HEAT VISION

Luke Hemsworth on 'Death of Me' and How His Arm Injury Rewrote 'Westworld' Season 3

Luke Hemsworth
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The actor also looks back fondly at growing up as the eldest Hemsworth brother: "Chris and I were the best of friends and worst of enemies."

Luke Hemsworth is beyond grateful that his only concern at the moment is finishing his morning yard work. The Australian native and oldest Hemsworth brother fortuitously left Malibu just a couple months prior to the coronavirus pandemic, returning to his homeland of Australia where he’s only a short distance away from his fellow Hemsworths. After a beach-filled summer with his family, Hemsworth is back on-screen alongside Maggie Q in Saban Films’ Death of Me. The 39-year-old actor plays Neil, who, along with his wife, Christine (Q), discover macabre video footage that prevents them from leaving their Thai island vacation getaway.

Hemsworth, who’s most known for his role as Ashley Stubbs on HBO’s ambitious mystery-box series, Westworld, is also opening up about the painful injury he sustained while hanging a TV during his season three downtime. Despite his initial concern that he may have cost himself his job, Hemsworth’s regretful admission to season three’s production team inspired them to rewrite his character’s fight scenes to accommodate for his ruptured bicep.

“My bicep had actually snapped off the bone. So the first fight scene with the guys in the hallway was done when I hadn’t had surgery at that stage. And then, I think when I did the one with Evan (Rachel Wood), I'd had surgery. So my left arm was completely incapacitated in both fights,” Hemsworth tells The Hollywood Reporter. “If you watch early in that first hallway fight, I get shot in the left arm and then I never use that arm again. All those fears and anxieties go through your head of, ‘Well, that’s it for me. I’m going to get fired.’ But they were very, very concerned and very willing to work that into the story and make something of it.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Hemsworth also discusses shooting Death of Me in Thailand, the dynamic between him and Chris Hemsworth as kids and the guessing game surrounding Ashley Stubbs’ Westworld fate.

How are things in Australia?

We definitely picked a good time to move, which was very fortuitous for us. We’ve been very, very lucky to move to where we are [Byron Bay] and it’s been pretty good. I mean, Victoria, down south from us, is a lot more hectic than it ever became up here. I think we had three weeks where we were sort of locked down, but they never shut the beaches, which was incredible for us. So we’ve been able to enjoy the beautiful waves of autumn, which was fantastic.

From one location to another, how was your experience in Thailand while shooting Death of Me?

I loved it, mate. I really love Thailand. I’ve been to Vietnam, which is very close, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Indonesia, so I feel an affinity to that part of the world. Those people are beautiful. I love the food. I’m very respectful of that culture. While it was a beautiful place for shooting, it wasn’t without its difficulties. We obviously had a few language barrier issues, but most of it was just because the Thai are so polite that they don’t want to say no to anything. (Laughs.) So any question that you ask is said with a smile and a yes. And then, three or four hours later, you still don’t have a coffee. (Laughs.) But it mostly had to do with logistical nightmares of where we were. We were quite remote in a few of the places we shot, and there weren’t any Starbucks or anything around. So just getting a good coffee was a bit of an issue sometimes, but hey, if that’s the worst of it, then I’m okay with it. (Laughs.)

Since this is a movie where you’re disoriented, missing time and figuring things out as you go, would it be ideal to only receive each day’s pages so that you don’t know more than your character knows? As long as you shoot chronologically, you’d be figuring things out at the same time as your character and your performance might reflect that even more.

I’d love to shoot like that. I think there is value to that. The problem is logistics, and most of the time, it just comes down to scheduling. Sometimes, you have to shoot the ending before you’ve shot anything at the beginning, which is usually the way it works. But I’m open to it. I’ve never done it before, but I’ve shot stuff mostly chronological. I shot a film called Infini, which was shot pretty much chronological. But yeah, I think it’d be an interesting experiment to see what would happen without giving the actors all of the information. To be honest, it happens a little bit on Westworld. We can find stuff out at the eleventh hour or after about certain things. (Laughs.) At the time, it’s frustrating, but I usually see the value of it. I think there’s an ego or control thing that a lot of actors have, myself included, where information is power and we want to know everything. We want to know it yesterday, we want to know where we’re coming from and where we’re going to. When you stand back and look at the big picture, you’re crafting a performance and perhaps that’s why you need to know those things. But hey, I’m open to it and I’m ready to do it. Let’s do it on the next one; just give me a page a day. I’m fascinated by that.

To put it mildly, Death of Me is an example of travel gone very wrong. Do you have your own example of a trip or vacation where everything spiraled out of control?

(Laughs.) Every trip I’ve ever been on, something has happened along the way, but I also think that those are the trips that become the most valuable and the most remembered. I end up looking back on them very fondly, and most of them were to Indonesia. Boats, land camps and surfing — there are various misadventures with the people you meet on those journeys. We had one where our boat almost capsized. (Laughs.) We had another one where we’d been out very late the night before and the captain of the boat was literally beating down the door to our hotel. (Laughs.) He walked in to see three friends together, with shit everywhere, clothes, and nothing packed. The other people on the boat were just waiting in sweltering heat for us to arrive, and then they made a pact to all look out for each other because they thought that we were the dodgiest characters they’d ever seen. There’s many, many, many more. (Laughs.) Too many to list.

So whenever I see you and [Westworld co-creator] Jonah (Jonathan) Nolan together on-screen, I’m reminded of the resemblance that I think the two of you share. Has anyone brought this up to you before?

No one’s ever said that, but I do look at him like a big brother. That’s interesting, though. (Laughs.) I’ll have to tell him that. It’s a huge compliment because I think that guy’s a genius. Jonah and Lisa Joy are probably two of the smartest, most creative people I’ve ever met. And yeah, if I’m in the same room as them, then I’m a happy man.

When you and the rest of the Westworld cast are waiting around on set, does everyone theorize about what they think is happening in the story?

Yeah, that never ends. I think that’s just the healthy part of trying to get a grip on your character and approach on the situation. I feel like maybe that used to happen more, but with me and Jeffrey (Wright), there’s definitely a little bit more relaxation than worrying where we’re going. (Laughs.) During the third season, I feel like we were along for the ride a bit more. Maybe that’s just a storytelling device, but it seemed to work for us. But yeah, there’s many, many theories thrown around, and I think it was Gustaf Skarsgård who theorized that I was the mole or that I may actually have been Ford (Anthony Hopkins) at one stage. I thought that’d be a good angle, but who knows? (Laughs.)

Jonah and Lisa gave you some great action work this season. That fight with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) in "The Mother of Exiles" was really cool, and I loved that earlier moment when Delos Security wanted no part of Stubbs and that axe. Did you enjoy your added choreography this season?

At the time, I didn’t because I’d ruptured my bicep. My bicep had actually snapped off the bone. So the first fight scene with the guys in the hallway was done when I hadn’t had surgery at that stage. And then, I think when I did the one with Evan, I'd had surgery. So my left arm was completely incapacitated in both fights. If you watch early in that first hallway fight, I get shot in the left arm and then I never use that arm again. So that was something we worked into the story. I had to make a very sheepish call to production and say, “I’ve done this really stupid thing. What are we going to do?” And then, all those fears and anxieties go through your head of, “Well, that’s it for me. I’m going to get fired.” But they were very, very concerned and very willing to work that into the story and make something of it. And [“The Winter Line” director] Richard J. Lewis actually said, “Ah, it’s better in the end.” He said, “The fight was great. You did it one-handed and it looked better than it would’ve looked two-handed.” So yeah, it was nice to be able to use that misfortune in a good way. But it was a hell of a recovery and I don’t wish it upon anyone.

Do you think Stubbs is still in that bathtub, collecting dust?

(Laughs.) I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. When Bernard (Wright) woke up, we didn’t see if Stubbs was still there or not. Maybe he’s melted from acid in the bathtub or something. (Laughs.)

I’m curious about the dynamics between you and your brothers as kids. Reason being, I have a sibling and I seemed to gravitate away from whatever they were following throughout childhood. In your case, all three of you act professionally, something you were the first to do. Did they often follow your lead growing up and try anything you were interested in at the time?

I think it was just the nature of where we grew up. Chris and I were the best of friends and worst of enemies. We lived in a lot of places that were quite remote, and so we didn’t have a lot of other kids coming and going. So we were just forced to play together a lot, I think. And obviously, when you spend so much time together, you get to know someone really well, and consequently, we would fight really well, together, and against each other. There’s something about fighting which also allows an insight into someone. I’m still best friends with a guy I used to fight and push around in the locker bay. (Laughs.) We used to push each other in the locker bays almost every day and we’re still best friends. So maybe there’s a connection that’s deeper or something, but they definitely don’t follow everything that I do. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I think it’s just that we love each other a lot, we enjoy each other’s company and we have a lot of similar interests.

Growing up, my frame of reference for Australia was, as you can guess, Paul Hogan, and the band Silverchair.

(Laughs.) Yep.

Mad Max and AC/DC weren’t far behind, either. What was the inverse for you in terms of American pop culture?

So I was fascinated by science fiction as a kid. I remember getting The NeverEnding Story on VHS and just watching it ‘til the tape stopped. There’s not a lot of kids' movies that have that darkness to them, and that’s something that resonated with me. Then, I went from that to Alien, and then believe it or not, Fresh Prince [of Bel Air] was also something that I used to watch every day. (Laughs.) I loved it. And then, bands like Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters were my pop culture growing up, for sure. Grunge, obviously, was something real. I still love those bands. But yeah, I feel like we had a lot of American TV growing up and most of it was not all that good. (Laughs.)

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Death of Me is now available on VOD and Digital. Westworld: Season Three arrives on 4K Blu-ray on Nov 17.

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