Chris Hemsworth: ‘We grew up broke. I thought I could make some money and get my parents out of debt’

The Australian actor has visited Madrid to promote his new movie, ‘Tyler Rake 2,′ for which his ‘demanding’ role means he still has a ‘hangover and residual effects,’ despite having a few months off with his family

Chris Hemsworth
Actor Chris Hemsworth upon arrival at the premiere of 'Tyler Rake 2' in Madrid, on June 7, 2023.Paul White (AP)
Andrea Jiménez

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has embarked on a grueling world tour lasting seven days and spanning four countries and three continents to present his new Netflix movie: Tyler Rake 2, which will be released on the platform on June 16. With little time to rest, the 39-year-old actor landed in Madrid this week for an intense but exciting promotional campaign. The man himself opens the door of his room in a central hotel in the Spanish capital to welcome EL PAÍS. “I’m happy to be here. Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world,” says the actor, while a stopwatch shows the time limit established for the interview: 14 minutes. Perhaps he was not expecting so much affection from his Spanish fans, although he admits as he laughs, that he cannot explain why he has received so much attention: “I’m not sure if it’s about me or the fact that I married one of your lovely Spanish women [Elsa Pataky], but it was incredible. This is one of the biggest receptions I’ve had in my career.”

He has an imposing physique and stands at a height of 1.90 meters, but is always approachable, friendly and, above all, a good joker. He has spent more than two decades in the world of acting and has garnered worldwide recognition thanks to his role as Thor, the god of war and savage fighting in the Marvel franchise. Now he returns to the screen in the role of Tyler Rake, a mercenary who takes on everything and everyone in his quest to accomplish his missions. When asked what they have in common, he jokes that they are: “Roughly the same height, same color eyes, similar build.” Before adding more seriously: “I think we both have a pretty strong moral compass and North Star about right and wrong and justice and injustice. We certainly go about it in different ways.”

The most significant bond that unites Hemsworth and his character is his fatherhood, which has helped him in this role. He has three children with fellow actress Elsa Pataky, to whom he has been married since 2010 (India Rose, 10, and twins Tristan and Sasha, nine). His character has a child who dies of cancer. “I empathize with the damage that has occurred from that. And touch wood that never happens to me and I never, ever experience it. But this year, the thought of it certainly opens up an emotional depth. Playing the character, if I didn’t have kids, wouldn’t have been as easily accessible,” he admits.

The first Tyler Rake movie is the ninth most watched film in Netflix’s history. This success has aided the production of its sequel, which has a similar script with more action, more companionship, and it also allows us to get to better know the character played by the Australian. “I think what separates us from the last film is the emotional journey, the character development, the motivations for who this character is, why he does what he does, complements the action. The integration of the two is what’s so important. If you just have action, spectacle, visual, stunning stunts, but with no resonance to an audience on an emotional level, that’s just noise.”

The actor says the filming was both “exhausting and very demanding.” “I’d come off the back of Thor, where the focus there is to get as big as I can and sculpt the body. But it was probably only a month later that I was on this set, so I didn’t have time to lose it. It became about altering my training drastically, reducing my calorie intake, becoming more functional in my movements, more flexible, a lot more martial arts training. We shoot for 14 hours a day, and then we do stunt rehearsals at night.” However, without a doubt, the most difficult thing for him was to maintain his concentration during the four months of recording: “It’s a pretty heavily weighted emotional story. You had to spend 12 hours a day for four months convincing yourself you are this person, along with the endurance, and trying to maintain your energy. I have a hangover and residual effects from that.”

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth at the premiere of 'Tyler Rake 2' on June 7.
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth at the premiere of 'Tyler Rake 2' on June 7.J.P.GANDUL (EFE)

His passion for action movies stems from his childhood, when he lived between Melbourne and Bulman, a city located in the north of Australia. “I grew up on a lot of big entertaining action films of Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Stallone. I would watch and then jump in the backyard with my brothers and recreate those situations. It was just sheer fantasy and a vivid, childlike experience that captured what motivated me to want to be an actor. Initially it was being on an adventure, later on in my career I realized the artistry to it resonated with me and that creative outlet was very important.” A childhood that was also shaped by his parents’ profession: “My parents worked in child protection for many years. My dad put aside his own experiences in life to be in servitude of helping children. The influence of my parents and what I grew up with in that environment — that motivation was a huge inspiration. We have to put aside our own personal well-being to help others.”

The advice and influence from his family shaped Hemsworth’s film career. Despite his god-like status in fiction and the prestige that surrounds him, he has learned to always keep his feet on the ground and adjust his mindset: “My mom said this to me years ago is just have fun, but I got bogged down in the expectation ahead of myself and the hopes and dreams of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to shoot for the stars and it’s a lot of weight to carry. I’ve learned to stop looking so far ahead,” he adds in an interview during which he does not say a single word in Spanish — the few words he did say at the premiere in Madrid were scribbled on his hand.

When he was starting out as an actor, he had one clear motivation: to bring money home to help his family. “We grew up with no money, very broke. I thought I could make some money here and get my parents out of debt and pay for the house and help friends and family. I think it’s just staying true to yourself and being aware of the constant change. This is my one rule for life, and it will never change that.”

Another of the principles on which he has been focusing the most in recent years of his career is to carefully choose the role he accepts and how much he can develop that character. He has always left the door open to a third release of Tyler Rake, albeit with new touches: “It requires and deserves something unique and fresh.” Something he has requested for the continuation of his role as Thor in Marvel: “In Thor: Ragnarok it happened. You can still be the same character, but you can surprise the hell out of an audience and you don’t have to stay within a box and have it be predictable. I think the audience deserves and expects you to change it up. They want to be surprised. There needs to be spontaneity.”

Although at no time has he rejected the idea of continuing to play Thor, he will only do so if there is not a good story to follow: “I feel confident in my ability to recreate the character and do something that is fresh. I don’t want to be playing the character when people are rolling their eyes or they are killing me on the set in a wheelchair and I’m still trying to swing the hammer. There’s a point when you say, ‘I’ve got to get out before that happens.’”

A staggering 56 million people follow Hemsworth on social media. Even so, he prefers to stay away from the opinions and criticism that comes his way on the platforms: “It’s human nature to be affected by those opinions. But I’ve certainly gotten better at it. I’d like to think it is less about me and more about whatever that person’s going through. I empathize with that.”

Despite his hectic schedule in recent days, he has been on a hiatus since the end of 2022. In November, Hemsworth discovered he had an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, which has made him realize the importance of time: “I’ve had seven or eight months off and it’s been great. I’ve re-energized and had an incredible time with my family. I need an outlet here to be creative.” The timer reaches its end. He gets up from his seat and with his characteristic kindness bids farewell. He has some interviews left and a flight to catch the next day, leaving him little time to rest and visit Madrid.

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