MEN’S HEALTH AUSTRALIA – Chris Hemsworth is sitting on the deck of his sprawling hilltop property in the Byron Bay hinterland, looking out to sea. After a week of torrential rain and flooding, the lushness of the countryside is that little bit denser, the hills a more verdant green. “I love the post-rain humidity and this freshness and energy it gives the landscape,” says Hemsworth, as birds chirp in the background. “It’s beautiful.”
With the kids out for the morning at nearby nature reserve, Macadamia Castle, he’s excited by the hint of swell. When we’re done chatting, he says, he’ll probably jump in the ocean for a surf.
To be honest you’d be kind of disappointed if he didn’t. This is Chris Hemsworth, the man who so effortlessly embodies the Australian male aesthetic ideal – golden locks, piercing blue eyes, rippling physique, Vader-like vocal register – and one who’s carved out a modern version of the Australian dream – a house overlooking the sea in freakin’ Byron Bay. He bloody better be going for a surf.
Hemsworth created this Aussie Eden for himself – slowly, deliberately, precisely – in the process establishing an enviable template for working life. Navigate a career on your terms.
Work from home. Be close to your family. Most Aussie actors – most of us full stop – don’t have the clout to pull it off. Then again, Hemsworth isn’t like most of us. He made Hollywood come to him.
He’s just wrapped filming on the Gold Coast on sci-fi thriller, Escape from Spiderhead (due to stream on Netflix later this year). In January he started shooting the fourth instalment of Thor in Sydney. “That was going to be in Atlanta or the UK and I was kind of digging my heels in and saying, ‘This is the best place in the world to shoot’,” he says.
“This is pre-COVID. And then eventually, they said, ‘Okay, cool. We can make it work’.”
It was all the 37-year-old father-of-three could have hoped for when he and wife, Elsa Pataky, made the bold decision to leave Hollywood for Byron six years ago. “When I first decided to move back here, it was, ‘Well, how are you going to make it work with all the travel and so on?’ And I guess my gut told me it was going to work out fine and so I stuck to my guns on that. And just as I sort of laid out my dream scenario, I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t anyone else want to be here?’ We’ve got such diversity in our landscape to double for just about anywhere in the world and then there’s the amount of talent that’s here.”
A global pandemic certainly wasn’t part of that dream scenario, yet with Australia relatively unscathed by COVID, at least compared to other countries, it’s only reinforced the need to work locally. “Lucky for all of us that it turned out that way, because I don’t think we’d be shooting these films if we’d been anywhere else,” Hemsworth says.