AUSSIE HUNK HOLLYWOOD'S MOST DOWN-TO-EARTH MOVIE STAR
R unning barefoot across the dry and dusty earth of Central Australia is where a young Chris Hemsworth discovered the power of imagination. There wasn’t much for a knockabout city kid to do in the isolated cattle station community of Bulman in the remote northeast of the Northern Territory.
Bits of scrap metal or lumps of wood found in dad’s shed became pretend weapons and shields in mighty battles of warring soldiers or in showdowns between cops and robbers.
Hemsworth and his brothers Luke and Liam spent hours making their own fun in the barren paddocks surrounding the house or in the foothills of nearby mountains.
“We were 4½ hours from the nearest town,” Hemsworth recalled in a recent interview with News Corp.
“My parents ran the community centre, which doubled as a post office and a grocery store. It was in the middle of nowhere.”
It was a world away from his home town of Melbourne, where the beach, cinema or shops could provide hours of entertainment on a weekend.
Most of the time mum Leonie worked as a schoolteacher and dad Craig was in child protection in the Victorian capital, where Hemsworth was born, and later on Phillip Island where the family settled.
But those few stints in the Top End provided adventures that the boys relished.
Hemsworth still sports a scar on his left palm, courtesy of an outback incident when he was about seven and following the purchase of a knife.
He told the sales guy it was for fishing and that was good enough for the bloke.
Later, Hemsworth took his new toy to a local swimming hole and while diving in the murky brown water, lunged at what he thought was a fish, but stabbed himself in the hand instead. He has long credited those kinds of self-made adventures with helping shape the man he has become.
“The characters I’ve been playing and the worlds they’re from, and the adventures they’re on — it was, in a strange way, like my childhood growing up in the bush,” he said in a 2012 interview.
This year marks a decade since Hemsworth followed that sense of adventure from Sydney to Los Angeles to try his luck at the big time after a successful TV career at home.
It’s a path well worn by droves of hopeful Australian actors, who have set up shop in Tinseltown, determined to be one of the lucky few who break through.
Hemsworth made a promising start — quickly landing the role of George Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek. J ust as quickly as it came, however, that early buzz went away. “There were eight months where everything just stopped,” the actor reflected in 2015. “I got more and more anxious. I was just about to pack it in. I had an audition before Christmas and as I got on the plane, I thought, ‘I don’t give a shit any more. I’m sick of caring.’ ” That audition — his last-ditch effort before packing it in and coming home — was for Joss Whedon’s The Cabin In The Woods. He got the part. The director later said he knew Hemsworth was a star the moment he walked into the room. The star’s former colleagues on the Channel 7 soap Home and Away agree with that assessment, saying there was always something about the young actor that hinted he was destined for greatness. Lynne McGranger, who plays Irene in the long-running show, has seen plenty of ambitious young actors come and go over the years, and is pretty good at spotting star quality. “His path since leaving here doesn’t surprise me in the slightest,” McGranger says. “Ada Nicodemou and I used to say that he was so going to make it big in Hollywood. What we never picked was that his big break would come within six weeks of landing. “But they obviously took one look at him, this gorgeous Adonis, heard his voice and saw his talent, and decided he had to be a star.”
For three years, Hemsworth delighted viewers of the soap as Kim Hyde, the son of the local school principal. He has always seen the job as the perfect training ground.
“As a young actor, I couldn’t think of a better environment,” he said in 2011.
“It was even better than drama school. You’re really on your toes. You shoot 20 scenes a day, five episodes … you get to work with a lot of different directors. In school, they tell you how to do it. With this, you’re forced to learn. I’m thankful for that period.”
McGranger remembers a “lovely, genuine bloke” who loved to work hard, adored his family and was a big softie.
“Honestly, he’s one of the nicest people you could ever meet,” she says.
“And he’s so talented. He always had that star quality, it was plain to see, but he’s also talented and hardworking.”
And yet, Hemsworth admits to feeling a deep insecurity and anxiety, despite plenty of praise and high expectations for his future.
He wanted this world — he was desperate for it — but he often wondered if he was good enough for it.
In one interview, Hemsworth recalls “being angsty” for a long time. Was this the right path for him? He wasn’t sure.
“I remember (older brother) Luke sort of snapping, telling me to shut up, that he was sick of hearing it,” he says.
Luke, whose own experience as an actor inspired the younger Hemsworth to get into the business, was the one who pulled him out of his own head. And in the end, it was that gruelling soap opera job that honed and finetuned his now famous work ethic.
Hollywood pundits describe Hemsworth as almost obsessed with working, possessing a “do what it takes” mentality.
That, coupled with his talent, a bit of luck and good timing, made the perfect recipe for success.
After shooting Cabin In The Woods, an audition for a new comic book hero film called Thor presented itself and he had a crack.
It didn’t go very well, he recalls. He walked out of the room thinking he’d muffed it.
His younger brother Liam, who’d followed his lead and moved to LA, also auditioned and was named as one of four contenders in industry press. Whedon saw the story and phoned Hemsworth to find out what happened. Then
There’s still the fear, the anxiety that it could all end tomorrow
Whedon called Thor director Kenneth Branagh to insist he give Hemsworth another go. Branagh obliged and the second chance paid off.
There were no hard feelings between the brothers, who each describe the other as their best mate. Things also worked out well for Liam, who landed a part in the hugely successful Hunger Games franchise.
On the cusp of superstardom, just before Thor came out, Hemsworth was able to sit down and watch one of the film’s final cuts — a prospect that would normally make the actor squirm.
“It’s often difficult to watch yourself onscreen, especially 60-feet high,” he said in one interview. “As an actor, it’s an uncomfortable experience. But this is one of the first times I was able to get lost in it as an audience member.”
Fans were equally enthused and Thor rocketed to the top of the box office — as did its sequel and The Avengers movie, in which Hemsworth also portrayed the Norse god. I t can be easy to let fame go to your head, says Hemsworth, but his down-to-earth attitude remains.
It’s thanks to getting the silliness out of his system as a young soap star and some helpful advice from megastar mate Matt Damon.
“(Damon) once said to me: ‘Just stay boring. Don’t go spilling out of a club at four in the morning and you’ll be fine.’ The paparazzi (soon) got bored because we are pretty boring.”
Starting a family helped combat any temptation to get ahead of himself, he says.
Hemsworth met actor Elsa Pataky through a dialect coach in 2010 and they married at the end of that year after a whirlwind romance.
The couple now have three children — India is four and twin sons Tristan and Sasha are two.
While he keeps his family life as private as possible, Hemsworth is rarely too shy to gush about his beautiful wife. He has often described her as “outgoing, with a sense of humour and a passionate attitude towards life that’s nice to try to keep up with”.
The family spends most of the year in Byron Bay on the NSW north coast, where locals are likely to spot them strolling through the markets or see Hemsworth catching waves.
Both are working performers — Pataky starred in Fast And Furious 6, among other films — but they have agreed they won’t take jobs at the same time, so the children are put first.
Hemsworth was reportedly instrumental in having Thor: Ragnarok — due for release this year — filmed on the Gold Coast so he could stay close to home.
When he’s not working or playing doting dad, the star devotes time to a variety of charitable causes, including the Australian Childhood Foundation and international development charity YGAP, and acts as ambassador for brands such as Tourism Australia and Foxtel.
Despite his talent and enormous success, he reveals that a quiet but ever-present self-doubt never really goes away.
“There’s still the fear, the anxiety that it could all end tomorrow,” he’s said.
“That’s always in the back of my mind. It keeps me motivated. The fear keeps me hungry.”
A young Hemsworth with Alyssa McClelland in Home and Away.
Liam, Chris and dad Craig celebrate the Western Bulldogs win. Stealing the show as Kevin the receptionist in Ghostbusters. Chris Hemsworth, the acrobat, and (left) with his wife, actor Elsa Pataky. Main picture: Doug Inglish