As the first season of his breakthrough acting gig as security officer Ashley Stubbs on HBO’s Westworld draws to a close, Australian hunk Luke Hemsworth has revealed how his younger (and taller) brother, Chris, helped bring his Hollywood dreams to life.
While Luke -- the eldest Hemsworth at 36 years old -- was acting long before Chris became Thor and Liam starred in The Hunger Games franchise, he sidelined his showbiz ambitions for the financial security of a flooring business. That is, until Chris opened his eyes to the potential for success as a full-time actor.
“Things happened for Chris really early on,” Luke reflects while knocking back a Bloody Mary over breakfast with ET in Los Angeles. Long before Westworld, the actor studied at the prestigious Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art before playing footballer Nathan Tyson on the long-running soap Neighbours, which has produced a number of Aussie exports, including Margot Robbie, Kylie Minogue, Chicago Fire’s Jesse Spencer and singer Natalie Imbruglia. “For me, I did Neighbours, then my focus changed. I wanted to have something that could provide money while still allowing time for auditions. So, I learned the flooring business, started my own, and in that time, got married and had a couple of kids.” (In 2007, Luke married Samantha and the two have since had Alexandre, Ella, Holly and Harper Rose.)
“[Going to L.A.] was always a quiet burn in the back of my mind,” he continues. “Then one day, around when Chris got Thor, I went, ‘Maybe I can think about throwing everything into it again.’ Watching him go through all that [early success] crystallized in my mind that it was what I wanted to do. And that I couldn’t stay sanding floors for the rest of my life!”
With a young family to support, the decision to sell his successful business and attempt another full-time foray into acting was a risky one. But following small gigs in Australia, Chris once again helped Luke take the next major step: moving to L.A.
With Chris’ trainer unable to join him on the London set of Thor: The Dark World, he asked fitness fanatic Luke to take the gig. “I didn’t have any qualifications, but I was always heavily into training, so it was a no-brainer for me,” Luke says. “It was an amazing setup and allowed me to save enough money to come here with my family, which was the next logical step. Without that, we just wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it.”
After moving to the U.S. with Samantha and their young kids, Luke quickly landed a lead role on a pilot and soon learned the brutal uncertainty of pilot season. After auditioning on a Thursday, he landed the gig and flew to Toronto for Monday’s rehearsal, only to be fired on Tuesday for not being “authentic New York enough.” Devastated, he contemplated returning to Australia.
“It was absolutely gutting.” Luke recalls wandering alone around Toronto before Chris’ agent convinced him to get his head back in the game. “So I used it as ammunition to say, ‘F**k you,’ and I worked harder and made myself ready for the next thing.”
“It’s heartbreaking at the time,” he admits. “But it definitely made me stronger and it was real-word stuff. Acting is not this pretty, lovely job where everything happens beautifully and you walk away scot-free. You have to deal with a lot of pain, anguish and bullsh*t.”
Determined not to let one setback destroy his dreams, Luke eventually landed a role on Westworld opposite Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood and Anthony Hopkins. The J.J. Abrams-produced series adapted from Michael Crichton’s 1973 film sees Luke playing a muscly employee of a Western-themed park populated by androids.
“It’s taken two years to get from the pilot to this stage and it had its problems, but it’s turned out alright!” he says of the ratings hit, which had a bumpy road to its October premiere. Initially filmed in 2014, the show’s debut was planned for 2015 before being pushed back to 2016. Earlier this year, production was halted so that creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy could finish writing the last four episodes. “All the signs were there it would succeed and the material is so good.”
While the role has thrust him into a new spotlight beyond being “the other Hemsworth,” Luke is reluctantly learning to embrace the attention and interviews. “I don’t like talking about myself!” he says, relieved he’s not subject to the same level of media interest that 26-year-old Liam attracts, largely due to his relationship with Miley Cyrus.
Luke’s biggest lesson from witnessing Liam’s experience with fame is to “just focus on the work.” He also credits having an established personal life with availing him of potential celebrity pitfalls, like paparazzi attention and Hollywood temptations.
“It’s probably saved me for sure,” he says. “I’m not going out to clubs and all that. I have a routine and life that I stick to and that helps normalize it, because it’s not a normal job. And the kids are the most important thing. Nothing else matters. I exist to make sure that they exist well, and it’s hard to do that when you’re doing all that other crazy stuff in Hollywood. I live by the beach, go surfing, take walks, get coffee and do really boring stuff most of the time. We have the occasional party with gold horses!”
Now a father of four, Luke also spends time throwing barbecues on his balcony and surfing or working out in his home gym -- aptly dubbed the “Hemsworth Iron Temple” -- with Liam. The Hemsworth brothers are also preparing to celebrate Christmas in Los Angeles, having spent past holidays in Australia.
So what does a Hemsworth family Christmas look like? “Chaos!” laughs Luke. “It’ll be absolute chaotic because there are so many kids now. And loud … Australian Christmases are very loud! We’ll all be here, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”