Chris Hemsworth talks racing, movies, and facing his fears
Oh my Thor
How does one not get a sensory overload in Monaco during F1 weekend is completely and utterly beyond me. The sheer beauty of the city where power yachts fill the marina and supercars horde the streets will overwhelm you if all those beautiful shiny happy people (and their beautiful shiny happy watches) have not. But trust TAG Heuer to fit right in with a team of megawatt stars that included the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, street artist Alec Monopoly, and French chef Philippe Etchebest. The niece of racing legend Ayrton Senna, Bianca Senna, was also there to officiate the opening of TAG Heuer's new boutique, where the new Senna special edition watches were unveiled.
For someone who's played an F1 driver on the big screen, Chris Hemsworth was understandably thrilled to be at the Monaco Grand Prix — this is the jewel in the F1 crown after all. In the 2013 movie Rush, he starred as the high profile British driver James Hunt whose rivalry with the Austrian racing champ Niki Lauda led them both to the heights of their respective careers. Now in the midst of shooting the new Avengers movie, Hemsworth looks decidedly more Thor and less Hunt but he's still got fond feelings for Formula One racing even if he never really drove a real car throughout the film.
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Are you a big fan of Formula One?
There's the Grand Prix in Melbourne where I'm from. I've seen it a couple of times. Takes you out of the city — that's fantastic. I'm really looking forward to having a closer look [at the Monaco Grand Prix] and being a part of this event.
What are your earliest memories of F1?
F1 and MotoGP are two sports my dad loved. They're constantly in the background of my youth, on the TV, the noise in particular, like here where we are. The adrenaline and feel of energy around... it's always an exciting event to me when I was a kid.
Did you drive an F1 car in your training as James Hunt?
We drove pared down versions of F3 cars. We never drove anything like these guys here. Obviously there's the time period difference but insurance issues was the biggest reason. But certainly being around that energy, whether in the 70s or now, there was such a set of adrenaline, fuel, a vibrant sort of passion across all the drivers of today and that period... it does bring back memories.
Has playing James Hunt given you a newfound respect for F1 drivers?
Absolutely. I didn't quite know the psychological challenges and so on that go on for these guys. Especially the 60s and 70s. It was life or death, fighter pilot statistics. By the end of the season, statistics were a couple of guys you were racing with weren't going to be there. What I took away from that film especially with James Hunt was it could all land at any moment so make the most of the situation. Smile, have fun, enjoy, this is who I am, take it or leave it. I really love that about him. And then you know, Niki Lauda on the other side, the commitment, passion, focus, precision... Those guys are incredibly talented, very few people embody that.
Let's talk about the McQueen story and how one actor immortalised a moment. Is it the ultimate for an actor to achieve something like that?
I don't think I go into any particular project with the aim of that but I'd be lying if I said my ego as a young actor didn't go, "God if I'd have anything that Steve McQueen had, that'd be awesome." I just think that it was the attitude in which he embodied that's like, "This is me, take it or leave it. This is who I am." That's sort of the iconic image of him wearing the Monaco that's certainly imprinted in my mind, like Paul Newman did, and other people of that era. It was just an attitude and acceptance and openness that people wanted and love.
What does the phrase 'Don't crack under pressure' mean for you?
It's about facing your fears. If there's something that comes your way and may seem like an uphill battle or scary or dangerous and so on, you do it anyway. I remember when I was starting early in my career about auditioning or just being on the set, there's a voice in your head saying you're not good enough, it's all going to fall apart, you're going to wreck this, ruin it, this is your last chance, so on... But you gotta to go, you know what, that fear is there anyway. Hold it together and just keep stepping forward and keep moving. I think we can apply that to anything we do. I was talking to my mom about that, she was a high school teacher, she said, "I had the same issues when I stood in front of the classroom with kids who were screaming and didn't want to listen. You still have that same doubt but it's about saying to yourself 'don't crack under pressure'. You're here, you've done the work, you deserve to be here, and just keep pushing forward.
Your look has changed quite dramatically.
Every look I have over the last 10 years is due to the film I'm doing and this particular look is Thor in Avengers, or this version of Thor. Speak to me in six months' time and it might have changed again. I like to think I have a sort of personal taste but most of it is dictated by the films I'm doing which is a little frustrating at times but whatever. At home though I tend to be pretty casual.
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