Chris Hemsworth: Of Gods & Men

4.19.2012

By Paul Flynn

Chris Hemsworth went from being an Aussie soap star to the embodiment of the Norse thunder god, nudging to the head of the pack of blond Hollywood newbies -- and what killer hair!

He also has a manly reluctance to gossip or discuss his personal life. Hemsworth’s foxy Spanish wife, the actress Elsa Pataky, is expecting the couple’s first child. When asked if the baby was planned, he bats it back: “Er, yes and no. I have to be elusive about that,” he says.

This year, he’ll open two summer blockbusters, reprising the thunder god in Whedon’s The Avengers -- alongside a dizzying cast of costars (such as Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans) -- and starring in a darkly gothic fairytale retelling, Snow White and the Huntsman. He drops a mention of being invited to a personal preview screening of the latter with his costars: “And Charlize and Kristen and I all could not believe how amazing it was.” He doesn’t mention the surnames, Theron and Stewart, because he doesn’t have to.

Hemsworth will soon wrap Ron Howard’s Rush, playing the British Formula One racing ace, James Hunt. In it, he faces his toughest test yet. We’ve seen him captivate as the action man, the living comic, the superhero, the presence. But can he inhabit a flawed antihero? “I hope so,” he says, without a trace of self-assurance. “It’s an acting thing, solely. It’s character-based.”

SLIDESHOW: VIEW EXCLUSIVE IMAGES OF CHRIS HEMSWORTH

That he’s having a moment isn’t lost or unappreciated. “I’d love to say it’s all about hard work, and, yes, that’s a component,” Hemsworth says, “but I know so many actors who are hard workers who it’s just not happening for. I’m not about to complain.”

Hemsworth has a judicious balance of humility and ambition. He gets a little “aw, shucks” shy at any mention of his evident physical advantage. His ego is in direct in verse to his musculature. He is a man’s man with enough sensitivity to appeal to the girls and gays. Onscreen, he’s possessed of the unique ability to make superheroes look human. And being simultaneously hard and soft is tougher than he makes it look.

When asked when he was first aware of being looked at, he flips the question back. “That’s... interesting,” he muses, as if he has never considered it before. But a good-looking man gets looked at, surely? “It’s so easy to sound fake sincere when you talk about looks or whatever, but I never thought, Oh yeah, great, I look like this, therefore I ought to get that. We all have the same insecurities.”

Hemsworth was brought up the middle child of three brutally handsome, strapping, field-hand-type brothers in Melbourne, Australia. He spent his young life between suburbia and the Outback, where the family decamped to a farming community in the Northern Territory. “My mum always used to say to me that, out of her three boys, ‘Chris, you were the girl,’ ” he recalls. “I’d speak to her about far more things than [my brothers] would and far more things than she needed to hear about, too. I was a chatty kid.”

Chris’s first break was a role in the Australian soap opera, Home and Away, where he played a troubled teen. Previous alumni of the show include Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger, Melissa George, Guy Pearce, and True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, lending a strange Hollywood pedigree to graduating from this shallow parochial drama pool. “I was able to make mistakes, and no one gave a shit about me,” Hemsworth says. “You come to America, and, if you do a big TV show, then you can be overexposed, or old, before you’re new. You get the positives from an Australian soap without the negatives.” As a result, Hemsworth arrived in L.A. in peak physical condition with three years grueling daily acting experience. Or, as he puts it, “I had done a lot of nothing.”

His younger sibling, Liam, joined Chris in Hollywood not long after and is currently starring in The Hunger Games. “I’m reminded, now that my little brother’s working a lot, how much more interesting he is,” he says, humbly. “So I give him a punch when I see him.”

Tags: Movies
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