Hemsworth’s crazy ride

Thor has opened a lot of doors, but ac­tor re­fuses to be type­cast

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY JES­SICA HERN­DON

OBEV­ERLY HILLS, CALIF. n the screen, Chris Hemsworth bat­tles aliens as su­per­hero Thor. But this day, his wounds are of the do­mes­tic va­ri­ety. “I was try­ing to grate gin­ger,” said the 30-year-old ac­tor, hold­ing up his right hand to dis­play ban­daged fin­gers. “The grater came apart, so I was po­si­tion­ing the blades back in and cut my fin­gers. I wish I could say I was res­cu­ing some old lady who was be­ing robbed. But, re­ally, I was just cook­ing in the kitchen.”

In per­son, Mr. Hemsworth’s ro­bust frame is im­pres­sive. But, he’s not as mas­sive as he ap­pears on film.

“I don’t nat­u­rally sit at that weight,” he said of his on-screen ap­pear­ance. “I spend four or five months eat­ing pro­tein and lift­ing weights. Then I spend months get­ting rid of it.”

His rou­tine has def­i­nitely paid off. Over­seas, Dis­ney’s “Thor: The Dark World” earned a sum­mer block­buster-like $109.4 mil­lion when it opened over­seas the first weekend of Novem­ber. On Fri­day, the Mar­vel se­quel hit do­mes­tic the­aters, with pre­dic­tions it could earn more than $95 mil­lion in North Amer­ica alone, top­pling “En­der’s Game” from its No. 1 box-of­fice spot.

“Each time th­ese films con­tinue to work — whether it be ‘Cap­tain Amer­ica,’ ‘Iron Man,’ or ‘Avengers’ — you think, ‘Oh god!’ You don’t want to drop the ball,” said Mr. Hemsworth. (Col­lec­tively, the Mar­vel Stu­dios film fran­chises have made more than $12 bil­lion world­wide). “I couldn’t be hap­pier,” he added.

Con­trac­tu­ally bound to one more “Thor” film and two more “Avengers” movies, Mr. Hemsworth will con­tinue to reprise his role as the ham­mer-wield­ing hero.

“I’d do them for as long as they will have me,” he said. “I love be­ing a part of this crazy ride that Mar­vel has set us all on. It’s opened up so many doors for me.”

In Septem­ber, Mr. Hemsworth starred as For­mula One racer James Hunt in the Ron Howard-di­rected “Rush.” The film — a box-of­fice dis­ap­point­ment, in con­trast to Mr. Hemsworth’s su­per­hero movies — marked a new chap­ter in his movie ca­reer.

“‘Rush’ was a far more in­ti­mate set­ting,” the ac­tor said in a re­cent in­ter­view as he tucked a few loose dirty-blond strands of hair un­der his fish­er­man hat. “All of the fo­cus is on the story and the char­ac­ters. You’re not com­pet­ing with spe­cial ef­fects and big stunts.”

Mr. Hemsworth’s work in “Rush” led to another role in a Howard pic­ture: The up­com­ing “Heart of the Sea.” The pe­riod ad­ven­ture film, based on the true events that in­spired Her­man Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” is cur­rently film­ing in Lon­don.

“Chris won the James Hunt role in a self-made au­di­tion that im­me­di­ately demon­strated he had the range to cap­ture the qual­i­ties of a com­plex char­ac­ter,” Mr. Howard said via email. “He has great in­stincts and the in­tel­li­gence and tal­ent to get his ideas onto the screen — and he’s a blast to work with. We’re half­way through ‘Heart of the Sea’ and its clear Chris is gen­er­at­ing another strong per­for­mance.”

Mr. Hemsworth will also star as a cy­ber­guru in an up­com­ing, not-yet-ti­tled Michael Mann thriller. “Chris is am­bi­tious and un­in­hib­ited,” said Mr. Mann in an email. “He’s ar­tis­ti­cally down for the cause. He’s there for you. I had been told that by Ron Howard.”

When pre­par­ing for the role in Mr. Mann’s film, Mr. Hemsworth took com­puter lessons for two and a half months. “I couldn’t be more in­ept in math­e­mat­ics and com­put­ers,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “It was quite a steep hill to climb for me.”

Luck­ily, Mr. Hemsworth is al­ways game for a chal­lenge — even if it means tak­ing a pay cut to tackle meatier roles. “Look, it’s great to earn money,” says the ac­tor, who has a 17-month-old daugh­ter, In­dia Rose, with wife, Elsa Pataky. “But it’s not why I got into it. There are ob­vi­ous great bonuses fi­nan­cially, but I don’t pick roles on that. You can’t. If you do, it’s a short-lived ca­reer and you end up in one type of thing.”

Back in 2007, when Mr. Hemsworth moved to Los An­ge­les from his na­tive Aus­tralia, his goal was to con­quer Hol­ly­wood. But he had to strug­gle to find an au­di­ence.

“There was a pe­riod of about eight months where I wasn’t work­ing and I was pretty close to go­ing back home,” said the ac­tor, who’s also worked as a bar­tender. “I was sick of hav­ing the door slammed in my face and feel­ing like I wasn’t good enough. But, I knew I loved sto­ry­telling and movies. There was noth­ing else I re­ally wanted to do.”

Luck­ily, ap­pear­ing in 2009’s “Star Trek” helped him get no­ticed. “It was such a small role, but Ken­neth Branagh saw it and cast me in ‘Thor,’” Mr. Hemsworth said.

De­spite his suc­cess in Hol­ly­wood, Mr. Hemsworth still fights anx­i­ety on “ev­ery set I step on,” he says. “I can’t help but think, ‘Do I have a han­dle on this? Am I go­ing to be able to make this truth­ful?’ But I like that ques­tion mark. It keeps you alive. There is a dan­ger to be­com­ing too com­fort­able.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chris Hemsworth re­turns in “Thor: The Dark World.” The movie, which opened in the U.S. on Fri­day, has made more than $109.4 mil­lion over­seas.

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