At the premiere of ‘12 Strong’ we chatted with Hemsworth, Navid Negahban (‘Homeland’) and author Doug Stanton about horse soldiers, Green Berets, and what it means to be a hero.
Chris Hemsworth is best known for playing superhero Thor, wielding his trusty hammer, but in 12 Strong, he portrays a real-life special forces hero, Captain Mitch Nelson.
The story, based on the book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, follows twelve brave Green Beret soldiers in the first victory after the attacks on September 11th. The men are tasked with defeating the Taliban with the help of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, with the latest in American military technology: horses. The story, also starring Michael Shannon, Rob Riggle, Michael Peña, and Trevante Rhodes, is about as patriotic as Hollywood gets, which is very patriotic.
Despite being an Aussie, Chris Hemsworth seems to take on the All-American hero convincingly. Hemsworth’s wife, actress Elsa Pataky, plays his on-screen wife as well in this film, adding an extra level of authenticity.
We spoke with the cast as well as Stanton at the New York premiere this week.
Q: Who is a real life hero for you?
A: My real life hero? My wife. She’s the greatest mother, helped me raise three beautiful children. And helped me act in this movie. She didn’t need much practice.
Q: Did it change your relationship, working on this movie?
A: No, we talked about it for a while, and then once the opportunity came up, we jumped at it. Having three little kids, you don’t get a whole lot of time alone, so this was our time alone
Q: Tell us about this movie being a love letter to those who risked their lives.
A: Absolutely inspirational meeting these guys, hearing their stories, the complete humility and lack of dramatization or exaggeration. It’s just matter of fact — this is our job, this is what we do — and it takes a special kind of person to do that.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your character [General Dostum].
A: He’s the one who was trying to protect the soldiers. He didn’t want anything to happen to any of the soldiers. He wanted to make sure he had the support of the U.S. forces and that’s why he was completely surrounding soldiers, protecting them, and defending them. He was trying to achieve their goal.
Q: How are you on a horse?
A: I used to think I was very good, but doing this movie I discovered that, oh my god, I mean, it was very harsh. We had some injuries, we had some falls, and it is was tough training.
Q: And where was the film shot?
A: We shot in New Mexico — different areas in New Mexico.
Q: Talk about working Chris Hemsworth.
A: Oh, it was amazing. The whole cast was fantastic. Chris worked really hard to find the heart of the character. He was able to carry that character through.
Q: Did you get to meet with your real-life counterpart when preparing for the role?
A: I never had a chance to meet with Dostum, but I had the pleasure to meet with the soldiers and some of the people who met him up close and personal, and that’s how I was able to prepare.
Q: How did you feel about them changing the title [from Horse Soldiers to 12 Strong]?
A: Well, actually, I like the new title because it’s got two words it: “12,” which is the number, and I like the idea of “Strong.” I wish I thought about it for the book.
Q: Even the idea of Green Berets on horseback.
A: They’re riding horses because the Afghan resistance fighters are on horseback. They don’t have real vehicles but they have money. They’re charging against the Taliban on Toyota trucks. They’re fighting this guerrilla war against the Taliban before 9/11, so when the Americans arrive [the resistance fighters] don’t wear helmets, they speak Arabic or Russian, they don’t speak Dari, because not many people did, and if a woman would walk into the room, they would look away. They’re diplomats and warriors — the same thing woven in one. And that’s what they’re training’s about, and you see that in the movie. Navid and Chris Hemsworth spend a lot of time talking, which is an interesting moment in making an action movie.