Chris Hemsworth: I wear the costume at home and I make them call me Thor
Getting cast as the God Of Thunder turned Chris Hemsworth into a global megastar. As the Avengers series gets ready to wrap up with the release of Endgame, he tells Laura Harding how the last 10 years have changed his life
Few roles have transformed an actor's career as much as Thor has transformed Chris Hemsworth's. The Australian heartthrob was still best known for his role as Kim Hyde in Home And Away when he was first cast as the God Of Thunder in 2009, at the age of 25.
Now he's 35 and one of the stars of a franchise worth billions of dollars, the latest instalment of which, Avengers: Endgame, is poised to be among the highest-grossing films of all time.
And nobody recognises how much wielding Thor's magic hammer has changed his life as much as Hemsworth himself.
"For sure," he nods emphatically. "Before Thor, my career was debatable, and I didn't know if it was going to continue.
"I was sort of scratching around, little bits and pieces, and then this kicked off everything and opened up every door.
"Everything I've done outside of this has been in the shadow of this massive enterprise, or whatever you want to call it.
"But it's also 10 years of my life and so, whether it was work or not, it's such a huge chunk of anyone's existence.
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"We all grew up on these films, kind of like the audiences have.
"I got married, I had kids, it was kind of like going through high school or something."
Now it's time for graduation - Endgame will draw to a conclusion a story that started in 2008 with Iron Man and has continued through 22 instalments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"By this point in particular, there is a very nostalgic, bittersweet quality to it," says Hemsworth, "because it's potentially the last time we are all going to gather like this.
"I don't think we will ever have another experience like this in any of our careers and I'm not sure even in the industry there will be another experience like this.
"Each film had to work in order for the next one to work, in order for this to happen, so I constantly pinch myself and go, 'Oh my god, how did I land this?' and think how special it was."
Indeed, since Hemsworth made his debut as Thor he has married his wife Elsa Pataky and had three children, daughter India (6) and twin sons Tristan and Sasha (5).
"I wear the costume at home and I make them call me Thor," he jokes.
"It's just easier, I don't have to slip in and out of character."
But kidding aside, it was his young children who helped him fully realise how important and influential these kind of films can be.
"It's been special watching them be pretty excited by it all, and watching what they relate to, but it all really hit home when they met Gal Gadot (who plays Wonder Woman in the DC Comics films).
"We were shooting in London last year and they are obsessed with Wonder Woman, they have seen the movie 100 times and they met her and were just in awe.
"They were hugging her and then they would listen and then go and hug her again.
"It kind of hit home for me, it became very personal, I went, 'Oh wow', because I've had kids do that to me.
"I wish it was my own kids," he laughs, "but you kind of realise what it means to people, the complete escapism, the fantasy, the adventure, the little lessons that are maybe sprinkled in there too, it's pretty cool."
He doesn't even mind that his kids are enamoured with a superhero from outside the Marvel universe.
"We are all open," he says with a chuckle. "If those films do well, our films do well - it's about getting people to the cinema these days."
And getting people to the cinema is something Avengers: Endgame is certain to do.
The film has already broken pre-release records at China's box office and could hurtle to the top of the charts in the UK and US as one of the highest grossing films of all time.
The night before our chat, Hemsworth was joined by co-stars Scarlett Johansson and Paul Rudd, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo for a fan event in a London cinema, where hundreds of enthusiasts dressed up as their favourite characters.
"It was incredible," says Hemsworth. "They are the most, intense, enthusiastic fans, that know more about your character than you do and that is intimidating, but it's why you make these films.
"The most rewarding part of this journey has been seeing people's faces light up, and the excitement they have to see these characters come to life and watch these films is pretty special."
Indeed, some of the fans have such encyclopedic knowledge of the comics and their history that Hemsworth has given up trying to match them.
"I read a few comics at the start of this whole journey back in Thor one, and I thought, 'Oh yeah, I get the picture'.
"Then we started shooting and I would go to Comic-Con and those kind of events and people would ask me, 'You know in book number 463 of Thor's journey...' and I was like, 'Uh-oh'.
"But then I just sort of gave in to the fact I am never going to be as versed and knowledgeable about that as those people.
"Also, you have to just take the character on and make it your own anyway.
"The very first film was about ticking all the boxes and saying, 'This is what you know', and then by Ragnarok (the third Thor film, directed by Taika Waititi) it was like, 'Let's try something different, we can do our own thing'.
"Now there is a lot of nostalgia and awareness that this is a culmination of 22 films and 10 years worth of work, so it all has a different feel."
Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas now