Fame & Fatherhood
"It’s the greatest experience you can have. I’m having so much fun with the twins, and my wife and I are just really happy and enjoying this time in our lives. I love my wife and children more than I can possibly describe."
—With the massive hack of Sony Pictures in December, cyber terrorism is now very much in the public spotlight. That made the release of Michael Mann’s new film, “Blackhat”, a thriller about a master hacker on the trail of a cyber-terrorist, about as timely a movie release as you could want. Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth plays Nick Hathaway, a computer genius whose hacking skills are so valuable that his prison sentence is commuted in exchange for helping track down a cyber-terrorist who has been wreaking havoc on banks, power grids, and other computer networks around the world.
“Math and computer science are totally foreign subjects to me—that’s why I have to rely on acting,” Hemsworth smiles. “I prepared for this film as hard as I have for any film, in terms of doing research on hacking and cyber-crime. You quickly see how dangerous this kind of thing can be when it’s possible for someone sitting at a computer to shut down power grids or blow up nuclear plants. That’s the kind of reality we’re facing.”
The story opens with a malware attack on a Chinese nuclear facility that leads an M.I.T.-trained Chinese military security specialist (Wang Leehom) to enlist the help of his former computer whiz college roommate (Hemsworth) in tracking down the culprit behind the attack. Nick (Hemsworth) and a female ally (Wei Tang) then embark on a hunt that takes them to Jakarta, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Hemsworth studied computer coding, met some of the world’s most notorious hackers prior to working on the film, and immersed himself in the way highly destructive malware and similar computer programs can be launched against corporations, as well as the highest levels of government. Director Michael Mann (The Insider, Miami Vice), was inspired to make the film after the notorious “Stuxnet” computer virus that Israeli cyber teams used to attack an Iranian nuclear facility. That virus nearly destroyed it. Mann has stated that the public should be aware of how vulnerable we are to massive cyber-attacks. “It’s almost like there’s an invisible kind of exoskeleton above the layer in which we think our lives take place on planet Earth, that’s made up of interconnectedness and data, says Mann. “We’re swimming around in it, and everything is totally porous, vulnerable and accessible. And if it hasn’t been targeted, that’s only because somebody hasn’t bothered to yet.” The title of the film takes its name from so-called “Black Hat” hackers who use the Internet to launch malicious attacks on computer systems and otherwise subvert the peaceful use of the web. There’s even an annual Las Vegas Black Hat convention, where the world’s top hackers and Internet security specialists meet to trade information and explore the latest advances in this highly arcane field.
The 31-year-old Chris Hemsworth grew up in Australia and the 6’ 3” actor is best known for playing Thor in The Avengers and the Thor films, as well as race car driver James Hunt in the movie, Rush. Later this year, Hemsworth re-teams with Rush director Ron Howard in the action/adventure film, In the Heart of the Sea, about a 19th century whaling ship that is attacked by a sperm whale that leaves its crew adrift.
Hemsworth lives most of the year in Malibu, California, with his wife, Spanish actress Elsa Patacky (Fast Five, Furious 6 and 7), their 2-year-old baby daughter, India Rose, and 9-month old twin boys, Tristan and Sasha. He got his acting break in the Aussie soap Home and Away. Chris has an older acting brother, Luke, 33, and a younger one, Liam, 24.
STRIPLV: Chris, you’re the proud father of three children, including twin boys. Are you happy to be raising a big family?
HEMSWORTH: It’s the greatest experience you can have. I’m having so much fun with the twins, and my wife and I are just really happy and enjoying this time in our lives. We’re also planning to get back to Australia more often and make sure our children spend a lot of time there growing up. It’s a beautiful place to be able to raise children and I want that to be part of their upbringing.
STRIPLV: Your career is exploding right now with your Avengers franchise as Thor and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. Is it becoming harder to balance work with your increasing family responsibilities?
HEMSWORTH: I’m more conscious of leaving enough time between projects to be at home with my wife and our children. I’m also fortunate in that Elsa is totally supportive of me and knows that this is a very important time for me as an actor. She understands if I have to go away for three or four months. But we also make sure we spend as much time together as possible, and I am very conscious of my responsibilities as a father, and I love my wife and children more than I can possibly describe.
STRIPLV: How has fatherhood changed your perspective on things?
HEMSWORTH: Your life becomes much more focused and you don’t have as much time to get distracted by unimportant things anymore. You become a lot less selfish and you’re suddenly thinking almost exclusively in terms of creating the best possible life for your wife and children. But I don’t feel I’m giving up anything or making any sacrifices. I had my share of wild times when I was younger and that kind of stuff was never that interesting for me anyway. When I met my wife I was very comfortable with the idea that she was someone I wanted to share my life with and build something for the future.
STRIPLV: Let’s talk about your new film, Blackhat. You spent several months researching computer science and hacking. Could you get into some mischief as an amateur hacker?
HEMSWORTH: (Laughs) I learned a lot from some very smart people who taught me things that are way beyond me. I think I can look very convincing, typing away on a keyboard, but I’m not going to be able to hack into your e-mail or bank account, nor would I want to, either! (Laughs)
STRIPLV: Does it require intense dedication to be a hacker?
HEMSWORTH: You’ve got to spend thousands of hours at it and also be very smart to understand complex coding to even begin to understand the process. It’s an exhausting occupation and it requires incredible concentration, as well as patience, in order to get past high security firewalls and hack into systems. It’s a completely different mindset, but that’s what made it interesting.
STRIPLV: Was it a challenge to play someone who has these very unique skills?
HEMSWORTH: I thrive on being able to step into the head of a character like Nick, who spends his time exploring this world that very few people can understand or do the kinds of things he’s capable of. It’s fascinating to learn how these people think and how they have a certain swagger, because of their abilities to penetrate supposedly secure computer networks and how they laugh at people or organizations that think their systems are secure. They’re not! (Laughs) The Internet is very porous and it’s kind of frightening. Information you think is safe and secret is absolutely not the case. These hackers can get into your phone and computer anytime they want. They can even switch on your phone’s camera and look at you or what you’re looking at!
STRIPLV: Tell us about some of the strangest hackers you met.
HEMSWORTH: There was this one guy who was hacking into a dating site and was able to discover exactly the kinds of things women were looking for in male profiles. So he would list all these attributes to make himself the ideal kind of man and pick out exactly the girls he wanted—and suddenly he went from having one coffee date a week to having ten dates a day, simply by hacking into the system.
STRIPLV: Michael Mann is one of Hollywood’s most important directors. How would you describe your experience working with him?
HEMSWORTH: It was incredible. Some of the top ten favorite movies of mine, like Heat and Last of the Mohicans, were directed by Michael. To work with someone with such attention to detail and precision is very intimidating. It’s a luxury to be able to work with a filmmaker of that caliber, and who knows everything about the world you’re exploring and all the details that help tell the story.
STRIPLV: Do you ever look back at your success and wonder how you’ve been able to get to this point, when you consider that you grew up in the Australian Outback?
HEMSWORTH: I could just as easily have become a beach bum—or a footballer. My mates would laugh at me when I was a teenager. Each week I had a different goal. “I’m going to be a doctor!” Then the next week: “I’m going to be a boxer!” If I look back on it, what was the common thread? I don’t know, but I knew I was going to be moving forward.
STRIPLV: Your brothers are also actors. Any rivalry between you three?
HEMSWORTH: No. We all look out for each other. I’ve always made sure that I get to spend some time with my brothers somewhere around the world. I’ve also been really fortunate to have had a big brother like Luke. He carried me on his shoulders when I was starting out in the business. He’s helped me enormously over the years, and without his help, I doubt whether I would have succeeded as much as I have. It helps to have someone like that explaining the ropes to you. And now, several years down the road, it’s been my turn to help my little brother, Liam, make his way in Hollywood.
STRIPLV: Your wife Elsa Patacky is Spanish. Do you ever speak Spanish to her?
HEMSWORTH: (Laughs) I’m trying to learn the language and I hope to be more fluent in another year or so... My Spanish is so horrible that I can’t even understand her when she’s angry with me and yelling at me in her native language. I can’t understand a word—and that’s probably a good thing! (Laughs) But at least I’ve learned a very important Spanish phrase which helps calm things down: “Si, mi amor!” (Yes, my love!) (Laughs) Saying “Si, mi amor,” is enough to cool things down between us when we’re having one of those typical husband-wife moments. STRIPLV: What about your kids—are they going to learn Spanish?
HEMSWORTH: Our daughter is already speaking Spanish and our twins are also going to be fluent in both English and Spanish. Maybe I’m going to have to raise my Spanish level! (Laughs) Give me another year. I do love Spain. We travel there as much as we can to visit Elsa’s family.
STRIPLV: Would you like your children to be able to travel a lot, given your Spanish and Australian family connections, and your work as an actor, which will often take you to different places around the world?
HEMSWORTH: I think traveling and getting to know the world is very important, especially for kids. I grew up on cattle and buffalo stations in the Northern Territory, and then my family and I moved back to Melbourne and then down the coast. Those kinds of experiences helped shape me and my brothers’ way of looking at the world and making us more adventurous. Traveling, meeting different kinds of people and exploring different places will teach you more about life than you can pick up from reading books. I want my kids to be able to have similar kinds of experiences.