Chris Hemsworth: Of Gods & Men
By Paul Flynn
Photography by Xevi Muntané
Styling by Jessie Culley
A year after arriving in Hollywood from his native Australia, Chris Hemsworth found himself in the actor’s purgatory of unemployment for nine months. After a brief turn in the 2009 Star Trek reboot—he played Captain Kirk’s father and was killed by Romulans in the first five minutes—Hemsworth was contemplating quitting and heading back to Australia. Out of luck and work, he paid the rent by babysitting his manager’s kids. Yes, the brawny Hemsworth was a babysitter.
Just as Hemsworth’s American dream was turning into a child-rearing nightmare, Buffy the Vampire Slayer maestro, screen wizard, and all-around comic-book god Joss Whedon spotted him in the casting crowd, felt the heat of his evident star quality, and turned the spotlight on him. “Just after that period of not working,” says Hemsworth, in his preposterously low baritone, “my first job was
The director and actor bonded, turning Whedon into the first of many blue-chip ambassadors for Hemsworth. Another director, British Shakespearean don Kenneth Branagh, demurred to Jimmy Kimmel -- on casting the star in the mold-breaking superhero flick, Thor -- that Hemsworth “is built like a concrete shipyard and looks very fetching with his shirt off.” But breaking out with a film like Thor can come with certain preconceptions.
“Being that size, you are very quickly stereotyped. Clearly, you can’t be talented if you’re that bulky. He’s going to be a meathead, you know?” Hemsworth muses. “You do wonder if you’ll be restricted and not allowed to do anything else. But what it gives you far outweighs those negatives. Kenneth Branagh, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins -- this was not your average blockbuster superhero thing.”
Thor propelled Hemsworth to the A-list, joining an elite band of emerging leading men, a new Brat Pack looking 21st-century movie stardom, lantern-jawed, in the mirror. They might, more assiduously, be dubbed the Frat Pack—it’s not a cerebral school of acting. What it lacks of the new intellectual British school of post–Daniel Craig tortured souls (Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy), it makes up for in effortless sports-bar cheer. You’d trust every one of them with a basketball. They are adorable, in person, as on film. And Hemsworth is the most likely to break out of this mold and achieve Hollywood mega-fame.
Hemsworth’s arrival in Tinseltown was opportune, around the time Channing Tatum -- a supporter and ally of both Hemsworth and his younger brother, Liam -- was the alpha male of this new pack. Hemsworth is managed by the husband of Tatum’s agent, and he would frequently chase roles Tatum had turned down. “Channing made a good point about audiences these days having ADHD,” Hemsworth says. “You can’t keep away for too long. Stars are pumped out. We live in a different age. The movie is a lot bigger than the star. There are plenty of guys you can throw into action roles, but you have to capitalize on it.” And capitalize on it, Hemsworth shall.
“All this was mostly luck,” Hemsworth says of his career. Light years away from his acting drought, the 28-year-old is 2012’s poster-boy for Hollywood masculinity. As he speaks in a North London photo studio -- a familiar habitat given his increasing celebrity -- it’s apparent, five minutes into talking to him, that he’s possibly the straightest man alive. From his boot-cut, distressed denim and his deep voice to his shoulder-length hair (a remnant of that hammer-wielding Norse god), he has a butch construction-worker vibe -- even with a ponytail.