Chris Hemsworth talks the joys and fears of fatherhood, his recent move from LA to Australia, career motivations and his upcoming role in the all-female Ghostbusters revamp
During one of his first Hollywood auditions after moving to LA, a 24 year-old Chris Hemsworth received some galling criticism.
“I was told I was too tall, too big, too blond,” he says looking rather big, tall and blond in a fitted white tee and dark jeans. “Basically, I wasn’t good enough and would have no career at all. So yea, that was quite crushing at the time.”
The Melbourne born actor, who got his first break on iconic soap, Home and Away, proved the naysayers very wrong. Shortly after that crushing deconstruction, Hemsworth landed the part of Captain Kirk’s father in Star Trek before beating half of Tinseltown – including younger brother, Liam [The Hunger Games franchise] – to the career-making role of Thor.
A critical and commercial smash, the Australian become a stoic figure in the Marvel universe and joined the A-list ranks alongside Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in the billion dollar grossing Avengers franchise.
But Hemsworth was always keen to break away from his blockbuster confines, testing himself with standalone features, including Snow White and The Huntsman, Ron Howard’s Rush and derided thriller, Blackhat.
And reteaming with Howard once again for colonial swashbuckler, In the Heart of The Sea, the star pushes his limits even further playing Owen Chase, first officer of the whaling ship, The Essex.
Based on real events that inspired Moby Dick, Hemsworth and fellow cast, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker and new Spiderman actor, Tom Holland, had to go to extreme lengths to portray the crew, stricken at sea after a marauding bull whale attacks and sinks their vessel.
And after Hemsworth recently posted a shocking looking selfie on Instagram of his tortuous weight loss, the industry is now buzzing over an actor determined to suffer for his art and stretch himself far beyond the Marvel universe.
Married to Spanish star, Elsa Pataky, mother of his three children, India, 3 and two-year-old twin sons, Tristan and Sasha, Chris relives the extreme preparation for the role and how this affected his family life.
He also talks of the joys and fears of fatherhood, his recent move from LA to Byron Bay, career motivations and his upcoming role in the all-female Ghostbusters revamp.
You lost a ton of weight for this role. A road you’d go down again?
HEMSWORTH: I’ve ticked that box now [laughs]. I’m good, I’m done. I read things and any reference to huge amount of weight loss, I’m like nah…
It looked quite terrifying…
HEMSWORTH: It was more exhausting. All you think about is food, and the insanity that goes with that. Or if you eat the wrong thing, if you snack on a bit of a chocolate. Then you eat the whole thing, so you’re like, ‘Right, back on the treadmill.’ It was whacky.
Owen is a family man and this helps motivate him to survive. As a father yourself, could you identify with that?
HEMSWORTH: Yes definitely, there’s no stronger drive than wanting to overcome some horrific circumstance against all odds and survive. There’s no greater motivation to keep pushing through it and keep fighting. The people that didn’t survive, didn’t have anything to live for necessarily. So that was something I was thinking about the whole time, and I certainly was thinking about my kids.
Was water part of your life growing up?
HEMSWORTH: Surfing yea, for sure. We lived about an hour and a half from the beach. We’d go down just about every weekend, or we’d go down with my dad really early before school for a surf, so we’d be late for school [laughs]. Because my dad was surfer as well, big obsession. And then we moved down to the beach when I was older. But it was always surfing, not boats. I never really liked boats or fishing. This was very new to me.
You looked pretty nimble scaling that mast?
HEMSWORTH: That wasn’t me [laughing] I may have had a cable pulling on me to make me go a little faster [laughs].
Were you nervous?
HEMSWORTH: Not so much that but actually, the thing that scared the hell out of me and I didn’t expect it was being up on the mast. Having to look heroic and gaze out onto the sea and for the whole thing, I was white knuckling it to hang on. And you’re clinging on because the wind is going, the ocean is rocking and there’s a helicopter circling to get those shots. But it was a beautiful view [laughs].
You brought this script to Ron Howard while you were working on Rush with the character of Owen in mind for yourself. Was there ever any question that someone else would play him?
HEMSWORTH: Yea, I assumed I was playing Owen. Would have been quite awkward if not. ‘Hi Chris, you’re actually playing another character [laughs].’
How did you find the script?
HEMSWORTH: Paula Weinstein had the script for ten years and Will Ward, my manager, helped produce on it, helped get it going, got me involved. I loved the story, the epic scale, the visual backdrop, the edge of your seat action sequences but it was a drama at the heart of it. I find a lot of stuff that I’m reading these days don’t get me that feeling. But we didn’t want to make a dusty period film, we wanted to make it contemporary, so there were a few fusions of themes and ideas we tried to tackle. I was obsessed with it, loved the character and loved the story.
Did you need Moby Dick?
HEMSWORTH: A bit, it wasn’t a required reading at school for me. I started reading it and Ron said, ‘if you’re going to read it, read it for pleasure. But don’t read it as the quintessential research tool. There’s other things, other books that will give you a greater benefit.’
Journal entries from these guys, the book In the Heart of the Sea was the bible. And there were passages about whales and whaling in Moby Dick that Ron highlighted. In the Heart of The Sea was thing that I had a highlighter and pencil on.
The white whale in Moby Dick represents his greatest fear; what do you identify as your greatest fear?
HEMSWORTH: I don’t know, I think boredom. I think that’s what drove me into this line of work. There’s so much doing on, different settings, different movements, different people, keeps me interested. What scared the hell out of me, was not wanting to do the same thing every day. Not hating my job when I grew up. I had people all around saying, that’s the way it is and that was not going to happen to me. I think that’s what motivated me, that fear, what keeps me staying open, trying to learn new things.
Has fatherhood changed that? Are you more scared now?
HEMSWORTH: I’m terrified all the time [laughs]. I’m always thinking of their well-being. You’re constantly counting, ‘One, two; oh shit, where is the other one.’ It’s not about you anymore. Everything scares the hell out of you. We bought a house in Australia, and obviously I’m from Australia, but you forget how many snakes and..especially where we live, snakes and spiders that live with you, and I think, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to lose all three of them [laughs]. Cutting back all the bushes, so you can see the paths, clearing things out, making sure that we all can see things clearer.
Are you happy with the move from LA to Byron Bay?
HEMSWORTH: Best thing we ever did. LA is alright but once we had a kid, it was difficult to get around and with the paparazzi and so on. There, it’s all about the work, and everywhere you look, you’re reminded of films you’re in, films you’re not in, people are talking about scripts. And there in Byron Bay, it couldn’t be more far removed. You feel like a person again.
And it’s about giving your kids the great upbringing you had, I assume.
HEMSWORTH: Oh, of course. Everything I do is, I guess, structured around what my parents did. A friends of mine said to me, his dad who he didn’t have a good relationship with, everything he does, is different to what his dad did. And I’m very fortunate to be doing things that are based on what I experienced.
Cillian Murphy mentioned how he was so glad he didn’t have to go home every night to his kids while shooting this film, because of the dieting and not being able to be full energy for them. Were you thankful also?
HEMSWORTH: They [cast] were staying in the hotel together, training together, being miserable together. I had my family with me each night and had to go home excited, ‘Hey….dad’s home!!’
No way, I didn’t realise.
HEMSWORTH: It was really hard. It would have been easier to have been at the hotel, been down and miserable with the rest of the cast, because it was so difficult getting home. Elsa would say, ‘Shut up Chris, stop being so moody, eat something’ [laughs]. And the kids, well the boys weren’t there, they hadn’t come along yet but India, she could sense I wasn’t as active as normal and yea, I’d sort of save the one meal of the day for when I get home so I could be in a good mood, fun dad mood. I remember Matt Damon telling me when he was doing Courage Under Fire, every time he rang home was just after he ate and, be fine. And then he’d cry as soon as he hung up.
You did a huge favour for Tom Holland, recommending him for the Spiderman role. That’s a huge favour.
HEMSWORTH: Look, why not help out when you can. When Tom was getting cast, I said to the Marvel guys, you know you’re not going to find someone with a better work ethic, humility and passion for work, and appreciate of it too. He always turned up with a big old grin on his face, always looked so stoked to be there. So I said to him, always hold on to that, don’t lose it because for one, it will make me look like a liar and two, it will help you keep your feet on the ground. And it goes such a long way. The attitude you used to be able to get away with before, you can’t anymore.
You’re not afraid to try new things, with this film and we’ll see see you in the new Ghostbusters. Is comedy another new direction you’re heading towards?
HEMSWORTH: Well yea, I love comedy, especially after doing Vacation last year, which sort of just came up unexpectedly. And I thought, can I do this, I don’t know. The script was really funny and it was also nice not to have to carry the movie because that stresses me out, I don’t like that pressure necessarily. And then I did SNL and was shocked how much I loved it and how well it was received. So Paul Feig saw that and reached out, and said do I want this part in Ghostbusters. It wasn’t so much an intentional move, all very much fortuitous accidents. Which are always appreciated.
And Ghostbusters, I adore those women so much, and it’s going to be an unbelievably hilarious movie. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.