LOS ANGELES – He went from Dad bod to god bod.
For those who wondered which version of Marvel’s Nordic demigod would appear in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Chris Hemsworth sent an undeniably brawny message.
Hemsworth, 38, is ripped like never before in the fourth Thor film after comically showing off the superhero’s slothful side in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” In “Love and Thunder” (in theaters Friday), 6-foot-3-inch Hemsworth flouts his powerful physique as if the costume department didn’t have the material to cover his arms. Or his backside.
The final “Love and Thunder” trailer reveals a nude Thor after a Zeus-inflicted wardrobe malfunction. Prepping for that scene proved mighty inspiration.
“If I’m going to get my (posterior) out for the first time in a Marvel film, I thought it’s going to take some work,” says Hemsworth, whose abdominal display in 2011’s “Thor” can now be viewed as a decadelong teaser. “I started this journey when I took my shirt off in ‘Thor.’ Ten years later, what do you do? Pants off.”
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To limit the discussion of Hemsworth’s divine “Love and Thunder” physique to one scene is a disservice. The biceps alone steal many scenes.
“It’s crazy how big Chris got for this,” says director Taika Waititi. “He’s huge already, but when I saw his arms, they were twice as big as normal, as wide as my head. Trainers and stuff are asking me how he does it? But it’s all natural.”
Hemsworth chalks up the noticeable new thunder to being restless Down Under during the pandemic, where he was homebound in Australia with wife Elsa Pataky and their three children (daughter India, 10, and twins Sasha and Tristan, 8).
“It came from boredom, sitting in COVID lockdown was like a prison,” says Hemsworth, whose routine included swimming, martial arts, weights and 6,000 calories a day to reach Asgardian awesomeness. “It was train, eat, train, eat. Nothing else to do. Then I turned up for the film bigger than I’ve ever been.”
Somehow, there are detractors – including Pataky, who tolerated beefcake Thor.
“My wife was like, ‘Bleh, it’s too much,'” Hemsworth says. “There are a lot of my male friends who are like, ‘Yeah!’ but a lot of female friends and family are like, ‘Yuck.'”
Still, the physique reviews are glowing for “Love and Thunder” (USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt noted “plenty of rippling biceps” in his enthusiastic review). And big muscles are needed for story reasons in the battle against villain Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale). Thor has help, reuniting with his ex-girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman). Portman flexes her own superhero muscle as Jane wields Thor’s mythical hammer Mjolnir and dubs herself “Mighty Thor.”
Hemsworth’s OG Thor was almost too big for his own good when he showed up for work.
In what sounds like a “Love and Thunder’ outtake, Hemsworth recalls having an a-ha moment in conversation with a friend who pointed out the challenge of staying on the body mountaintop for the entire four-month shoot.
“I was like, ‘Oh, yeeeeah, you’re right,” Hemsworth says. “It was one thing to train and eat that much and then sleep all day. Doing this and then a 12-hour set day was something different. It was horrible. I won’t do it again. They can give me a fancy muscle -y costume next time. I’m done.”
He vows the muscles will fade a bit in any future Thor appearances, but the tattoo will last forever. Among the multitude of “Love and Thunder” skin moments, Thor reveals a back tattoo tribute to his late, troublesome half-brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), who died in front of Thor in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Hemsworth has been pushing for a body ink gag to honor Thor and Loki’s twisted relationship since 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” He fought for a brotherly rollerblade tattoo.
“It was on my forearm and said, ‘Once you blade, you never fade,'” Hemsworth says. But the tattoo joke “didn’t make the cut.”
The permanent addition to the Thor canon was shot down by the top god, Marvel President Kevin Feige, who has since softened his stance.
“Feige said, ‘OK, this time you can get it in there,'” says Hemsworth, who hasn’t told Hiddleston about the tribute. “This is on (Thor’s) back. It’s with me forever.”
Most importantly, Thor shows enhanced inner glow beneath the showy “Love and Thunder” breadth, as he works through his past superhero existential “Endgame” issues. The hero shows a super heart with the many children in “Love and Thunder,” including one spirited child played by daughter India.
Hemsworth showed Waititi India’s acting skills in a scene shot at home on his iPhone. Waititi liked the idea so much that his own two children are featured as New Asgard children, along with Portman’s and Bale’s respective broods.
“The whole idea just grew and grew,” says Hemsworth, who calls India’s performance “wonderful.”
“I’m so proud of her,” he says. “My kids are on the set with me, but to have India in the same scene with me was so cool.”
He found inspiration in his daughter’s natural performance.
“I wish I had that relaxed, kind of whatever attitude,” Hemsworth says. “There’s something about being a child, the vivid imagination and the wonder, which is like, ‘Yeah, this is fun. I’m playing dress-up.’ To capture that on film was pretty special.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’: Chris Hemsworth’s wife isn’t a muscle fan