Rising to acclaim as the god Thor in one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time, actor Chris Hemsworth talks fame, weight-loss, and the importance of family ahead of the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron in China on May 12th.
By Jan Janssen
Chris Hemsworth is about as ideal a choice to play a Norse God as you could imagine. The strapping 6’3” Aussie has the sandy hair and sculpted features that are perfectly suited to the role of Thor, one of the Avengers dedicated to saving the earth from the forces of evil.
Recently crowned “Sexiest Man Alive,” Hemsworth’s legions of female fans are no doubt breathlessly awaiting his return as the God of Thunder in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Marvel Studios’ blockbuster sequel to 2012’s The Avengers. The original Avengers ranks as the third highest-grossed film of all time with a global box-office take of $1.5 billion and many Hollywood insiders are predicting that Age of Ultron could well surpass the $2 billion mark on the strength of massive audience expectations. Certainly Hemsworth has few doubts that the sequel will deliver the goods.
“I just loved how (Age of Ultron) upped it in a way that wasn’t just bigger and flashier,” Hemsworth declared. “I mean, everything had been amplified, but in an intelligent way. All the stories are relevant to what’s going on in the world, as far as the exponential growth of technology and artificial intelligence and the questions of good versus bad and the AI world. They’re obviously heavily influenced by that tone and that debate. (Director/writer Joss Whedon) has managed to bring all of the Avengers back in and give them a relevant reason to be there…”
According to Hemsworth, some interesting new layers have been added to Thor: “Thor gets to loosen up…This time there’s more humour in Thor, because he’s been on Earth, (and he’s) a little more accessible now. He’s off Asgard now, so he doesn’t have to be as regal and kingly as he is in that world, which is nice. I enjoy that more. Here you can have a gag with the guys and he can throw away lines and be in a party scene with them in civilian clothes.”
Set for China-wide release beginning on May 12th, Avengers: Age of Ultron sees Hemsworth re-joined by familiar cast-mates Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), and Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk). In addition, two new players join the Marvel/Disney superhero extravaganza – Paul Bettany’s The Vision and James Spader as the voice of Ultron.
Though plot details remain a closely guarded secret, we do know that Age of Ultron centres around Tony Stark’s attempt to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program only to see things go seriously awry. As a result, the Avengers crew joins Iron Man in trying to save earth from the evil plans of the mysterious Ultron. It has all the makings of an epic superhero adventure that will no doubt turn out to be the year’s biggest box-office draw.
The 31-year-old Chris Hemsworth grew up in Australia and moved to Los Angeles in 2007 after first achieving fame in the Oz soap, Home and Away. Apart from his several turns as man with the hammer Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and The Avengers, Hemsworth turned in fine performances as race car driver James Hunt in Rush (2013) and as a master hacker in the Michael Man thriller, Blackhat, released in January. Later this year Hemsworth re-teams with Rush director Ron Howard in the action/adventure film In the Heart of the Sea about a 19th century whaling ship that is attacked by a sperm sea that leaves its crew adrift.
Hemsworth lives most of the year in Malibu, California with his wife, Spanish actress Elsa Patacky (Fast Five, Furious 6), their 2-year-old baby daughter, India Rose, and year-old twin boys, Tristan and Sasha. Chris has an older acting brother, Luke, 33, and a younger one, Liam, 24.
Q: Chris, the original Avengers film was a colossal success. Marvel Studios seems to have found the right way to approach these stories and give a place for all these characters?
HEMSWORTH: It’s mind-blowing. But apart from the action and special effects sequences, Joss is a man of incredible detail about what those guys are going through and it’s incredible to be able to add layers to the characters as they come together again in Age of Ultron. They all link up in some way, but I think Marvel is pretty adamant about them being their own stories. They had already planned the Avengers way back even before the Iron Man films came out.
Q: Were you a Thor fan before you started playing the character?
HEMSWORTH: No, I knew nothing about Thor before I started work on these films. But it was exciting to start reading the comics and exploring the lore surrounding him. When I began preparing to play Thor the first thing I wanted to work out was how the guy postured, how he held the Hammer, and what would happen if he hit someone with it! (Smiles)
Q: With the kind of global recognition you’ve received from playing Thor, do you feel that you’ve secured your place in Hollywood?
HEMSWORTH: I’m not as worried I used to be about not finding good work or ending up forgotten. My wife and my manager are very supportive and they help maintain my confidence, but there’s always a little fear factor there. Anthony Hopkins told me that at the end of each film he wonders if he will ever do another. There is something unhealthy about that state of mind, but fear can also be a great motivator. If you think you’ve arrived and you’ve got it made, you stop wanting to push yourself and grow as an actor. You’re finished if you have that attitude.
Q: So how do you see your career evolving these days?
HEMSWORTH: I’m reaching the point where I can do both the big superhero films as well as dramas and other types of stories. Rush made people take me more seriously as an actor and I want to be able to continue to do work like that. I only got the role in Blackhat after Ron Howard showed Michael Mann the first 45 minutes of Rush before the film was even released. I love playing Thor and the Avengers films have given me a huge standing in the business, but they’re big action films where audiences are drawn mainly to the massive spectacle of it all. I feel I’ve also begun to show that I can do more than be the guy with the muscles in the superhero suit.
Q: With respect to your bulked-up physique as Thor, is it hard to maintain?
HEMSWORTH: Yes! (Laughs) It requires lifting huge amounts of weights and doing lots of reps to get that kind of massive build. But each time I finish playing Thor, I get rid of that bulk and that size, because that’s just for the screen for that character. For Blackhat, I trained in a completely different way. I did a lot of martial arts. I’ve also boxed a lot in the past and I’ve done a lot of Muay Thai.
Q: You have to keep transforming your physique from a film like Thor to a film like Blackhat and now with your new film with Ron Howard, The Heart of the Sea (in which he plays an 1820s whaler whose ship is stranded at sea for 90 days)? Is this one of the hardest aspects of your life as an actor?
HEMSWORTH: It’s the accordion effect which is the worst part. First I had to gain 20 pounds of muscle mass for Thor and then I had to lose all that and then lose another 20 pounds to play my character in Heart of the Sea. After all that dieting, if I see one more serving of chicken breast with biologically grown broccoli, I swear that I’m going to take Thor’s hammer to the plate. (Smiles)
Q: Do you think people will continue to identify with you because of the work you’ve done as Thor over the course of all the Marvel films?
HEMSWORTH: I would like to bring them over to my other films. I’ve enjoyed doing films like Snow White and The Huntsman and we’re going to be doing another one soon. I love the worlds of fantasy and action and I’ve learnt so much from working with directors like Joss (Whedon) and also Kenneth Branagh (who directed Hemsworth in Thor).
Q: What counts most for you in life?
HEMSWORTH: Being a good father and a good husband. When I was younger I dreamed about having this kind of life and that’s exactly what I’m living now. In terms of work, a few years ago I would have settled for much less than what I’ve been able to achieve – I never imagined getting to this point in my career. But now I see work as something I do for my family and so that they can enjoy all the advantages and benefits of whatever success I have.
Q: How do you manage to work as much as you have lately while raising a family with three young children?
HEMSWORTH: My wife is the real superhero in our family. She’s been really supportive and allowed me to feel free to go out and pursue my career even though that means being away from home a lot. I couldn’t have done that without her blessing.
Q: Your wife Elsa Patacky is Spanish. Do you ever speak Spanish to her?
HEMSWORTH: I’m trying to learn the language but my Spanish is still horrible although I hope to be more fluent in another year or so….My Spanish is horrible I can’t even understand her when she’s angry with me and yelling at me in her native language. I can’t understand a word and that’s probably a good thing! But at least I’ve learnt a very important Spanish phrase which helps calm things down. “Si, mi amor!” (Yes, my love!) (Laughs) Saying “Si, mi amor” is enough to cool things down between us when we’re having one of those typical husband-wife moments.
Q: What about your kids – are they going to learn Spanish?
HEMSWORTH: Our daughter is already speaking Spanish and our twins are also going to be fluent in both English and Spanish. Maybe I’m going to have to raise my Spanish level! (Laughs) Give me another year. I do love Spain. We travel there as much as we can to visit Elsa’s family.