Cover story

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

The myths of Chris Hemsworth

PAREIDOLIA Chris Hemsworth sight­ings:

31 May 2018: Queens­land, Aus­tralia

Hemsworth is joined by Matt Da­mon, his wife and a group of their friends.

3 March 2017: By­ron Bay, Aus­tralia

Hemsworth crashes a wed­ding. There’s only one photo of his ap­pear­ance.

11 Au­gust 2015: Wey­mouth, Bos­ton, New York

On a break from shoot­ing, Hemsworth is seen wear­ing a Bos­ton Red Sox cap. It is also his birth­day.

22 June 2015: Val­letta, Malta

Hemsworth is spot­ted with his wife, Elsa Pataky. An eye­wit­ness hints that Hemsworth shape-shifts into Michael Fass­ben­der.

31 Oc­to­ber 2014: New Haven, Con­necti­cut

A po­lice re­port states that “a kid­nap­ping of a neigh­bour­hood child was thwarted when a man dressed as Thor from the Mar­vel movies at­tacked the sus­pect”. Eye­wit­nesses at the scene claim the man is Hemsworth.

4 Septem­ber 2014: Ulan Ba­tor, Mon­go­lia

Michidma Evra sees Hemsworth in a saucer of yak but­ter.

15 April 2011: Izmir, Turkey

Ay­berk Doğulu wakes up to see Hemsworth’s de­fined abs re­plac­ing his once-glob­u­lar belly. This in­ci­dent at­tracts the lo­cal press as well as throngs of fans who want to catch a glimpse or touch Doğulu’s stom­ach. Doğulu milks his fame for the next three hours be­fore Hemsworth’s abs dis­ap­pear as quickly as they had ap­peared.

26 De­cem­ber 2010: Sumba, In­done­sia

Hemsworth mar­ries Pataky af­ter six months of dat­ing.

Chris Hemsworth is larger than he looks in pho­tos. He’s tall like an oak and his phys­i­cal­ity is fur­ther shaped by his rounded shoul­ders and bi­ceps that shift un­der his white sleeves like ten­sile ca­bles hold­ing up a bridge. I al­most flinch as he reaches out for a hand­shake; al­most sur­prised that my right arm re­mains firmly in its socket af­ter two quick pumps.

He re­veals his patented smile. I’ve read about it. I’ve seen it in the movies. His smile soft­ens the edges of his brawny frame. I sus­pect, he knows, on some level, about how ef­fec­tive his beam is.

Hemsworth has made light of his looks in a Satur­day Night Live sketch. It’s a par­ody of an Amer­i­can Ex­press ad, where he laments that his build, looks and mus­cu­la­ture al­most hin­dered his Hol­ly­wood ca­reer.

But his looks put him squarely in the list of Hol­ly­wood’s lead­ing man archetypes—James Dean was the bad boy; Johnny Depp, the weirdo; Seth Ro­gen, the goofy stoner. And now, Chris Hemsworth is the poster boy for the ac­tion star.

En­cour­aged by his older brother—Luke’s foray into the Aus­tralian soap opera, Neigh­bours— Hemsworth started hit­ting as many au­di­tions as he could. A com­mer­cial here, a guest ap­pear­ance there, and in 2004, Hemsworth joined the cast of Home and Away, another soap, be­fore leav­ing three years later.

Like many doe-eyed thes­pi­ans, with a heart filled with hope and op­ti­mism, Hemsworth moved to LA in 2007 to break into the in­dus­try. It was a hard re­set for him; he was a known face in Aus­tralia but in Tin­sel­town, he was one of the many headshots that cross the hands of tal­ent agents. But he lucked out with his first Hol­ly­wood break as the fa­ther of James T Kirk in the 2009 film, Star Trek, and three films later, Hemsworth clinched the role of Thor in 2011. With Thor, it ex­posed Hemsworth to world­wide star­dom and op­por­tu­ni­ties; at only 28, Hemsworth found pur­chase among the A-list. He bulked up to match the ide­alised look of the Norse de­ity; he had to fight like the el­e­ment he’s the avatar for—swift and pow­er­ful; Hemsworth lends a hu­man­ity to the god of thun­der. You can­not think of any­one else who could fill the role. “I’d like to be re­mem­bered more for the per­son I am… was,” Hemsworth says. “Some­one who’s com­pas­sion­ate. Some­one who had a good sense of hu­mour. Some­one who en­joyed life and made the most of things and didn’t take it too se­ri­ously, but worked hard and shirted up for fam­ily and friends when needed.”

Fame, mar­riage, the ar­rival of the first­born—all these oc­curred be­fore the age of 30. It’s this sort of del­uge that you have to keep your head above for. Ac­tors, es­pe­cially child stars, of­ten fall vic­tim to celebrity. Hol­ly­wood is a mer­ci­less ma­chine, a tiger that you can­not turn your back to.

“Well, the ad­van­tage I had [in keep­ing afloat],” says Hemsworth, “was [ Home and Away], which was on TV five nights a week. I got a hint of the fame and, sort of, the crazi­ness of it, not on the scale that it is now, but just enough to be aware of how it af­fected me.

“I recog­nise the trap­pings so when fame hits me for the sec­ond time, I was more pre­pared for it. I’m aware of the fragility of it, of the false­ness to it all. And it doesn’t qual­ify for, nor is it any in­di­ca­tion of, a con­sis­tent ca­reer.”

It feels surreal to him. Like he’s an alien on an even stranger land­scape. On one hand, this is as nor­mal as it can get, but it some­times catches Hemsworth un­aware. Like it or not, he is a part of the Hol­ly­wood cir­cle; among those who live their lives on another plane that’s re­moved from the rest of us.

SPEAK­ING IN TONGUE S A video posted in April 2015 shows Hemsworth and Chris Evans at a junket for the Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. The jour­nal­ist in­ter­view­ing them ad­dresses the cam­era.

KI EH L: My name is Cinta Ki eh land I’m rep­re­sent­ing RCTI, In­done­sia.

HEMSWORTH: In­done­sia? Apa kabar? KI EHL:Bai k-b aik.

Evans turns to Hemsworth in dis­be­lief and mut­ters some­thing to the ef­fect of WTF. Hemsworth got his at­ten­tion and runs with it.

HEMSWORTH: Si­apa na­mamu?

KIEHL : Cinta Kiehl.

HEMSWORTH: Hmmm. Nama saya Chris. (Hemsworth sucks in his teeth. A smirk forms.) KI EH L: Wow. Ba­hasa In­done­sia bag us.

HEMSWORTH: Hmmm. Ba­gus. (He turns to Evans, shoots him a wink.)

E VANS: Si, si… (Not want­ing to be out­done, Evans chimes in with the few words of Span­ish that he knows.) HEMSWORTH: Ba­gaimana cuaca hari ini?

E VANS: No way.

Evans looks stu­pe­fied. If this were a sit­com, we’d freeze on his face while the cred­its roll with Lu­ciano Miche­lini’s Frolic play­ing in the back­ground.

Taken three years ago, the video re-emerged on so­cial me­dia sites and took on a new memetic life of its own. In his for­ma­tive years, Hemsworth stud­ied Ba­hasa In­done­sia in pri­mary school and at Heathmont Sec­ondary Col­lege in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia.

“I wished I paid greater at­ten­tion to it,” Hemsworth con­fesses. “[I] spent more time in that class kinda screw­ing around… I don’t know… I just had other things on my mind at the time.”

He’s still able to re­tain a hand­ful of help­ful ter­mi­nol­ogy in his head, ready to dole out a phrase or two to nav­i­gate his way around In­done­sia dur­ing his surf trips. So that video ex­change with Cinta Kiehl? It painted Hemsworth as a di­alect sa­vant. “For that in­ter­view? Yeah, [it’d seem that] I’m flu­ent but my grasp of the lan­guage is pretty lim­ited.”

Tell that to the view­ers of that video. The court of pub­lic opin­ion sees Hemsworth as ei­ther bilin­gual or a polymath. Here is a celebrity who is able to con­nect with the com­mon man by learn­ing his lan­guage. If Hemsworth is able to speak Ba­hasa In­done­sia, what else can he do?

Well, he’s funny, that’s for sure. He can take the Mickey out of him­self, go­ing toe-to-toe with com­edy heavy­weights like Kate McKin­non in 2016’s Ghost­busters, or with Ed Helms in 2015’s Va­ca­tion. It’s al­most not fair if you think about it. That some­one who looks like Hemsworth would also have comedic tim­ing. The out­siders, the freaks and geeks, they are the ones with the sense of hu­mour, not the home­com­ing king. Not Hemsworth.

There’s a scene in Avengers: Age of Ul­tron that shows Hemsworth’s comic acu­ity. The Avengers are goaded by Thor to try and lift his ham­mer (“Whoso­ever holds this ham­mer, if he be wor­thy, shall pos­sess the power of Thor.”). Each of them at­tempts and fails. Then, it’s Cap­tain Amer­ica’s turn. Firm­ing up his grip around the han­dle, Cap­tain Amer­ica grunts and heaves. And there is the briefest of move­ment by the ham­mer, a squeak emits from it. And even briefer, we see Thor’s smile dis­ap­pears into a worry as he won­ders if Cap­tain Amer­ica—Amer­ica’s Boy Scout, the pure of heart—is truly wor­thy enough to lift Mjöl­nir. In the end, Cap­tain Amer­ica gives out a sigh of res­ig­na­tion. On cue, Hemsworth breaks into that smile, chuck­ling in re­lief. It’s this sort of sub­tlety of hu­mour that Hemsworth im­bues into Thor which makes his char­ac­ter re­lat­able.

“I think we al­ways iden­tify with that cliched ver­sion of mas­culin­ity for the long­est time,” says Hemsworth. “That this is what a guy had to be. There’s room to be funny and then there’s the un­ex­pected. Why be pre­dictable and play the usual role of the mas­cu­line hero? I find that pretty bor­ing.

“In the script, Thor is the fish out of wa­ter char­ac­ter and by the end of the film, he dis­cov­ered who he was and earned the right to be the hero. There was a lot of me in him. I found my­self in the sec­ond film flatlin­ing with the char­ac­ter be­cause now he had all the strength and seem­ingly knows all the an­swers. You want con­flict within a char­ac­ter, you want growth. So in the third film, we ripped apart his world, of what we knew of that char­ac­ter. We were rolling the dice go­ing: ‘Is this too far? Is this far enough?’ We didn’t want to play it safe. You can’t just keep re­peat­ing the same thing. When you start to feel bored, it’s a pretty good in­di­ca­tion that the au­di­ence is gonna feel the same too. That’s why peo­ple re­spond to [ Thor: Ragnarok] so much, I think.”

GOD’ S TEM­PLE Hemsworth has a dou­ble and his name is Bobby Hol­land Han­ton. He fills in for Hemsworth for the stunt scenes. When placed next to Hemsworth in sta­sis, the dif­fer­ences start to fill in—Han­ton’s jaw isn’t as broad as Hemsworth’s; his eyes do not have the lus­tre of pearls. Han­ton says that Hemsworth is “much big­ger” which meant that Han­ton had to train “twice a day”.

The av­er­age work­out rou­tine for Hemsworth is a com­bi­na­tion of dumb­bell curls, mul­ti­fac­eted chest work­outs, bat­tle ropes, mar­tial arts, car­dio, leg raises, pull-ups, re­sis­tance crawls… just to name a few. Dur­ing the film­ing of Thor: Rag­no­rak and Avengers: In­fin­ity War, Hemsworth went on a pro­tein-rich ve­gan diet, eat­ing six times a day, ev­ery two to three hours.

Han­ton may not look like Hemsworth but dur­ing an ac­tion se­quence, when the cam­era picks out the va­garies of a build sim­i­lar to Hemsworth leap­ing, tak­ing a hit or de­fen­es­trat­ing, you’d truly be­lieve that Han­ton and Hemsworth are one and the same.

Hemsworth stands out by the way he looks and car­ries him­self; a per­fect tar­get for the pa­parazzi. He gamely poses for self­ies. He doesn’t have airs when it comes to meet­ing with fans.

“Do­ing things like these…” Hemsworth muses. “… it’s sort of quick and in­tense and crazy. It’s this whirl­wind of things. And then you get home and its back to re­al­ity—there are nap­pies to change, dishes to be washed. My wife and I, we try to keep that nor­malcy as much as pos­si­ble. But I’d be ly­ing if I said there wasn’t a sort of fi­nan­cial at­trac­tion [be­cause] you grew up with­out hav­ing much money. You look at act­ing and think, ah geez, that would be a good way to pay the bills, that looks like fun. That was al­ways some­thing I was aware of, but the fan­tasy of a fic­tional world that is the movies… that was the at­trac­tion.”

Still, Hemsworth felt com­fort­able enough, ca­reer-wise, that the jobs will con­tinue pour­ing in. “It felt like I was tread­ing wa­ter when I lived in LA. Just hav­ing the same con­ver­sa­tions about the busi­ness in Hol­ly­wood. You’d kind of forget about a whole other world out there.”

He’s an ami­able sort of per­son but some­times his agent and pub­li­cist will step in as a bul­wark against out­side forces. “You need that sort of buf­fer to some de­gree be­cause if you spend a lot of the time try­ing to do it your­self you don’t get to be with the kids and fam­ily and so on. This isn’t so much about my ca­reer but more about my per­sonal life.”

So, af­ter liv­ing in LA for a decade, he traded his Hol­ly­wood sub­urbs for a farm by a beach in By­ron Bay, Aus­tralia. With his fam­ily in tow, Hemsworth es­caped—at least, as a respite—the suf­fo­ca­tion. “My wife and I knew that it was a risky move,” Hemsworth says. “I could’ve spent a lot more time in LA, but I just… sort of ran out of en­ergy for [that] sort of hus­tle.”

BALM OF GILEAD

INT ROOM, DAY

We open with Chris Hemsworth al­ready up to greet the dawn. We cut to a record be­ing played, mu­sic sounds. Hemsworth puts on a shirt, ad­justs his shirt cuffs.

HEMSWORTH ( VO)

Suc­cess with­out in­tegrity means noth­ing.

He picks up a bot­tle of Boss Bot­tled and ap­plies two spritzes of the cologne as he gets ready for the day.

HEMSWORTH ( VO)

Your be­long­ings don’t make you a bet­ter man.

Sil­hou­et­ted against the bright cityscape through the win­dows, Hemsworth marches with pur­pose.

HEMSWORTH ( VO)

Your be­hav­iour does.

EXT STREET, CON­TIN­U­OUS

Cut to Hemsworth out in a Hugo Boss suit that drapes over his body like a sec­ond skin; it falls and cinches at the right places.

A series of shots of Hemsworth at the cof­fee shop, at a board­room meet­ing, talk­ing to a friend at a bar in­ter­cut with him traips­ing through the city.

HEMSWORTH ( VO)

In­tegrity is how you be­have when there’s noth­ing to be gained. You make a liv­ing by what we get.

You make a life by what we give.

Bathed in the sun­light, Hemsworth stands con­tem­pla­tively. The sun rays glint off the re­flec­tive sur­faces of the build­ings. He con­tin­ues his stride.

HEMSWORTH ( VO)

Choose to strive for more. For bet­ter. Ev­ery hour.

Ev­ery day. Be the man of to­day.

The screen fades to white and Boss Bot­tled ap­pears. Ad ends.

Hemsworth is in Sin­ga­pore to at­tend the re­open­ing of the Boss con­cept store at Ma­rina Bay Sands as an am­bas­sador for Hugo Boss’s lat­est scent, Boss Bot­tled.

There were other Boss am­bas­sadors be­fore him, but Hemsworth feels like the per­fect fit for what the Boss Bot­tled scent rep­re­sents—strength, mas­culin­ity and in­tegrity in to­day’s world.

“My par­ents def­i­nitely shaped who I am and my ex­pe­ri­ences as a kid,” Hemsworth says. “We lived in the out­back for a while, in the abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity. We were one of two white fam­i­lies in this com­mu­nity. It was a dif­fer­ent cul­ture my ex­pe­ri­ence in Mel­bourne; the way of life of the abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, how they live off the land and not abuse its re­sources. Some of the old guys there would of­ten try to teach us, young kids, about their ways.

“Ba­si­cally, you lead by ex­am­ple. Be a good per­son. Live life with in­tegrity and hon­esty and hope­fully some of that will rub off on [my kids]. But most of the time I’m learn­ing from them.”

For a man of his sta­tus, it stands to rea­son that Hemsworth might jeal­ously hoard any in­for­ma­tion about his per­sonal life, but his In­sta­gram ac­count is a gen­er­ous bay win­dow into Hemsworth-not-the-ac­tor. Here’s a video of Hemsworth rock­ing out with his kids to Mi­ley Cyrus’s ‘Wreck­ing Ball’; here’s a pic­ture of his wife, Elsa Pataky, hold­ing a kan­ga­roo by its chin; here’s an image of one of his twin boys ex­am­in­ing the fam­ily dog’s teeth. These glimpses show a fam­ily man deftly jug­gling work and fam­ily life so much so that Robert Downey, Jr once re­marked in an in­ter­view that Hemsworth’s su­per­power is “par­ent­ing”.

“I think there’s such a cu­rios­ity [my kids] have about the world. They have em­pa­thy and are just wide-eyed and pas­sion­ate for life. I find that pretty in­spir­ing.”

The gar­den of Hemsworth’s life is a bou­quet of mem­o­ries: the heat of the out­back, the wet hide of cat­tle af­ter the rain, the salty tang of the ocean, the co­conut whiff of surf­board wax. A smell can yank him back to that mo­ment. He’s a corn­ball, a nos­tal­gic as he imag­ines a scent for Aus­tralia. It’d have eu­ca­lyp­tus in it. “What else, right? It’s pretty iconic. Some Vegemite. Might be the Aus­tralia bush­land, coast­line, those par­tic­u­lar sorts of plants that grow there…”

Hemsworth is an ac­tor but he’s also a celebrity. Like his peers, he is made up of the telling and retelling of En­ter­tain­ment Weekly and red car­pet pho­tos. His image is cu­rated through the machi­na­tions of his pub­li­cist. His tales are told through the camp­fire glow of text mes­sages, the TMZ-like scoops of “celebs are just like us” photo ex­posés. Videos shared through so­cial me­dia. Are they real? Are they fake? Does it mat­ter?

“Hemsworth speaks another lan­guage.” “Hemsworth crashes a wed­ding.” “Hemsworth looks dash­ing in his Hugo Boss out­fit.” “Hemsworth looks like he’s hewn from mar­ble.” “Hemsworth is just like us.” Or, how about this? “Dur­ing an in­ter­view, Hemsworth es­chews the vet­ted ques­tion­naire and chooses to, in­stead, ‘have a chat’. He shoots from the hip, con­sid­ers each ques­tion. He goes off-script, an­swer­ing query af­ter query: ‘I feel like I was of­fered roles that peo­ple thought I should be in. I had to work ex­tra hard to seek out scripts and roles that were dif­fer­ent, or try to re­struc­ture the ones I al­ready had.’ Hemsworth tucks in his leg. He looks re­laxed. Were this to take place in a cof­fee shop set­ting, it’d look like two men shoot­ing the breeze in­stead of a time-strapped in­ter­view. Hemsworth con­tin­ues: ‘ And it was just in­cred­i­bly free­ing too be­cause, for the long­est time, I’ve worked from the mind­set that if I walked onto a set with all the an­swers then I can elim­i­nate any pos­si­bil­ity of it go­ing wrong, but then it be­comes bor­ing. And so I’d try to put my­self in sit­u­a­tions where I didn’t quite know what was go­ing to hap­pen. I’d lose con­trol in a sense that that’s when the magic can hap­pen. It catches the au­di­ence by sur­prise, rather than in­di­cate that this is what to ex­pect.’”

This and other sto­ries form the foun­da­tion of this tem­ple of myth. It is how his le­gacy will en­dure.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.