High life takes a back seat for Hemsworth

High life takes a back seat for Hemsworth
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataki attend the premiere of the film "Rush" on September 14, 2013 in Rome.

In director Ron Howard's new movie Rush, Australian hunk of an actor Chris Hemsworth plays James Hunt, the high-living British driver whose close rivalry with three-time world champion Niki Lauda from Austria made the high jinks of 1970s Formula One circuits.

"It must have been the hair," the actor jokes to reporters in London about how he landed the role, tossing back slicked blonde streaks cut neater and shorter than the bad boy mop he sports in the 122-minute film.

"I loved the script, it felt like I knew what he was about, it fascinated me, the contradictions of who he was, and this strange insecurity underneath it all, underneath the gallantry and bravado and rock-star image, there's a whole another side," he says.

"The audition was a monologue about the fear of death. You can try to avoid thinking about death by distraction - it would be women and drugs and alcohol, excess of whatever. I just had an empathy for him, I liked the guy, there was a warmth."

The film, which also stars German actor Daniel Bruhl as Lauda, opens in Singapore tomorrow.

It is Hemsworth's 11th film to date, not bad for a relative newcomer whose first Hollywood role was George Kirk, brother to James, in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (2009).

Since then, he has climbed his way up the game on the back of beefcake characters from Curt in The Cabin In The Woods (2012) to the titular Viking god in Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012).

It was not too long ago that he was hanging out with crocodiles in the outback and, later, bartending alongside budding-actor brothers Luke, 32, and Liam, 23.

All three of them have gone on to successful television and film careers. But Chris, the middle brother, seems to be attracting more attention of late, not least for testosterone-chugging moves in epic superhero movies.

In Rush, however, he says he is more of a cad than a hero, and much less brawny after having been made to lose 9kg of weight.

"It wasn't as punishing to get into shape as Thor than to get it off," he says. "As Thor, I lifted weights and ate a lot of food. But for this film, I over-trained and under-ate to get smaller. It's far more exhausting."

Snug in a light-blue dress-shirt with a tantalising open-neck, the actor in person looks almost the stereotypical movie-star dude. A thin silver necklace and hippie wristbands for man-jewellery circle his neck and hands.

But it is the wedding ring that he constantly fingers for reassurance, in between answering questions in his thick Australian drawl.

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