjoyable.”

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Hemsworth adds that the role was one of his most challenging to date, and notes one part where he carried around a 14-page section of the script, where he spoke 90 per cent of the dialogue. He also says that coffee was his greatest friend during the film’s more gruelling schedules, and seems very pleased with the results.

“There’s such an unique energy to this film, which comes from the pacing of the script,” he says. “It is so detailed, well thought-out and nuanced, but it is also lean and mean. I think that with many scripts nowadays, it is all about ‘How do we say less and make the bigger splashes with noises, explosions and visual effects?’, because we have such short attention spans.

“This film holds your attention and speaks to the deeper subconscious in us. It addresses our fears, our darker sides and our vulnerabilities. And it challenges us to ­interpret these things ourselves. It is thoughtful, provocative and compelling.”