Chris Hemsworth Talks ‘Furiosa,’ Australian Inspiration and an Early Role in ‘Home and Away’ in Conversation With Baz Luhrmann

A full house greeted Chris Hemsworth as he dropped into the Red Sea Film Festival for an In Conversation event with jury head, Baz Luhrmann. It was something of an Oz fest as the beginning of the conversation was dominated by George Miller and littered with references to fellow antipodean superstars like Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson. It was natural Miller was predominant as Hemsworth had flown directly from Comic Con in Brazil, where the first trailer of Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” was premiered.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm,” Hemsworth said. “We finished filming a year and a bit ago, so there was a lot of anticipation from me and the fan base.” Both Luhrmann and Hemsworth credited Miller as an inspiration on their careers. Luhrmann quoted Akira Kurosawa in praising Miller’s ability to create an “immaculate reality” as a storyteller who showed Australians a way of telling a story.

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Hemsworth said: “Talking to George in Broken Hill where the first ‘Mad Max’ was shot, and we went and watched ‘Top Gun,’ and we were watching it in the same cinema where he watched the rushes 45 years ago. I remember watching it and as an actor, a lot of Australians saw Mel Gibson as a bridge to Hollywood. It was a dream to be a part of that world.”

Luhrmann noted that when he was starting there was only Mel Gibson and Judy Davis as internationally recognized Australian artists. As well as Miller, he paid tribute to Peter Weir for encouraging him at the outset of his career. Hemsworth and Luhrmann both started their careers working as actors in Australian soap operas — Hemsworth in “Home and Away” and Luhrmann in a small role in “Country Practice”: “It’s no ‘Home and Away,’” Luhrmann quipped.

Hemsworth talked about overcoming his fear through his experience playing sports and learning to go and “get out of his own way.”

Referring back to his experience on “Furiosa,” Hemsworth talked about how generous a director Miller had been: “A lot of the actors… some were ex-criminals, one was a Hell’s Angel, people who came from very colorful and complicated lives. He’d interview them and he wouldn’t get them to read the script, but ask them to tell him a story, tell him about their lives. All of a sudden there was a truth there, like they were seen for the first time. So on the long days, going into battle, they were there for him.”

Luhrmann also compared Miller to Saudi director Haifaa al Mansour (“Wadjda”), as a pioneering storyteller who inspired a whole generation. “Peter Weir and Jane Campion, the whole Australian and New Zealand filmmaking community, were so supportive of me in my early career,” Luhrmann said. He also recounted a story of the importance of film festivals, as his debut “Strictly Ballroom” struggled to find a distributor. That all changed when Luhrmann answered a phone call from Cannes while halfway through a haircut, offering a berth for the film effectively launching his career.

In turn, Hemsworth talked about the importance of festivals in offering a platform for filmmakers who otherwise wouldn’t be seen and celebrated. He also talked about his inspiration to become an actor, watching Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” as a teenager and wanting to be a participant: “I don’t mean I wanted to act in them: I wanted to be there, in Middle Earth, fighting Orcs.” Of fellow actors, Hemsworth mentioned many names, including James Stewart and co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Robert Downey Jr. as well as, to round off the Australian cinematic celebration, Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger.

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