On the brink of turning 30, Chris Hemsworth seems to have it all: a solid career, a gorgeous wife, and a new daughter. And even though he's the middle child in a clan of Aussie acting hunks, the Thor star is easily the biggest among them. Perhaps that's due to his surfing background, or the healthy dose of competition his siblings provided growing up, but his shine has continued to eclipse brothers Liam and Luke on screen this year. In November, he'll return to theaters in Thor: The Dark World. But you'll be able to catch him even sooner in Ron Howard's true-life racing drama, Rush, later this month.
What was it like playing playboy Formula One driver James Hunt?
"Any time you get to play a character that doesn't want to conform to any particular rules or standards is great. My character was certainly, I think, the biggest example of that as far as what I have been exposed to. He did what he wanted to do whether you agree with it or not. I think that you've got to respect that."
Did you have much experience with racing before you started filming Rush?
"The first time I ever got in one of those cars was during the prep period of filming. You're locked into this little cabin with your shoulders bumping up against the shell of this thing, and your feet are crammed in there — the whole machine becomes an extension of you. You can feel every bit of vibration, every bump, and the power at your fingertips. So I immediately kind of went, ‘Oh, I can see how you could be addicted to this.'"
Is it safe to say you're a thrill-seeker?
"Surfing was something I grew up doing. As kids, we lived out in the bush and we used to injure ourselves quite often, whether it was riding dirt bikes, or rope swings, or on things that we would build in the backyard. I had dirt bikes as a kid, but not much anymore. My wife rides motorbikes more than I do, actually. She’s more of an adrenaline junkie than I am!"
Growing up, did you face a lot of competition from your brothers?
"Yeah, we were competitive growing up, but in a kind-of sporty way. I think more than competitiveness, it was sort of the immediacy of making a decision. I think it’s addictive, which is why we do any sort of adrenaline-driven activities – mountain climbing, and what have you. We'd go mountain climbing and fast climbing — I've broken this, and I've broken that because of our competitions."
How did you physically prepare for the film?
"First of all, I would rather have to put on weight than have to lose it. Basically, I went from lifting weights and eating lots of protein to doing the opposite: running, cardio, under-eating, over-training. I have said this before, but my wife was pregnant at the time, and she reminds me that I was moodier than she was. I went from about 215 pounds to 195 pounds, which was painful."
How has becoming a parent affected you as an actor?
"I think you don’t tend to sweat the small stuff as much. Whether you want to be or not, you've got to be present for them, and I absolutely want to be. It puts things in perspective; all of a sudden you realize what it's all about. Everything else is driving and supporting her as opposed to my own personal ego, and whatever I want, you know? You start to think about things differently."
Speaking of driving, what kind of driver are you?
"I'm pretty safe, especially when the baby seat is in the back — even when she is not sitting in it. I get in the car with my wife now, and even when our daughter isn't there, I'm like, ‘Whoa, slow down! What’s the rush? There’s a red light!’ And she’s always like, ‘Shut up! When did you become a driving instructor?"