Hemsworth steps out of the shadows

Hemsworth steps out of the shadows

In Hollywood's collective consciousness, actor Liam Hemsworth is known mainly as Miley Cyrus' ex-fiance and the little brother of Thor star Chris Hemsworth.

His acting credits have been fairly modest so far, with the Melbourne native graduating from brief stints in Australian soap operas such as Neighbours and Home And Away in 2007 and 2008, to a blink-and-you'd-miss-it part in last year's The Hunger Games.

But the 23-year-old is finally carving out more of a name for himself this year, with a meatier role in the new The Hunger Games: Catching Fire sequel, in which he plays the thwarted love interest of the crossbow-wielding girl warrior Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

Hemsworth also scored top billing in the thriller Paranoia, which debuted in the United States earlier this year and put him next to heavyweights such as Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman.

It bombed at the box office, though, and the young actor is still struggling to step out of the shadows - a daunting task given the continuing interest in his failed relationship with Cyrus, 20.

Since he announced his engagement to then 19-year-old Cyrus - a children's television star turned flesh-baring wild child - last year, two months after the first Hunger Games film opened, he has become the unwitting star of his own private soap opera, a prime target for the Los Angeles paparazzi as the couple's public break-up continues to play in the tabloids.

It does not help that he seems ill at ease dealing with the media.

Reporters in Los Angeles for a recent press event for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are warned to not to ask any personal questions, which in Hemsworth's case is understood to mean anything to do with the end of his engagement a few months ago.

Most oblige, but the actor could not have looked less enthusiastic about facing them, preferring instead to chat and joke around with 52-year-old co-star Woody Harrelson, whom he is paired with for the interviews.

When he responds to anyone else, the younger actor's answers are curt and joyless, except when he talks about how much fun the cast and crew had making the film, an adaptation of the best-selling young-adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and his admiration for those he worked with.

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