Get your mo­tor run­ning

As For­mula One ace James Hunt, Chris Hemsworth shows there’s life be­yond Thor, James Wigney dis­cov­ers

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

IT makes for a pretty awk­ward pic­ture: one of Hol­ly­wood’s most re­spected di­rec­tors and one of its hottest ris­ing stars fum­bling around like am­a­teurs. The rea­son? Sex, and plenty of it.

The star in ques­tion is Aussie Chris Hemsworth, who stars as race ace and no­to­ri­ous pants man James Hunt in Ron Howard’s ac­claimed new For­mula One biopic, Rush.

The hard- liv­ing, larger- than- life Hunt, who died of a heart at­tack in 1993 aged 45, re­port­edly bed­ded more than 5000 women, so any ac­cu­rate por­trait of his life needed to refl ect his feats be­tween the sheets as much as his prow­ess on the track.

Trou­ble was, nei­ther Hemsworth, nor vet­eran di­rec­tor Howard de­spite more than 35 years of movie- mak­ing had done any­thing quite like it be­fore.

“I re­mem­ber Ron say­ing to me he had never shot a sex scene like this be­fore so he was go­ing to let me guide him through it,’’ Hemsworth says with a rue­ful laugh.

“I had to tell him I had never done some­thing like this on a set ei­ther.

“So we were both there with our head in our hands go­ing, ‘ OK, how do we do this?’

“They are more in­tim­i­dat­ing than the driv­ing scenes. There are 100 peo­ple around and cam­eras and lights, and you have to get your kit off and act nat­u­ral.

“So you have to chore­o­graph them like any­thing else – it’s in­cred­i­bly un­ro­man­tic but it’s the only way to ap­proach it.’’

That Hemsworth was will­ing to bare his be­hind ( he draws the line at go­ing full frontal) and bed a bevy of beau­ties is tes­ta­ment to just how much he wanted the role.

Af­ter blaz­ing on to the world stage play­ing the caped, ham­mer- throw­ing Norse god Thor in the 2011 comic book movie adap­ta­tion of the same name, and ce­ment­ing his po­si­tion as the burly hunter in Snow White and the Hunts­man, Hemsworth was search­ing for act­ing chal­lenges be­yond the ef­fects- driven ac­tion block­buster.

Al­though Rush is set in the F1 world and fea­tures high- oc­tane, au­then­ti­cally recre­ated rac­ing scenes, it is, at its heart, a study of the rivalry be­tween two con­trast­ing driv­ers: Hemsworth’s in­stinc­tive play­boy Hunt and the clin­i­cal, me­thod­i­cal Niki Lauda, played by Ger­man ac­tor Daniel Bruhl.

Al­though im­pressed by the charm Hemsworth had shown in Thor, Howard freely ad­mits he had his doubts as to whether the tow­er­ing, good look­ing surfer boy had the nec­es­sary range to cap­ture the darker, more tor­tured as­pects of the Hunt psy­che.

He was won over by Hemsworth’s self- made au­di­tion tape, so much so the pair will reteam next year in pe­riod piece In the Heart Of the Sea.

Un­like Bruhl, who was able to spend time with Lauda, Hemsworth had to rely on old footage, bi­ogra­phies and those who knew Hunt to fi nd out what made the Bri­tish driver tick.

Be­neath “the play­boy, the rock star and the charis­matic rebel’’, Hemsworth found vul­ner­a­bil­ity, in­se­cu­rity and frus­tra­tion, all of which fu­elled Hunt’s gar­gan­tuan ap­petite for booze, drugs and women.

“Talk­ing to or read­ing about peo­ple who en­gaged in any sort of high- risk, adren­a­line-driven ac­tiv­i­ties, you be­come ad­dicted to that level of adren­a­line and the im­me­di­acy that sort of fear gives you,’’ he says.

“It forces you to smash into the present and they then chase that in other out­lets in life. How do I fi nd that else­where? The party, the drugs, the women, what else? They burn the can­dle at both ends and that’s when you get the fl ip side to that.’’

Hemsworth, by con­trast, had a wellad­justed, out­doorsy up­bring­ing rid­ing mo­tor­bikes in Mel­bourne, dodg­ing crocs in a re­mote Out­back com­mu­nity and surf­ing at Phillip Is­land.

The 30- year- old mid­dle child has a fi ercely com­pet­i­tive streak born from scrap­ping with older brother Luke, 32, who led the charge into act­ing, and 23- year- old Liam, of Hunger Games fame and, un­til re­cently, the other half of Mi­ley Cyrus.

Proud of and grate­ful for his close- knit fam­ily, Chris says the best ad­vice he ever got from his par­ents, English teacher Leonie and so­cial worker Craig, was: “Just have fun.’’

“That’s what this char­ac­ter’s motto was,’’ Hemsworth says of Hunt.

“At the end of the fi lm, the mes­sage is that no mat­ter how many medals or cups you have, if you are not hav­ing fun then what’s the point?’’

Hemsworth ad­mits he took that ad­vice to heart when he fi rst achieved lo­cal star­dom thanks to his three- year stint on long- run­ning soapie Home & Away.

Young, sin­gle and liv­ing in Syd­ney, he made the most of his fame but also saw its lim­i­ta­tions, dark side and cau­tion­ary tales.

“You have all th­ese ex­tremes and highs and par­ties, and all the temp­ta­tions, and part of you gets swept up say­ing ‘ isn’t this fun?’. But at times it can be kind of lonely as well. There are plenty of tales of peo­ple who went fur­ther into it than I did,” he says.

RUSH Now show­ing State and Vil­lage cine­mas

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