If you are going to attend an F1 race, then there is no better one to start with than the Monaco Grand Prix, and no better host to have than TAG Heuer and its flamboyant CEO Jean-Claude Biver. Where else could you share a yacht with actors Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon? Witness Hemsworth compete against Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo to make the best fondue – all under the watchful eye of legendary chef Philippe Etchebest? And where else could you be invited – or even challenged – by the reassuringly familiar and booming voice of TAG’s dairy-loving head honcho to quiz the actor known to millions as Thor?

“I haven’t changed since I was a child,” roared Biver before the start of the Hemsworth interview. “All these years and they still haven’t succeeded in bringing my voice down.” He continued: “Today we thank Chris for being here in Monaco with us as an ambassador and a friend, So, let’s start the interviews, and the person who asks the first question will get a kilo of cheese from my farm!” And with that the games began.

Jean-Claude Biver and Chris Hemsworth
Jean-Claude Biver and Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Chris, are you a fan of F1?

Formula 1 and the MotoGP were a big part of my growing up, my dad loved them and they were constantly on TV in the background of my youth. The noise, the adrenaline and the energy meant it was always a huge and exciting event when I was a kid.

I was involved in a film called Rush [the story of British racing driver James Hunt] a few years ago, and a lot of my research was based around the 1960s and 1970s. We got to drive paired down versions of the Formula 3 cars – nothing like these guys drive, but we could still feel the energy, the vibrant passion that exists across the board in the drivers of today and the drivers from the 1970s.

Before Rush I didn’t quite understand the psychological challenges that F1 drivers face –especially during the 1960s and 1970s when they really were on the edge of life and death. The likelihood was that at the end of the season, a couple of the guys you were racing with weren’t going to be there. That’s what I took away from that film – it could all end at any moment so you have to make the most of any situation, smile, have fun, enjoy. And this is how I am, I take it or leave it.

I didn’t keep up with the sport much after Rush, but I’m from Melbourne so I’ve seen the Grand Prix there a couple of times – it takes over the city and it’s fantastic, so I’m looking forward to having a closer look in Monaco and being part of the event.

Chris Hemsworth (Left) in Rush
Chris Hemsworth (Left) in Rush

Going from playing Thor, where you were pretty stacked, to driver James Hunt, must have involved some big physical changes?

The first thing the director Ron Howard said when my agent called him to say I loved the script was, “He’s 300 pound, isn’t he?” My agent said, “Well he’s not quite that big and he can trim down”. And I did, I started doing the opposite training to what I had been doing for Thor, I lost a lot of weight and squeezed into the car. But there were obviously still some adjustments we had to make.

What are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of shooting the new Avengers film and then there’s Thor 3, which we shot last year and which comes out in November. This time round Thor was a lot of fun and the movie has a very different tone to the others.

You’ve played superheroes on screen. In today’s world do you think we all need a superhero in our lives?

I think the need for a saviour has always existed. If you look back through history, we’ve had saints, knights and gods – we like to believe that there’s someone far greater in strength and ability than us who’s going to come and make things right and protect us from all the evils and wrongs in the world. And, on a more subconscious level, I think most of us are still kids at heart, we love the visual, the ride and the thrill. A superhero movie has colours, sights and sounds bigger than anything you’ll ever see and today, thanks to people like Chris Nolan and Marvel Studios, the genre attracts great writers and filmmakers. This all makes for the best entertainment.

Thor 3

And who are your heroes?

My dad has always been my biggest hero, he was the guy that got up at five in the morning and took me surfing at weekends or before school and the one who drove me to football practice after school and to this day is someone who I admire more than anybody. Then there are people like the surfer Kelly Slater who, at an unbelievably young age, achieved such great heights in his world and did it with such grace, professionalism and kindness to people around him. He had a lack of ego and a sort of quiet confidence, I think that’s why people always gravitated towards him.

As an actor and a one-time James Hunt, you must love the TAG Heuer-Steve McQueen connection?

I don’t think I’d go into any particular project just because of a link with a person, but I’d be lying if I said my ego as a young actor didn’t make me think, “God if I had anything that Steve McQueen had, that’d be awesome.” The attitude that he embodied – “this is me, take it or leave it” – and those iconic images of him wearing the Monaco are certainly imprinted on my mind. As with Paul Newman and others of that era, he had a demeanour that people warmed to and loved.

What is it that you love about watches per se?

It’s so much more that the practicality, there’s something you can’t get away from – the history and the story a watch tells. You look at a watch and you see the detail and the craftsmanship that’s gone into building this thing. It tells its own story and it gets people talking – people in bars ca just be chatting away and the conversation turns to, “What kind of watch have you got?” Modern-day pieces of equipment you just take for granted, but I think the history attached to mechanical wristwatches is something people can’t get away from. Watches are something that will stand the test of time and I love the idea of handing them onto my kids.

What watch do you currently wear?

The Carrera 1 is probably my favourite watch at the moment – although I also love the Monaco with all the fantastic Steve McQueen connotations we just spoke about. But the Carrera has such versatility; I can wear it with jeans and a T-shirt, or when I am surfing, or I can put a suit on and wear it on the red carpet and it still looks cool. That’s what I love about TAG Heuer as a brand, no matter what the occasion, the watches always work.

Do you ever feel that time is running too fast?

Yeah, I think once I had kids it felt like everything sped up – although it sometimes feels like the days never end and I’ll never get the chance to sleep! But seriously, it was when I had a family of my own I started thinking, “I’m running out of time to do things” and “am I doing this properly?” You start to question everything but I think it’s a natural survival instinct. Nature’s way of saying, “Be a good parent, because the clock’s ticking”.

There must have been a lot of watch brands that wanted to partner with you, what made you choose TAG Heuer?

The history of the brand and the guys who wore it certainly helped. But, at the end of the day, I think it makes the best-looking watches out there – across the whole range – I wear mine everywhere, whether I’m surfing or on a red carpet. I also love the vibe from Mr Biver. I’ve met him and his family and it seemed a very family-oriented brand with its values in the right place. I’m a big family man an everything just sort of felt right.

TAG Heuer’s slogan is “Don’t Crack Under Pressure”. What does that mean to you?

I think it’s about facing your fears and doing it anyway. Early in my career, I used to have a voice in my head saying, “You’re not good enough. It’s all going to fall apart. You’re going to ruin it. This is your last chance.” I had to force myself to focus, hold it together and keep stepping forward. And I think you can apply that to anything you do. You still have that same doubt but it’s about saying to yourself, “You’ve done the work and you deserve to be here”.

Your films are escapism for a lot of people. How do you relax?

My wife and I moved with our kids back to Australia three years ago and it was the best thing we could have done. We were living in LA, which was great as far as work was concerned, but it is pretty hard to disconnect from that world and switch off, so we moved with quite a conscious effort to separate yourself from the work. For me it is pure escapism going home and surfing and talking to people who aren’t in the business and who have no great interest or knowledge of what we’re doing every day. Life is great, it’s on the beach and we’ve got a couple of horses too – it’s the total opposite of what Hollywood feels like.

Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth

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