Chris Hemsworth’s latest movie role is far more heroic than his portrayal of the hammer-wielding warrior Thor.
Hemsworth stars in “12 Strong” as Capt. Mitch Nelson, a character based on Green Beret Mark Nutsch — leader of a 12-man U.S. Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan immediately after 9/11.
The 34-year-old star spoke with Nutsch while preparing for the part, ultimately realizing there’s an additional burden in depicting a real-life hero.
“It’s a whole lot more responsibility, or a different type of responsibility and pressure,” Hemsworth told the Daily News. “To have this sort of wealth of knowledge and information at your fingertips to inspire the character and the choices you make is fantastic.
“A lot of the time (in movies) you’re having to sort of dramatize the events or invent all of these characteristics about it. Although there’s a pressure, it’s just such an advantage because you have this action figure right there in front of you to use as inspiration.”
The real-life element made the role even more fulfilling for Hemsworth. He remembers frequently stepping back during production to make sure the story was told the right way.
“We had to keep checking ourselves and going, ‘Hang on, are we doing this justice? Are we respectful about our approach?’” he said.
(Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for Sundance Film F)
The film, due out Friday, is based on author Doug Stanton’s book “Horse Soldiers.” Nutsch and his squad were dispatched to Afghanistan with the goal of convincing Afghan allies to collaborate with them in wiping out Taliban forces.
Nutsch’s team and their allies navigated the country on horseback.
With aid from American air support, they overcame tremendous odds to liberate Taliban-controlled Mazar-i-Sharif — Afghanistan’s fourth largest city — in three weeks, with the entire squad intact.
“It’s just a fascinating story,” Hemsworth said. “If someone had pitched me this and said it wasn’t true, I would’ve said it’s a ridiculous idea and no one’s going to believe it.
“As I read the script, and read the book and spoke to people, I’d just constantly have to pause and think, ’Oh my God, how did we not know about this (and) how the hell did they pull this off?’”
The story is more remarkable considering Nutsch had no combat experience, although he was highly trained and had been deployed across the globe — including the Middle East.
Captain Mitch Nelson and Michael Shannon as Hal Spencer in “12 Strong.”
On Sept. 10, 2001, Nutsch began a staff job in America with the Army after years in the field.
But he returned to action after the twin towers toppled, and was told Sept. 14 that his team was headed to Afghanistan.
“Being among that first wave was incredibly humbling,” Nutsch said. “It was not lost on us, the historical significance.
“We were so proud to be tapped for that mission, and we were so focused and committed . . . They didn’t expect us to survive that mission, or if they did, they expected us to come out of the mountains in about six months having raised an army.”
Nutsch acknowledges some aspects of the story were changed for the movie, but says the film overall “represents all the main players of that historical action.”
The 9/11 attacks are often a difficult topic for moviemakers to tell due to how recent the tragedy was and the sensitive subject matter.
Geoff Stults as Sean Coffers and Chris Hemsworth as Captain Mitch Nelson in “12 Strong.”
But producer Jerry Bruckheimer — maker of “Black Hawk Down” and “Pearl Harbor” — believes this tale of tremendous triumph puts “12 Strong” in a different category.
“9/11 is basically a backdrop for this,” Bruckheimer said. “This was a response to 9/11, so I think this is something that audiences want to see. It’s kind of payback for what happened in a small way. It just shows how an operation can go well.”
The cast and crew leaned on author Stanton, who spent years researching his book, to answer questions and to provide details about the mission.
Stanton believes “12 Strong” does a good job capturing the essence of the story.
“At its heart, it’s really about people that walk among us that have the same fears and hopes that we have, but at the same time are dealing with these epic, kind of global moments because they’ve been trained to do something and they’re called to go into action,” Stanton said.
Australian-born Hemsworth was an 18-year-old living in his homeland when the 9/11 attacks occurred. He vividly remembers watching the horror unfold on a television in his school library, and recalls feeling “confusion, shock, (and) sadness.”
Years later, he jumped at the chance to join “12 Strong” as and pay tribute to the soldiers who bravely risked their lives.
“Even just as a thank you to them, I wanted to be a part of this story,” Hemsworth said. “I wanted to be a part of the acknowledgment and appreciation for what they’d done.”