Newcomers Chris Hemsworth, Jamie Alexander star in 'Thor'

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PHOENIX – Even though Memorial Day is still a few weeks off, the summer movie season kicked of last weekend with the bang. “Fast Five” had the best April opening on the books.

The next big summer release comes this weekend with the first of several movies based on comic-book heroes, and it stars an actor with whom you might not be familiar -- Chris Hemsworth. If you saw “Star Trek” a couple of summers ago, however, you’ve seen him. Hemsworth played James T. Kirk’s father.

You’re going to be much more familiar with Hemsworth after “Thor” opens this weekend. You’ll see way more of him – in every sense – than you did in “Star Trek.”

Hemsworth had to beef up and gain lots of muscle to play Thor, who is part of the hugely successful Marvel comic “Avengers.” Thor is god of thunder who falls to Earth, and there was a very clear idea of how he should look like. One word describes it -- ripped.

“It was healthy weight to put on,” he said with his Australian accent. “I guess I enjoyed the active side of things, but it was exhausting after a 15-hour day to get to the gym. But as far as jobs go, I’m not complaining. It was still one of the best -- or the best.”

According to Hemsworth, the film is visually stunning. “I was blown away by the special effects,” he said.

Hemsworth is not the only new face in the movie. One of Thor’s best battle mates is played by Jamie Alexander.

She said she had to do some serious training, too. The director and producers wanted her to be muscular, but not a skinny waif.

“I said, ‘That’s cool,’ because I’m just not made that way. I like pizza and beer.” the actress told “Good Morning! Arizona” producer Lisa Fuller-Magee. “I’m normal!”

Alexander said the training became part of her lifestyle and the case became her extended family.

“I got so excited because for a lot of us, this is our first big film,” she said. “It’s neat to us up there. .. We worked hard, and there it is. It was real! It wasn’t a weird dream.”

Paramount has quite a bit riding on “Thor,” but it’s not completely in the hands relatively unknown actors. In addition to newcomers Hemsworth and Alexander, “Thor” also stars some veterans, including new Academy Award winner Natalie Portman and the legendary Sir Anthony HopkinsKenneth Branagh, who made Shakespeare popular in the movies, directed.

"Thor" is rated PG-13. It opens Friday and is playing in both 2D and 3D.