x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Exclusive interview: Chris Hemsworth on films, family, fashion and fragrances 

With the next Thor movie set to hit UAE screens in November, we chat to the Australian actor about playing the prince of Asgard, as well as his recent role as the face of the Boss Bottled fragrance  

Chris Hemsworth. Courtesy Hugo Boss
Chris Hemsworth. Courtesy Hugo Boss

It’s hard not to roll out the clichés. The shoulders are broad; the eyes piercing; the voice deep and sonorous. It would be churlish not to acknowledge, straight off the bat, that Chris Hemsworth is absurdly handsome. The point, however, is that he manages to claw his way back from pure caricature by being altogether rather likeable.

We are talking about fashion, so I ask him who the most stylish person he knows is. He pauses, takes a moment to consider. “My mate, actually, from high school,” he says. “He has, for a long time, sported a very tailored, narrow-legged pant, with a rolled-up ankle and a pair of loafers. And we’d all be saying: ‘What are you wearing, mate? That’s ridiculous.’ And now we’ve all caught on and realised, oh, actually, that’s pretty cool. He’s my assistant and I’ve worked with him for years. He’ll laugh that I’ve said that, because I used to give him so much grief.”

That’s the kind of guy Chris Hemsworth is. The kind who has a school friend as an assistant; and the kind who shares screen time with the likes of Robert Downey Jr and Tom Hiddleston, but still maintains that his mate is the best-dressed person he knows.

Our interview takes place in the minimalist concrete-and-glass headquarters of German fashion house Hugo Boss, in the industrial heartland of Metzingen in the south-west of the country. We are here because the brand has just (in a top-secret event that, in that wonderfully Germanic way, still manages to be completely understated) named Hemsworth as the new face of its Boss Bottled fragrance.

Boss Bottled fragrance
Boss Bottled fragrance

Inspired by the smell of apple strudel, Boss Bottled came into being nearly 20 years ago, and is still a bestseller. “I wanted to make something different,” says Annick Menardo, the perfumer behind the now famous scent. “Fruity notes are often associated with feminine fragrances, but I wanted to use them to create a masculine scent, which was challenging.”

If Hemsworth is to be believed, there is fitting symmetry to his appointment as an ambassador for a Hugo Boss fragrance. “This is not a line; this is the truth,” he tells me earnestly. “The first fragrance I ever wore was given to me by my mum when I was 16, and it was by Hugo Boss. It was Hugo Man – the one with the green lid.”

Since 2014, campaigns for the Boss Bottled fragrance have adopted the strapline “Man of Today”, with the aim, says Ingo Wilts, chief brand officer at Hugo Boss, of initiating a conversation about masculinity and success, and how these concepts are evolving.

Hemsworth is a canny bit of casting. There’s a realness to him that is absent in many Hollywood stars – a sense of humility and humour in the way he talks, jokes and laughs at himself. “Chris Hemsworth really embodies the perfect man,” says Wilts. “He’s successful and strives for the best. He’s very handsome, but also very family-driven; and he’s very nice and easy to work with, which makes it easier when you have to spend so much time with him.”

Chris Hemsworth on the set of the Hugo Boss TV campaign for Boss Bottled
Chris Hemsworth on the set of the Hugo Boss TV campaign for Boss Bottled

Indeed, if you were looking for an ideal of 21st-century masculinity, you could do a lot worse than Hemsworth. Not just because of his looks and career trajectory (which includes films such as Rush, two editions of Snow White and the Huntsman, Ghostbusters, In the Heart of the Sea, and, most famously, a recurring role as Thor in the Marvel series), but because he clearly places great stock in family and friendship, and in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

“For me, success is about the family and friends you keep; the people around you that you share your life with,” he says. “I feel very successful in the relationships that I’ve been able to form in my life. I’m very lucky in that sense. I have friends and family who are very honest with me and tell me how it is. But they are also very compassionate and kind and supportive. My biggest success would be having children and having a family of my own now. It’s a lot of work, with kids, but it’s the greatest thing in the world.”

Hemsworth married Spanish model and actress Elsa Pataky in 2010; their daughter, India Rose, was born in 2012 and twin boys, Tristan and Sasha, followed in 2014. After nearly a decade living in Los Angeles, Hemsworth and his family moved back to Australia a couple of years ago, settling in the coastal town of Byron Bay. He was at a point in his career where he felt like he didn’t have to be in the thick of it anymore, and had always maintained that he would like to bring up his children in Australia. Even when he talks about his favourite smells – “eucalyptus leaves, especially in the summer when they are dry and crackling and the smell is everywhere, surfboard wax and coconut sunscreen” – it is clear how ingrained the Australian lifestyle is for the Melbourne-born actor.

“One of the greatest luxuries, for me, is the ability to live back in Australia now, and to come and go with work,” he says. “For a long time, I had to be in LA, right in the centre of it, living and breathing and working. And now I have the chance to come back to Australia, switch off in a different world, a different setting, spend time with my kids and spend most of my time outdoors. That’s pretty special.”

Hemsworth may have a predilection for wearing Hugo Boss suits on the red carpet, but will happily admit that his own style sensibilities sit firmly in the board shorts and T-shirt category. “My wife says I have more board shorts than most females have shoes,” he jokes. “I have a strange kind of addiction to them.

“Growing up, I never thought about fashion too much. No, maybe that’s not true. I was very particular about what board shorts I wore, or what T-shirt. But to be able to wear beautiful clothes because of my work is a real luxury,” he says.

“When it comes to suits, it’s got to be comfortable, so the material can’t be too heavy and stiff. It’s got to have enough strength to it that it doesn’t wrinkle up and get crumpled. I think it’s about having a great tailor. Because there are not many, if any, suits that fit me off the rack, I always have to have them tailored. I do like dressing up for an event or premiere, but at home, it’s board shorts, T-shirts and tank tops.”

The next time we see Hemsworth in a suit will probably be for the premiere of his latest film, Thor: Ragnarok, which is out on November 3. So synonymous is Hemsworth with the gruff-yet-endearing prince of Asgard that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing him. But, in truth, Hemsworth very nearly didn’t get the role.

The casting call went out for a man over 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing more than 90 kilograms. Hemsworth fit the bill, but had an unsuccessful first audition with Kenneth Branagh, who directed the first Thor. As it turned out, Hemsworth’s younger brother and fellow actor, Liam, did get a callback and ended up on the shortlist for the role. Luckily for at least one Hemsworth, none of the shortlisted actors made it through, so Chris, fuelled, he admits, by a healthy dose of sibling rivalry, decided to give it another go. The rest, as they say, is Norse history.

Thor famously didn’t appear in the last Avengers movie (if you haven’t seen Hemsworth and Rolling Stone’s spoof skit explaining why, watch it below), and is experiencing something of a reversal of fortunes in Thor: Ragnarok.

If you’re one of the few people in the world who hasn’t seen the trailer yet (within 24 hours of being released, it had garnered a whopping 136 million views, a record for both Marvel and its parent company Disney), here’s a quick recap: Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer, which has been destroyed by a very powerful-looking Cate Blanchett, who plays goddess of death Hela; Asgard has seemingly been destroyed; Thor’s luscious blonde locks have been unceremoniously shorn off; and he has to battle the Hulk (sans hammer, in case you missed that bit).

“That was our plan. To destroy him, destroy his world and everything he knows and everyone he loves, and just reinvent it,” says Hemsworth gleefully. “He happens to be on a planet where everyone else is pretty damn powerful too. So he’s kind of a regular guy in that sense. No one gives a damn if he’s the prince of Asgard or whatever. It doesn’t mean anything on this planet. We wanted to strip all that back and make him more relatable. I had also gotten kind of bored with how I was playing it. I wanted to do something different.

“Taika Waititi, the director that came in, is a genius and has such a left-of-centre, wildly odd sense of humour,” he continues. “He said: ‘I don’t ever want to hear ‘Loki’ and ‘this madness’ again.’ And I said: ‘No, I’m done. I’ve said that a thousand times.’ And so anytime something felt familiar, we’d go the other way, throw it out of the window and start again. We may have pushed it too far; I don’t know. But it was a hell of a lot of fun and it’s going to be vastly different and unique to what we’ve done before.”

There’s a lot more humour in it, too, particularly in the interplay between Thor and Bruce Banner, who, Hemsworth reveals, happens to be his favourite Avenger. “Definitely Banner, in this film. He’s different, too. He just had such a different energy. And we had such a laugh. There’s a lot more improvisation and comedy. It was just cool. I love Mark Ruffalo, too. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most intelligent person. He’s just one of my favourite humans.”

There he goes again with that humility and likeability. If you were looking for an ideal of 21st-century masculinity, you really could do a lot worse than Chris Hemsworth.

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