Chris Hemsworth recalls scary incident on the set of ‘Red Dawn’

Movie Talk
Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth

He's faced frost giants, alien invaders, and wicked queens, so what's left on this or any other world that could possibly defeat Chris Hemsworth?

Turns out, it's a seatbelt.

I got to speak to Hemsworth on the phone from London, where he just finished up a day of filming "Thor: The Dark World," the sequel to the Marvel Comics adaptation that launched him into stardom. But before the 30-year-old Australian filmed the first "Thor," he had shot a pair of movies that were held back from release when the studio MGM went into bankruptcy. The first, the Joss Whedon-produced horror flick "The Cabin the Woods," came out this spring. And now "Red Dawn," the remake of the '80s cult hit, is finally hitting screens three years after it was filmed.

Hemsworth told me about a scary incident he experienced while filming a combustible scene for the action movie about a band of teens who take up arms when their town is invaded by a foreign army. He also talked about working with Tom Cruise's son Connor, who has his first major acting role in the film, and Hemsworth revealed just where his "Hunger Games" loyalties lie.

[Video: Watch the trailer for the new 'Red Dawn']

Matt McDaniel: When you were filming your big action scenes, were there any close calls?

Chris Hemsworth: We had a scene where we were driving in a car.  We were driving through a bunch of flames and what have you. The deal was, the camera guys were strapped into the back of this pickup truck, and they were filming from behind us and down the road.  And we're driving, and there were sort of some flammable liquid in front of the bonnet which was supposed to ignite briefly, but then was going to go out.  We went through a bunch of flames, and that the front of the bonnet kind of lit up for a second, and then basically stayed lit. We slammed the brakes on, and the whole cabin started filling up with smoke.

And all I can hear was everyone saying, "Okay, get out, get out, get out!" and jumped out of the car. And it was that moment, literally, where you always think in an emergency situation, "Oh, I'll be fine.  I'll just remove my seatbelt."  And I literally couldn't find my seatbelt. And it was funny how useless I was at that point. And eventually there was somebody who ran over with a fire extinguisher and managed to put it out. [Laughs] I got out of there unscathed, but with more of a bruised ego. I wasn't in a position to save anyone, let alone myself.

MM:    Did you have to do a lot of weapons training to get ready for the movie?

CH:     Yeah, we did. The whole cast was sent off to sort of a boot camp thing a month prior to shooting with a handful of ex-Marines and military types. And they ran us through the weapons training and guerilla warfare conversations, and it was great.  I think anytime you get to that kind of research for a part, and it's not done by the reading it in a book or something -- you actually get to be hands-on in the thick of it -- is the most exciting part to me.

MM:    From what I heard, you shot this in Detroit and pretty much were given free rein to blow up everything.

CH:     It was crazy. I remember we were shooting in the city -- downtown in Detroit -- at three in the morning, and literally blowing things up and firing weapons and what have you. And I said, "Are we going to disturb the neighbors?" Unbeknownst to me, a lot of that area was empty buildings.  We were somehow allowed to do it, and it was insane. We have this run of the city, and it was like a big giant set because it was a bit of a ghost town in certain areas.

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MM:    Growing up in Australia was "Red Dawn" -- the original -- something you're aware of?  Was it a movie you had seen?

CH:     Yeah, it was something I was aware of, and I'd seen it at some point. It probably wasn't as big or iconic as it was for you guys, but I think most people knew about it, yeah.  I think it was [part of] that generation of "The Breakfast Club." It seems that there were more of them back in the '80s than there are now, but films that were about teenagers and made for teenagers. Nowadays films we see are about an older generation or a few years above [teens].

MM:    Did you have a favorite "Brat Packer"?

CH:     Emilio Estevez, was he in the "Brat Pack"?

MM:    Definitely.

CH:     Yeah, from "Breakfast Club" and then "Young Guns."  He was my guy.

Connor Cruise and Josh Hutcherson
Connor Cruise and Josh Hutcherson

MM:    Josh Hutcherson was your co-star in this.  Does that put you in an awkward position for the Team Gale/Team Peeta discussions? [Hemsworth's younger brother Liam costars with Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games."]

CH:     [Laughs] Because he's a fellow Wolverine and the other guy is a fellow family member?

MM:    Yes.

CH:     Sure, but I think blood's thicker than water, so I'll have to head over to Team Gale.

MM:    Also, this was one of the big first movies for Connor Cruise, who is another Wolverine with you.  As a guy who grew up on film sets, did he seem at ease in front of the camera?

CH:     Oh absolutely, yeah.  I actually didn't realize that he hadn't actually done that much work, because you wouldn't have known that.  He was, I think, 14 or something in the time, and he's an incredibly mature kid, but he clearly has been on many a film set and knows what he's doing. He was a lot of fun.

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MM:    This movie was delayed for a long time, as was "Cabin in the Woods." How does that feel as a young actor to have these big breaks and then not have anybody see them?

CH:     Yeah, obviously you want people to see your films, and this was sort of a bit of a succession of the things that were being shelved, and I tried not to take it personally. [Laughs] But then after both of those films I launched right into "Thor," and that kind of took off for me.  I didn't think about it for a while, and then, all of the sudden, they started popping up. It's strange; kind of a "Benjamin Button" thing. You know, my films are coming out, yet I'll be getting younger and less experienced.

"Red Dawn" will be in theaters on November 21.

Watch Chris Hemsworth in clips from 'Red Dawn':

Clip: Invasion Clip: Ambush

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