The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - MOVIES - WORDS: NEALA JOHN­SON

Ed Helms is a mod­ern-day re­nais­sance man. We know he’s funny – The Of­fice and three crazy Hang­over films at­test to that. He’s also smart, cut­ting his com­edy teeth as a re­porter on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. He’s known to jump on stage with Mum­ford & Sons to play a bit of banjo and has just re­leased an al­bum with his blue­grass band, The Lone­some Trio.

“It’s not break­ing any Bill­board chart records or any­thing,” says Helms of the lat­ter, “but, for the peo­ple that re­spond to that kind of mu­sic, it’s been a re­ally won­der­ful re­sponse.”

And these days he’s a lead­ing man, fill­ing the big shoes of Chevy Chase in Va­ca­tion, a re­boot of Na­tional Lam­poon’s 1980s road-trip­ping comedies.

Yet it was on the set of this very movie where Helms met the man who may just out-re­nais­sance him: Aussie Chris Hemsworth.

“I’m kinda sick of that guy. Yup. I’ve had enough!” ex­claims Helms, tongue firmly in cheek. “Ob­vi­ously he’s in­sanely good-look­ing, he’s a great ac­tor ... I didn’t ex­pect him to be as nat­u­rally funny as he was, so that pissed me off.

“Then I was like, ‘Well, if he’s all of those things, then he’s prob­a­bly an a**hole in per­son’. Then he hap­pens to just be the coolest, nicest guy I’ve ever worked with. Then you just sort of throw up your hands and you’re like, ‘God­dammit, I guess I love you too!’.”

In Va­ca­tion, Helms is Rusty – grown son of the in­fa­mous Clark Gris­wold. Wish­ing to recre­ate the ques­tion­able joys of his child­hood, Rusty packs wife Deb­bie (Christina Ap­ple­gate) and the kids into the car for a cross-coun­try trip to Wal­ley World. It doesn’t take long for ev­ery­thing to go wrong.

Hemsworth pops up along the way as the well-en­dowed hus­band of Rusty’s sis­ter Au­drey. And film­ing scenes with Hemsworth clad only in undies re­quired Helms to avert his eyes.

“The ele­phant trunk in the room took up most of my field of vi­sion but I just tried to stare at a sofa that was off to the right. Yeah, that un­der­wear was an eye­ball mag­net,” Helms re­calls. “Once I got over the sight gag of the un­der­wear, I was ob­sessed over his abs. Tak­ing any kind of at­trac­tion out of the equa­tion, they’re just ... stun­ningly ... per­fect ... abs.”

There are Thor abs hid­den un­der Helms’ shirt too, right? “Oh my God,” he laughs. “I have what in the States is be­ing re­ferred to now as a ‘dad bod’ – I’m real mixed on whether or not to feel flat­tered by that.”

While he gets his “melan­choly and con­tem­pla­tive ex­pres­sion” out through his mu­sic, Helms, 41, says his com­edy work comes from his “more light­hearted and buoy­ant side”. In Va­ca­tion, that buoy­ancy is turned up to 11.

“Rusty’s kind of an ex­treme ver­sion of me,” he says. “I wish I could be as re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive as Rusty; he’s just un­stop­pable.”

Yet Helms al­most stopped be­fore Va­ca­tion be­gan – as a fan of the ’80s fran­chise, he was “ex­tremely hes­i­tant” when of­fered the re­boot.

“Those movies are so sa­cred to me. They’re a big rea­son that I do what I do – I mean, Chevy Chase is the hero for me. As a kid, if they had ac­tion fig­ures for Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and Ed­die Mur­phy and Bill Mur­ray and Steve Martin and Martin Short, I would have been play­ing with those in­stead of Star Wars ac­tion fig­ures.

“So to re­make Va­ca­tion was like a car­di­nal sin. But, when I read the script and re­alised it’s not a re­make at all, it’s ef­fec­tively just a se­quel 30 years later, and that we’ve never seen the adult Rusty so I can cre­ate him from scratch, that made it in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing.”

While Clark Gris­wold had swag­ger, Helms sees Rusty as a re­flec­tion of a new-mil­len­nium trend in movie com­edy.

“For a few years, it’s been the rise of the schlubby guy who’s more sen­si­tive and vul­ner­a­ble,” he says, “ver­sus in the ’80s where it was much more ag­gres­sive and al­pha male.”

The cherry on top of Helms’ Va­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence was get­ting to play with the real-life Chevy Chase ac­tion fig­ure – Chase and Bev­erly D’An­gelo cameo in the new film.

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