Hemsworth is unproven so far, but he has one distinct advantage over the swaths of ambitious young men in Hollywood today: he’s physically imposing — something that also applies to his brother, Liam, who towers over his costar Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games series. The Hemsworth brothers are part of a wave of Australian actors who seem to have something — height and gruffness —over their American counterparts. After all, look at the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, so uncomfortable bulked up for The Prince of Persia, switching back to something natural for his fatuous creep in Nightcrawler.
But what’s funny is that Australian actors — who are ubiquitous enough in America these days that Deadline has devoted whole posts to the “Australian” wave taking over television (my favorite stealth Australian performance would be Aden Young in Sundance TV’s southern-fried Rectify, who never, ever slips) — may tend to fill manly man roles when they’re in America; however, their work from their homeland is far more sensitive.
Before Sam Worthington was anchoring Avatar as the representative of all masculinity, he was in the excellent indie Somersault as a complicated, real young man who doesn’t know how to express himself, or what his sexual orientation may be. And 2010’s excellent Animal Kingdom showed the complications of growing up as a young man in an Melbourne crime family; the expectations of being cold and hard, a real man versus the central character’s choice to live a morally righteous life. That film’s director, David Michod, made 2014’s The Rover, otherwise known as the film where Robert Pattinson is sweaty and dirty in the desert, doing something other than sparkling.
Hemsworth essentially went through the standard young Australian actor’s woodshedding (a role on Home and Away) before he was cast as Thor. He’s never really had a chance to show many layers in movies; only to show off his wonderful physicality and nearly unmatched hunkiness. In the Heart of the Sea has potential — Hemsworth is essentially playing Starbuck — but then he’s back to the superhero role. It’s funny that Hollywood has decided to fill the superhero ranks, the manliest man ranks, by encouraging the average actor (5’5″, wee, and in my cohort of American males, generally soft and beta) to bulk up, and importing in hunky foreigners who seem like they can actually ride a horse (Ryan Gosling, bless him, does not seem like he could ride a horse) — yet, on the other hand, Australian actors reaching for the big brass ring of Hollywood stardom mostly get the opportunity to be a physical presence and not much else. Kudos to Hemsworth for wearing People‘s crown gracefully, both sexy and appearing in a number of upcoming films and talking about how he’s a family man through and through, but when are we going to see him really, truly act? Will Hollywood or Australia, even, ever know what to do with the guy, beyond the hammer?