Whether he’s embodying a Norse deity, a rebel huntsman or a daredevil race car driver, Chris Hemsworth does it all—with style, grace, humility, humor and superhero-size sex appeal.
On the big screen, Chris Hemsworth is best known as the mega-chiseled, hammer-wielding Norse god Thor from The Avengers movie series. But back home on his farm in Australia, the tall, blond and handsome movie star is just a mere mortal—a protective father of three whose biggest concern is that his 4-year-old daughter, India, and 2-year-old twin sons, Tristan and Sasha, may get too close to the three old donkeys that also live on his patch of land along the coastline. “They’re old, stubborn and a bit cranky—and they kick! But the kids love ’em,” he says. The property, set back in the bush, also has plenty of wild snakes, koalas and lizards to keep the family company.
A sharp dresser when on the red carpet, Hemsworth, 32, is wearing nothing more than a pair of Emery board shorts today, lounging poolside after a dip to combat the intense Australian summer heat. Half a world away from Los Angeles and its dizzying crush of paparazzi and iPhone-wielding fans, he can relax. The middle child in a family of three international heartthrobs (younger brother Liam is star of The Hunger Games franchise and older brother Luke is currently filming the new HBO show Westworld), Hemsworth was the first to head to Hollywood—and the first to return home. He and his wife, model Elsa Pataky, decided to move the family back Down Under a year and a half ago. “L.A. is a tough place to get around with kids,” the actor says. “There’s not a whole lot of foot traffic. It was all about loading up the car and car seats. Here, we just walk out the door and head to the beach down the street. It’s a much more simple life.”
“I love what I do as an actor, but when you are surrounded by it constantly, it becomes a bit suffocating. It’s nice to have conversations with people and be a part of a community that doesn’t live and breathe that world,” Hemsworth continues. “We were living shoulder to shoulder in the suburbs and thought that’s not how we want our kids to grow up. Moving to a kind of farm setup back here on the coast in Australia has been the best thing.”
Returning to his homeland has positioned Hemsworth well for his new gig as the face of Australian tourism. After all, who better to champion Oz than a Hollywood A-lister who, despite all the L.A.-based riches of fame, opted for a quiet life along the shore of his beloved country? Far from the image of Crocodile Dundee urging tourists to “throw another shrimp on the barbie,” this Aussie offers visitors a superhero’s welcome. “I felt quite honored to be asked. I’m incredibly proud of my country, and I absolutely love it here,” Hemsworth says. “I thought: If there’s any way I can encourage people to come here and experience what I’ve grown up with and love so much, well, that’s not a difficult thing to sell!”
Although Hemsworth’s slate is full of forthcoming films for the next few years (he’s under contract for a third and final Thor and two more sequels for The Avengers), his kids are his top priority. “It’s no longer all about me, which is quite refreshing. Acting is the most self-absorbed world, where you are thinking about your feelings. How do I feel in this scene? How do I feel about that?” Hemsworth says. “You are constantly having to self-analyze or analyze a character you are playing, so you are internalizing and thinking, thinking, thinking about me. ‘Oh, I didn’t get that film, and I wanted that one, and am I any good?’ It’s just a horrible, noisy conversation. Once the kids arrived, I was like, ‘Wow, this is what life is about.’”
These days, the devoted family man says he spends much of his time at home, “waiting for my kids to come give me a hug and tell me they love me.” But when he does travel back to Hollywood for meetings and shoots, “I’m much more refreshed and less jaded,” he says. “When you’re there all the time, you begin to take it for granted. It’s a town with the best storytellers and filmmakers in the world! I now go back in with a new spark and energy and excitement to do it all.”
In his latest film, The Huntsman: Winter’s War (in theaters April 22), the sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, Hemsworth is joined by fellow warrior Jessica Chastain. The two magnetic co-stars square off against a pair of steely ice queens played by Emily Blunt and the deliciously wicked Charlize Theron. “They were so fun to watch and work with and learn from. Scary—intimidating even! It was like having three sisters, which I’m not accustomed to. This was a whole new challenge,” Hemsworth says with a brusque laugh. “The chemistry and relationship [between Theron and Blunt’s characters] is full of love and viciousness, those sort of contrasting emotions, which people with siblings can relate to—minus the warfare,” he adds.
Sibling rivalry is something Hemsworth knows a lot about. Growing up, he and his two brothers would “goad each other to jump off a waterfall or paddle a big wave, just pushing each other to go after something we were interested in,” he recalls. Though they are close, “there is a competitiveness in us, good and bad, at times,” he adds.
A sharper competitive edge cuts through two of his career-changing roles: the titular Thor and real-life race car driver James Hunt in Rush, the 2013 Ron Howard-directed biopic about two dueling superstar drivers. The dramatic role won Hemsworth critical praise and pushed his game as an actor. “That was the best experience I’ve had on set. I really appreciated this character’s constant exploration of the world and wanting to live life to the fullest,” he says. “It was a nice reminder to just be yourself and be true to who you are, and who cares what people think? That character lived by that credo. It was also the first time I played a character that was grounded in reality. It wasn’t fantastical; it wasn’t surrounded by special effects. It was a character drama. And I’ve got to say, I do want to do more stuff like that.”
Still, the sinewy star holds a special place in his heart for Thor, a part he was initially advised not to even consider. “To be honest, at the time I thought: This is a little ridiculous; how am I gonna pull this off?” he recalls. “I hadn’t even read the comic books. I remember being in Vancouver shooting The Cabin in the Woods and being on the phone with my reps, questioning it; I wanna go back and slap myself. Thank God I went for it. I love that world; I love that character; I love that cast; whether it’s been Thor or The Avengers. It’s opened up every door for me, and I’ve been able to do many things in between. I should have an altar for that character,” he says.
Hemsworth has also branched out with comedic roles, including an eye-popping spot in last summer’s Vacation reboot. “It was my first real outing in comedy, and I just watched the pros and did my best to try to keep up,” he says. Help arrived from members of the prop department, who kept his boxers well stuffed, providing an experience the actor deems “the most ridiculous moment of my career.”
In this summer’s Ghostbusters remake, Hemsworth says he had “so much fun” playing a trimmed down, bespectacled, crushworthy office manager, opposite some of the fiercest goddesses of comedy, including Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. As a supporting character, however, he didn’t have the weight of the film on his shoulders. “It was nice not to have the responsibility of being the lead and of carrying it,” Hemsworth admits. “Those girls are so talented and so funny, and the world of improv and comedy is new to me. So I kind of just had to let go. The night before we started shooting, I called the director [Paul Feig], and I said, ‘I don’t know who this character is. There is not much on the page. I’m not sure if I’m going give you what you want.’ And he said, ‘It’s fine. This is how I work, and I trust you, and I hope you do the same.’ He just kept the camera rolling, and we did improv for hours, and we had more outtakes than I’ve ever had, more laughing on and off camera. It was good fun.”
Clearly, Hemsworth doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good sport about jokes made at his own expense, particularly the ones that target all of the breathless profiles and attention paid to his ripped physique, blond hair and blue eyes. For proof, see his recent Saturday Night Live AmEx spoof, in which he expertly parodies his charmed life (“If a jacked Australian with a perfect face can make it, anyone can.”). About being named People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2014, Hemsworth says, “It was a nice kind of shock, but I think I was given more sh*t about it—in a fun way. Matt Damon is a good friend of mine and he said, ‘Aw, man, have fun with this. Otherwise, it will be the death of you.’” The following year, David Beckham succeeded Hemsworth on the coveted cover. “It was a good time while it lasted,” he says, modestly. “I’ll hang onto it in the years to come, when it all fades away.”
Groomer: Johnny Hernandez for Fierro Agency
Photo Assistant: Jason Bush