How Thor Set The Stage For Chris Hemsworth's Spiderhead Character

When crafting a villain both onscreen and off, it's important to remember a couple of things. Villains are the protagonists of their own stories. In a villain's mind, their actions are justifiable. While the audience may not agree with their methods or reasoning, the villain believes their decisions are rooted in logic. They are in the right, and what we perceive as the hero is an obstacle for the villain to dismantle. For an actor, it can be easy to forget this when building a villainous performance, especially if it's their first time playing a baddie. 

For Chris Hemsworth, there was an entirely different challenge to contend with. Most of the world associates him with the Marvel Cinematic Universe's beloved hammer-wielding space himbo, Thor. Fortunately, depending on how you interpreted his performance in director Joseph Kosinski's "Spiderhead," Hemsworth was more than game to play around with his take on morally compromised, smug pharmaceutical tester Steve Abnesti and try something new.  

Playing with audience expectations

In "Spiderhead," it doesn't take long for audiences to see that something is incredibly screwed up at the swanky penitentiary. In order to reduce their prison time, the prisoners consent to undergo tests to help with chemical and hormone-based research. Chris Hemsworth's Steve Abnesti is always there watching with a pleasant smile and chillax demeanor. He comes across as the kind of guy that could convince you to do anything. Between Hemsworth's natural charisma and built-in audience expectations, the path to success was clear. 

While speaking to, producer Eric Newman shared how the "Thor" star set the stage for how the team could mess with the audience:

"The idea of Chris using all of his charm and all of his charisma [and] his might to convince you that what you're doing is your choice when it's not. It seems, in a lot of ways, like an even bigger betrayal. And I think it's very effective with the audience, who are seeing a guy they've come to love as Thor, among other things. A character who has never played a bad guy playing a really bad guy."

From Thor to big baddie

Eric Newman compared the situation to Henry Fonda in "Once Upon a Time in America" and Robert Mitchum in "Night of the Hunter." Both played against type, embracing their inner villain with a gusto that shocked viewers at the time. While Chris Hemsworth's Abnesti isn't as overtly shocking in comparison, the role does push against how audiences have come to see the actor. Thor, especially in Taika Waititi's "Thor: Ragnarok" and the upcoming "Thor: Love and Thunder," leans big time into the much-beloved himbo character type. He also has a heart of gold, and he would do anything to help those he cares for with a big goofy smile. 

Abnesti is the opposite. He is in on the ruse and has no qualms about exploiting the people he oversees. Abnesti is the type of person that would tell you everything is all fine right with a smile on his face before he slides a knife between your ribs. Hemsworth leans into his strengths here, using his natural charm and charisma we've come to know and love from his portrayal of Thor, and weaponizes it against the viewer well.