This is a preview of our December 2014 cover story, “Liam Hemsworth: Dawn of a Rebel.” For the full version, download the Men’s Fitness app for iPhone and iPad or pick up the issue on newsstands.
“This reminds me of where I grew up,” says actor Liam Hemsworth, 24, working hard to keep his low-key voice audible over the loud waves crashing below the deck of Nobu Malibu.
Then, glancing around at the power diners eating $34 plates of bluefin toro tartare with caviar, he quickly realizes how that sounded. “Not Nobu,” he clarifies. He just meant the coastline. The view of it this evening is clear, sunny, stunning—though most of the other patrons seem too distracted by the scene to notice the scenery. But Hemsworth, wearing a white cotton T-shirt and a short beard that nicely scruffs up his face, sits with his back to the dining room, facing the ocean.
“I grew up on a little island off the coast of Melbourne—a small town, maybe 7,000 people,” he says. “Surfed before school, after school, competitively. We even had surfing as a subject.” He still rides the waves as often as he can. Got out this morning, in fact, and also braved last week’s hurricane-size swells, the biggest L.A. has seen in decades. “I had a good surf last week,” he says. “Smashed my head on a rock.” And that is about as much braggadocio as you’ll get from Hemsworth. “Funny, we get swells like that a lot in Australia, but you wouldn’t have hundreds of people and news reporters on the beach talking about how crazy it is.”
Hemsworth lives in Malibu, just a few miles from here, having relocated a few months ago from Studio City to put a little distance between himself and the Hollywood hubbub. This may sound odd if you’re someone who’s only vaguely familiar with Hemsworth (or who knows him mostly as the younger brother of Chris, 31, who plays Marvel superhero Thor). But for a segment of the public—including teenage girls and those who share their tastes in cinema and gossip sites—he’s one of the biggest stars on the planet.
This is due to his starring roles in two huge franchises: The Hunger Games, responsible for more than $800 million of worldwide box-office sales; and the life of Miley Cyrus, responsible for Hannah Montana and white chicks twerking, whom he dated for five years (more about her later). That personal and professional combo made him a tabloid obsession, which will only grow when the third Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay: Part 1, hits theaters this month.
For those unacquainted with the movies or the best-selling Suzanne Collins trilogy on which they’re based (don’t fret, Hemsworth hasn’t read them either), The Hunger Games is dystopian sci-fi with a young-adult bent. The audience may be Twilight, but the plot is very Stephen King: A poor girl with a knack for archery ( Jennifer Lawrence) is forced by the fascistic government to compete against other teenagers in a televised fight-to-the-death tournament. No surprise, it turns out to be pretty bad politics: Movies three and four move away from the games and focus on the rebellion they’ve fomented. (As with Harry Potter, the final book of the series has been split into two movies, shot back to back in London last year by director Francis Lawrence.)
A lot of the series’ appeal with young women certainly has to do with the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is unmistakably the indomitable alpha, a role typically played by, well, a dude like Hemsworth.
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