Chris Hemsworth: We have been so busy with the kids that making the film was a holiday
Chris Hemsworth talks to Gill Pringle about starring with wife Elsa Pataky in 12 Strong and about his admiration for soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.
Working together in Hollywood is often a recipe for disaster. Who can forget Tom and Nicole in Eyes Wide Shut? Or Brad and Angelina’s marital drama By the Sea, which served as a prelude to divorce?
Unsurprisingly, Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky have no desire to join them, defying the curse to play husband and wife in action-drama 12 Strong.
“Obviously it was much easier with Elsa playing my wife — I felt like we’ve been rehearsing more than seven years for this part,” laughs Hemsworth, who was set up on a date with the Fast & Furious actress by their mutual agent eight years ago.
“We joked while we were filming that if we didn’t have any on-camera chemistry in the movie, then we’d be in trouble.”
They needn’t have worried because the chemistry is palpable as their characters savour their time together before Hemsworth’s special forces captain leaves for deployment in northern Afghanistan. Other couples who took their love to screen have not been so fortunate but Hemsworth and Pataky keep their 12 Strong scenes brief and poignant, even adding in a few lines of dialogue taken from their marriage. Parents to five-and-a-half-year-old daughter India Rose and four-year-old twin boys Tristan and Sasha, the couple left the children with the grandparents, treating themselves to a kid-free honeymoon on set.
“It was Chris who suggested I take the role,” says Pataky. “We enjoyed getting to just be us again with no kids and talking about work, which is what we love to do. Chris always tries to get the best out of me and I think the best of him, so we challenge each other.”
Nonetheless, Hemsworth admits to receiving a ribbing from his mates. “One of them asked ‘Isn’t work like a much-needed time apart? Sometimes, you don’t want too much of a good thing.’ But for us, we’ve been so busy with the kids for a number of years that, if anything, it was like a working holiday together,” the actor says.
The Australian Thor star regularly flirts with his wife over Instagram and recently posted a photo of them together with the caption “Hanging with a real-life superhero”.
If the pair are in no rush to repeat their on-screen coupling, then Pataky’s reasoning is more practical than superstitious.
“I think it would be complicated for us both to be working at the same time,” says the Madrid-born actress, who had already enjoyed considerable success on TV and film in her native Spain when the couple first met.
“This was a small role and I think Chris wanted me to do it because he feels kind of guilty that I put aside my career for him so he could follow his passion.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and he wanted to have his moment, but still we wanted a family, so I told him ‘Just do it and I’ll be here with our kids’.”
Her decision enabled Hemsworth to pursue a career which includes the Thor/Avengers franchise, Snow White and The Huntsman and In the Heart of the Sea. It’s little wonder he is so in awe of his wife as she continues to orchestrate their harmonious family life, even agreeing to move to his homeland, where they raise their family on a horse ranch in Byron Bay.
If they turned their 12 Strong experience into a second honeymoon, then their interaction is just a small portion of this drama, which tells the declassified true story of the first 12 American soldiers sent on a covert mission into Taliban-held Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. If every American adult remembers exactly where they were when 9/11 happened in 2001, Hemsworth has his own vivid memories.
“I was still at school and I remember watching on TV as the first plane hit and just going ‘How did this happen? Was it an accident? How did they not see the building?’” he says.
“The confusion was the thing I remember most, not being able to make sense of it. I still can’t.”
Portraying fictional Captain Mitch Nelson, selected to lead the first offensive, Hemsworth cannot imagine how tough it is for real soldiers to go to war, leaving loved ones behind.
“I don’t know how they do it,” he says when we meet in Los Angeles. “When I was leaving home to come here, I said to my daughter ‘Okay, see you later’ and she said ‘But you just got back’. It breaks my heart every time the kids say that. But I’m going off to a safe movie set or Press tour, so to be walking out the door not knowing how long you’ll be gone for or if you’re even coming back, there is no tougher job.”
So will he and Pataky share the screen again? “Yes, we would if the project is right,” says Pataky. “I’m sure there’s more couples who stay together after working together than those who fall apart. I think once you have a good experience where it’s worked, it would make you want to do more.”
12 Strong is out now