It’s still barely a year since Thor catapulted Chris Hemsworth to superstardom overnight. Like all sudden successes, however, it came after years of hard graft, be it in the Aussie soap trenches or what seems like three lifetimes in the gym.
But 2012 is set to be the year all this hard work pays off and he consolidates his position on the A-list, with acclaimed meta-horror Cabin In The Woods and fairytale actioner Snow White And The Huntsman keeping him a fixture at the multiplex. But biggest of all is Avengers Assemble — which sees the 28-year-old reprising the role of Thor alongside the greatest line-up since Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad. ShortList sat down with him to hear what it’s like to be in the year’s most star-packed superhero film…
Thor ended with your character arriving at a new maturity — has he kept it up for Avengers Assemble?
The maturity he achieved is now put to the test. He has much more personal investment than anybody else, because his brother Loki is the villain again. The rest of the team are like, “Right, let’s do it,” and he’s like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on — he does this all the time, let’s try talking to the guy first,” because he is his brother, after all.
Not many films have ensemble casts who are all fresh from big blockbusters of their own. Were there any clashes of ego on set?
We were all wondering who would be the biggest diva and cause the most drama — and I think that kept everybody in line. Nobody wanted to be the one who pushed it into that territory, so everyone was exquisitely well-behaved. The first day on set, everybody was in the same scene. That was tough, but it settled us in. There was me in this big red costume and a cape, but you feel like you kind of fit in — there’s a guy in a metal suit, there’s a guy wrapped in the American flag, there’s another guy who’s green. Finally, I belong!
How was it filming on location in New Mexico together?
There’s a classic story: I was with Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson when Chris Evans texted us with the address of such and such bar — and then “Avengers assemble”. We just looked at each other, we couldn’t believe he’d actually said it. There’d been a game of chicken over who would do it first. After that, we couldn’t get away from it. It was ridiculous. That’s what happens when you’re shooting in fairly obscure locations and you don’t know anybody else. There’s that weird thing when you go on holiday and you make a new buddy, and then you meet up at home, and it’s just not the same. You go to Thailand or Bali and have a crazy couple of weeks — and a few days later it’s, “Sh*t, this guy wants to go for a beer. How did I end up hanging out with this guy?”
Tom Hiddleston’s again playing your brother — have you built up a real-life bond?
Tom’s the best. I remember first coming to the Thor set and worrying I looked silly. Tom just bounds in and goes, “This is awesome!” He has that big kid’s attitude about it all.
It’s a stunt-heavy film — did you pick up any injuries?
Not on Avengers Assemble, but I did pick one up on Thor. Tom had a whip in his dressing room. I’ll leave you to speculate as to why. I opened up the door, saw it, and was just, “Why the hell have you got this thing?” And for one of the stunts he had to throw knives, so had to practise how to use this whip, for some reason. I went to use it, and he told me to be careful, and I’m like, “I’m fine, I’m fine.” And then I accidentally stood on the end of the whip and cracked the thing, and it recoiled and hit me right in the eye. I had an inch of swelling above my eye and across my cheek, and straight away it started to turn black. We had to shoot the next day, so trying to explain to [Thor director] Ken Branagh why I had a black eye and that I didn’t know if I could shoot was tough. “How did you do it?” “Um, Tom’s whip hit me.” He wasn’t pleased.
Did you grow up in the outback?
Yeah, I was born in Melbourne, then we moved to the Northern Territory, to a cattle station in an Aboriginal community. It was a different world. Crocodiles and all that. It was amazing.
Your two brothers also ended up as actors — how did that come about?
It was while living in the Northern Territory. We didn’t own a TV, so we’d read a lot of books: fantasy novels, stuff like that. It was all about us using our imaginations, as opposed to just watching TV — which is kind of what I create now, so it’s a funny irony. There was a sense of adventure instilled in us, and we loved storytelling.
You spent four years on Home And Away — can you remember your most dramatic storylines?
As far as drama goes, I was involved in an aeroplane crash, a fire, I got married twice and I had three babies. It was a busy four years.
How do you feel about it, looking back?
People want to undermine it, but the truth is, if you can make that work, you can make anything work. It’s much easier to come across well if you have 30 takes and you have the best lighting, brilliant editing and music there to support you. On Home And Away, a lot of the time, one of those heightened soap opera moments will come and there’s no rehearsal, and you have two takes. In that environment, you either sink or swim. I learned a lot, and I’ll always count it as a huge advantage having done it. Some of the performances I gave, it’s a miracle I’m still working…
Your brothers have been on Neighbours; is there a big rivalry between the soaps?
It’s like they’re the rival school from just across the tracks. I’m from Melbourne, and Home And Away is set in Sydney, and the thing I never got is why anybody would want to watch it rain all the time in Melbourne in Neighbours. Every year there are these big TV awards, the Logies, in Australia. The two shows shoot in different cities and in different states, so that’s the only time every year that the two casts meet. You turn up and all of a sudden you’re eye to eye with them across the table. It’s like that scene in Anchorman when all the news teams fight. I can’t say any of us ever lost limbs, though.
You’re currently shooting Rush, where you play British F1 driver James Hunt. How was that after playing a comic-book hero?
Well, they both have a kind of swagger to them. James Hunt was like a big kid. He owned his environment. I’ve really started to admire him, he had this animalistic, from-the-gut approach to racing and to life, and he had this amazing rivalry with the far more intellectual Niki Lauda. They maintained a great amount of respect for each other, despite the rivalry. Like Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughan in Anchorman — “I hate you, but goddamn it, I respect you.” Everything comes back to Anchorman.
Avengers Assemble is out on April 26th
Main Image: PA