Allow us to make the case for Team Gale: Sure, Liam Hemsworth’s character doesn’t get nearly as much screen time in The Hunger Games as his ostensible romantic rival Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), but maybe Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss needs some time away from Gale to really appreciate what she’s got. Hemsworth brings a quiet charisma and a steady sureness to his role as Katniss’s longtime friend, and it certainly doesn’t hurt matters that he’s a handsome hunk as tall as the tree Katniss keeps climbing. Vulture sat down recently with the squirrel-obsessed Hemsworth to discuss his approach to the character and the unlikely musical bonds he shares with his Hunger Games castmastes.
It’s clear that Gale adores Katniss, but why does he never act on it?
I think at this point, it’s not romantic at all for either of them. They’ve grown up together and essentially they’re best friends, more like brother and sister than anything. They’re living in depression and allowing each other to survive, and helping each other to provide for their family, and really just trying to stay alive. I don’t think it’s anything romantic at the moment that Gale has to watch his best friend go off and win this game.
But there’s still a twinge there when he sees her growing close to Peeta.
Yeah, I think there is, definitely. I think Gale feels confused when he’s watching these games. In the beginning, he doesn’t want anything to do with these games, he doesn’t want to be a part of it, he’s not going to watch. But once his best friend is in there and he can’t not watch, I think he thinks that Katniss has really become part of the game and she’s really playing, and I think he’s a little confused about what she’s doing with Peeta and why. But at the end of the day she’s just trying to survive, and I think when she comes home he knows that.
The movie’s got a big cast, but you only share your scenes with Jennifer Lawrence. Is it nice to be on a publicity tour where you actually get to hang out with the other people?
It is cool! I’m a big fan of so many people in this film. Woody Harrelson is one of my favorite actors of all-time, and I didn’t get to work on him with this and I was really bummed, but I got to meet him, and he’s such a good dude, and you know, Lenny Kravitz, too. It’s exciting to be a part of this whole ensemble, but frustrating at the same time that I didn’t get to work with everyone.
But there are still more movies in this series left to make, and you have the luxury of knowing what’s coming for you.
There’s a lot of stuff coming. I’m very excited about it. The third book I think is amazing, and obviously there’s a big uprising in that, which I think will be a lot of fun to develop and show.
You just finished filming The Expendables 2. Famously, the first U.S. role you booked was in the first Expendables movie, and you got very excited and told all your friends … and then they cut your character from the script, leaving you jobless. Are you playing the same guy you were supposed to play before?
No. In the original script I auditioned for three years ago when I was still living in Australia, there was a young guy who came into the group, but I think they just decided later on that the first film needed to concentrate all these guys who were already big action stars, and so cutting me wasn’t anything personal at the time — it’s just what was going to be more right for the film. About a year after that happened, I was living over here and the second one came around and [Sylvester Stallone] gave me a call and told me about this part that he had. It’s a completely different character, and I said, “Yeah, I’d absolutely love to do it.”
This time were you like, I’m not going to tell anyone about this role until I’m on set?
It’s kind of like that with anything these days! I had four films one year that were supposed to happen and didn’t. It’s just the nature of this business: Things fall apart and films are very hard to get made these days. No one wants to take big risks anymore, so it’s tough sometimes.
So is it nice to have a sure thing with the Hunger Games franchise?
Yeah, it is nice. There’s a sense of security in this job, and a lot of the time you don’t really have that, at least at this point in the game. It’s great to be part of something that already has such a passionate fan base.
You and your brother Chris were both up for Thor at one point, but have you been up for the same part since then?
No, that’s kind of been the only thing. Generally we don’t compete, because he’s six and a half years older than me, so he’s usually going out for a lot older roles. With Thor, we both just happened to read for it. I got flown over from Australia to read for it, and Chris got it.
And you guys have another brother, Luke. Has he decided to come out to Hollywood?
He’s come out to visit, but he has a wife and two kids. He actually got into acting first; he did a bunch of TV shows in Australia, and he works in Australia now. He’s kind of the reason we’re both acting, actually.
I was reading an interview with Josh Hutcherson where he said he wanted to form a dubstep band with you.
[Laughs.] Yeah. When we’re shooting, he showed me some dubstep music at one point, and we got really bored and went to a guitar center and bought this little keyboard … what do you call them? A synchronizer?
Synthesizers, yeah. And for about two weeks, we were trying to make dubstep music. I don’t think we’ve done it since then. It was a small dream.
Are you a very musical guy?
I don’t sing. I played guitar for a while. I’m not great, I’m not Lenny Kravitz by any means, but I do like to strum.
You’ve been dealing with paparazzi attention ever since you started dating Miley Cyrus, but now that this movie is poised to make Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson so well-known, too, have you given them any advice at weathering that extra attention?
They’re pretty level-headed people. The truth is, there’s not a lot you can do about that side of this business. We’re in this business to make great films, and if you want success, it’s kind of something that comes with it. They have a great outlook on life and are staying themselves. Josh is such a down-to-earth person, and so is Jen.
Was it ever hard for you to deal with all that scrutiny?
I just live my life. I like to have a personal life and keep it as personal as I can, but it’s the nature of the business and there’s not a lot you can do about it, so you just need to keep on living life.