NOCs of the Roundtable: Why is Chris Hemsworth a Movie Star?

This weekend, Universal Pictures’ Huntsman sequel Winter’s War — which brought back stars Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron along with franchise newcomers Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain — failed to top the box office, bringing in a paltry $20 million despite a massive production budget, a marketing campaign that promised a sort of live-action mashup with Disney’s Frozen and Brave, and a cast full of bona fide movie stars. Well, they keep telling us they’re movie stars. Take Hemsworth, for example. Since the last Huntsman movie, and not counting his Marvel ones, his films have all disappointed at the box office. If “bankable” results are the criteria for movie stardom, why does Thor get a pass? The NOCs come back to the Roundtable to discuss.

VALERIE: These whitewashed castings we been seeing so often have to be racist in nature. The Huntsman sequel, starring an A-list lily white cast, basically flopped at the box office. Think about it, the studios would rather lose millions on white folks than risk making millions on POC actors. Like, Chris Hemsworth has been in more flops than I can count, but somehow he is seen as “bankable.”

DESIREE: His biggest movie outside The Avengers is Thor which can still be attributed more to Marvel’s brand than his own bankability. Plus he bland. He’s the perfect example of what it’s like to be a white guy in Hollywood. He’s “classically” good looking (read moderately attractive white dude with blond hair and blue eyes), he’s passable at acting, and none of his movies have really sold (again except for when he’s playing Thor). Yet he keeps getting roles anyway, and not just roles, but headlining, front runner, LEADING roles. It’s baffling. John Cho is like three times the actor yet we haven’t seen him in a leading role since Harold & Kumar or Selfie on TV.

EDWARD: I’m going to be the controversial guy and say that Asian American men like John Cho and Daniel Henney aren’t that much better. The really really good ones, though? Daniel Dae Kim and Ken Leung.

DESIREE: I think another thing to discuss is the privilege all the named white actors have been given: opportunities. Even if they fail once or twice (or more) at the box office, they’re still continuously given more opportunities to prove themselves or gain back the public or critics’ trust. Actors of color aren’t given that opportunity.

VALERIE: Let’s look at number one films in the past starring or co-starring black folks in the lead: Force Awakens, the whole Fast and Furious franchise, films with Ice Cube and/or Kevin Hart, all films with The Rock, all films with Idris Elba.

DESIREE: Producers, directors, etc. say actors of color have no box office appeal, no stats to back up supporting them, but how are they suppose to gain that clout if they’re not given the opportunity to do so? ScarJo starred in The Nanny Diaries but she wasn’t stuck in rom-com hell, she was given chances to advance her career. Compare the career of Jennifer Lawrence to other actresses of color currently working. When is Gina Rodriguez going to get the same opportunities as JLaw? Hell even Lupita Nyong’o (who’s a better actress and also an Oscar winner) hasn’t gotten the same amount of push from Hollywood as JLaw has.

VALERIE: Going back to Hemsworth, in a film where he is supposed to be the title character, he gets upstaged by the women every single time. But this is what Hollywood calls bankable. Just as was stated before, ScarJo isn’t bankable. She just recently was granted the right to headline films. But she only has two under her belt: Under the Skin and Lucy. Only one film is a hit, but the film is bad. So they are calling bankability based on one film.

DESIREE: Lucy also has the troubling aspects of a being a film where a white woman is fighting off an evil Asian corporation and hordes of Asian bad guys. She literally kills two Asian men because they don’t speak English. I hated that movie. Also, Marvel won’t even let ScarJo headline a Black Widow film even though fans have been clamoring for one since Avengers if not before. But Hollywood views her as more bankable than an Asian woman which is where intersectionality comes in.

White women face sexism in Hollywood sure, but ScarJo is an example of how women of color in Hollywood face a duality of both sexism and racism in Hollywood. ScarJo as Black Widow isn’t worth the risk of upsetting Marvel/Disney’s white guys named Chris club, but she’s less of a “risk” than an Asian woman, or a Latina woman, or a Black woman in a major action role in a high profile movie.

VALERIE: But historically, whitewashed anime adaptations have flopped repeatedly. It’s throwing good money after bad but claiming its all about the money. Huh?

EDWARD: A friend of mine working as a writer wrote this and offered a very compelling argument to what we’re talking about here as well as Keith’s NYT article on why studios don’t hire Asians as the leads:

“Basically, if this movie bombs, you have to explain to the boss what you did right. If you greenlit a film with a name cast and an existing property and it bombs, they’ll be like, ‘oh you did everything you’re supposed to do so you can keep your job.’ But, had he cast Huntsman with an Asian cast, they’ll be like, ‘man, you took a huge risk and you lost $200 million. You’re fired!’

So what’s the solution? We, as a community, have to create a named actor. How do you do that? A low budget film that does well. Imagine if James Wan had cast an Asian lead in the first Saw? We’d have a star.

Ultimately, we need a young Asian American writer and director to create a great genre film and then cast an Asian actor. For example, the lead in Ex Machina could have been Asian and it still would have done well and we’d have a star. That didn’t happen because a white writer director isn’t going to risk his movie for another race.

So yeah, a small commercial genre film has to do well (imagine if Chronicle had cast a single Asian). And then that movie has to do well. Like really well. Sung Kang played the second lead in a few films that bombed. He was the closest we got. I hope someone gives him another chance. Whatever movie we make, the community has to be behind it.”

DESIREE: Ex Machina did actually help Oscar Issac (who is Latino) further his career, the same way Attack the Block helped his Star Wars castmate John Boyaga, and Chronicle helped skyrocket Michael B. Jordan. But it’s a double edged sword. When Jessica Alba was cast as Sue Storm (and was whitewashed in the role) she bore the blunt of the backlash when the movies were terrible and flopped. Her career never recovered. She never got a Ben Affleck sort of second chance.

And even when you have prominent directors of color they are still sometimes forced to adhere to the status quo of Hollywood. Salma Hayek went out for a role that’s heavily rumored to have been the same role Sandra Bullock got in Gravity. The director, Alfonso Cuarón, most likely since they’re friends, really wanted her for the role according to reports. The studio shut her out because they couldn’t see a “Mexican in space.”

It’s not about supporting whatever comes out the gate, for me, it’s about supporting quality content from creators of color from the ground up. Not just a director, but getting our feet in the door as producers, actors, screenwriters, executives, cast and crew, the whole nine.

20 thoughts on “NOCs of the Roundtable: Why is Chris Hemsworth a Movie Star?

  1. I am always saying that Chris Hemsworth is a ‘one trick pony’. No denying he is vaguely easy on the eye, but it is the same one-dimensional acting in each film. Can you imagine the furore if he (or any other white actor) had not been cast as Thor? Remember the whole Idris Elba as Heimdall debate? In terms of Marvel films (or other superhero movies), fanboys can be so racist hidden under the guise of being passionate about their fave characters.

    1. chris is only attractive from the neck down like his brother and even then only when they wax, then i can image someone like lee byunghun’s face on top lol

  2. I feel terrible for the guy because if Thor is his one memorable role that does bad things for an actor because people will only remember him for that one role.

  3. lol its funny you think any of these people are movie stars. i will give you charlize, she at least has an oscar but she’s never been a box office draw but chris hemsworth? only makes money as thor, period. and the other two stars? dont even know them. so no this isnt a star studded affair by any means

    1. According to Hollywood, both Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain are stars. I’ll give them credit for being better actresses than Scarjo and Jennifer Lawrence. But Hollywood has a problem with telling us who we, the audience, are supposed to care about. They throw it-girls and it-boys (usually white) at us until one or two stick.

  4. I just left a similar comment at The Hollywood Reporter website about this very topic. Someone suggested this flop will hurt Hemsworth’s career, and I pointed out that, like Gerard Butler and Reynolds before him, he’ll do fine. In Hollywood, white males are Teflon–they are not subjected the burden of race, nor are they hurt by flops. They get many chances, again and again, until they succeed (hence, Ryan Reynolds).

  5. Can’t we discuss issues like diversity in the media without making personal attacks on people? Its so mean-spirited.

    Arguably a movie *star* is somebody who has sufficient appeal to audiences that people will see a film just because that actor is in it. According to that definition, Hemsworth isn’t a star, and one of the biggest stars of recent times is a black man, Will Smith, who had a string of hits until “After Earth” flopped.

    With regard to the “whitewashed anime adaptations have flopped” argument: another way of looking at it is that Hollywood anime adaptations have flopped, period. Anime and manga are still something of a niche market in the US, so that’s why probably wanted an A-List star attached to Ghost in the Shell before it got greenlit (according to Variety, it only got greenlit after Johannsen was cast).

    Its worth pointing out that things like Edge of Tomorrow (based on a Japanese light novel) starring Tom Cruise, and the US J-Horror remakes like Ring (which had mainly white casts) were successful.

    The Huntsman is a sequel to Snow White & the Huntsman, a retelling of a European fairy tale, so although it has a mostly white cast, I’m not sure if you could call it “whitewashed”.

  6. “So what’s the solution? We, as a community, have to create a named actor. How do you do that? A low budget film that does well. Imagine if James Wan had cast an Asian lead in the first Saw? We’d have a star.”

    I don’t think it works like that. Saw didn’t exactly make Leigh Whannell into a star did it. Successful low budget/genre films can launch directors’ careers but I’m not sure if they necessarily make stars.

  7. If you read Paramount’s press release about Ghost in the Shell, the film does have a relatively diverse cast:

    I counted 7 non-white cast members out of 11 named actors; however, the leads are skewed towards white.
    Interestingly, it doesn’t actually give Johannsen’s character’s name. Is there any official confirmation that she is called Kusanagi and or Motoko in the film? (IMDB says Kusanagi but I’m not sure how reliable that is).

  8. Yeah shame on Chris Hemsworth, how dare an actor try to advance their career by taking every opportunity available to them. How dare he remain white, blue eyed, and bonde haired.

    Don’t attack people just because they take work. You can add up lists of actors with spotty track records that continue to get work of virtually every ethnicity.

    As high as 6% of America is Asian American. That’s a small pool to draw actors from and that’s a small pool to draw a market from. Compare that to the 70% of white Americans. There’s a lot more money to be made and a lot more talent options in the white American group.

    Also Chris Hemsworth is more than moderately attractive, but I’m sure that’s obvious. You’re clearly racist towards Caucasians though.

    1. “As high as 6% of America is Asian American. That’s a small pool to draw actors from and that’s a small pool to draw a market from.”

      There are still 11 million Asians in America. How many do you need for a film? Out of 11 million, I’m sure we can find nine or ten that can act. In regard to a small market, are you of the belief that only Asians will watch Asians? I’m not Asian, but give an Asian the right vehicle and I’ll watch it.

      Helmsworth is bland and has zero charisma, The most interesting thing about him is Miley Cyrus.

    2. “Yeah shame on Chris Hemsworth, how dare an actor try to advance their career by taking every opportunity available to them. How dare he remain white, blue eyed, and bonde haired…

      As high as 6% of America is Asian American. That’s a small pool to draw actors from and that’s a small pool to draw a market from. Compare that to the 70% of white Americans. There’s a lot more money to be made and a lot more talent options in the white American group.”

      chris hemsworth wasn’t drawn from the 70% white american group, because he isn’t a white american. he’s a white australian. if an actor like him is getting preferential treatment because of his similarity to the white american audience, then being an american is clearly not the litmus test that they’re applying to him since he would fail that one. so then, what is the biggest similarity between a white australian actor and a white american audience?

      the casting of the hemsworth vehicle “red dawn” (remake of a 1980s film), albeit a hemsworth vehicle that turned out to be a commercial dud after its release was delayed for a couple years, says about as much as anybody needs to know about where hollywood’s heads are at in regards to casting & portraying men of east asian ancestry. in that film, australian actor hemsworth played the american hero leading a group of white teenagers using guerilla warfare to defend the USA from north korean military invaders led by american actor will yun lee. it’s basically world war II era yellow peril meets “the turner diaries.”

      no matter how one tries to rationalize such creative decisions, and i’ve seen many people rationalize it many different ways, it still has the net effect of perpetuating superstitious old prejudices about which races qualify to portray fictional american protagonists and which should be relegated to playing the sidekick, the enemy, the foreigner. indeed, prejudice about which races qualify and don’t qualify to be regarded and treated as americans in the real world too, when people like donald trump and his fans are still reflexively casting doubt on the legal citizenship of any prominent americans of non-white or racially diverse ancestry who frustrate them.

      perhaps chris hemsworth is an enormously generous and fair-minded nice guy in real life, and he simply accepted that role because it was a job. maybe he didn’t understand or pay much attention to the subtext and connotations of the script. i dunno. but if he is a nice guy, then i wonder if maybe he will look back someday when he’s older & wiser, and think “gee, that movie is a black eye on my career. wish i hadn’t done that one. not because it didn’t make money, but because it was racist propaganda thinly disguised as an action fantasy. how embarrassing.”

  9. I think one can make the argument for or against Chris Hemsworth as a movie star. I personally think he makes for an ideal one, but as with anything, that’s just an opinion. What no one can rightfully defend is how absolutely terrible Hollywood movies are, and what a lazy machine the Los Angeles film community has become. Was anyone clamoring for a sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman?” Anyone? Did anyone leave that movie with any other feeling than, Wow, that was surprisingly better than I thought it could be?

    I couldn’t agree more about having limp it-guys and it-girls thrown at us. And how can anyone make this argument without targeting Orlando-fricking-Bloom? Unlike Hemsworth, Bloom hasn’t even carried the lead role in a hit film. What was he in “Lord of the Rings,” the 7th lead? At best? There’s your mildly handsome, mildly talented hack being shoved down our throats. Hemsworth has a wit and self-deprecating humor that at least makes him feel relatable, or at least likable. Bloom has nothing but the ability to look androgynous even when the part doesn’t call for it.

    But in defense of all of them, WHO could make recent Hollywood dreck work? Who on earth greenlighted The Wedding Ringer for Zach Gad? Mortdecai for Johnny Depp? Or theme park rides like Jupiter Ascending a and Tomorrowland? I used to see two movies a week in 70s and 80s. That went to one movie a week in the 90s (for a point of reference, I am now 50) and now I can’t manage to find a single movie I want to see on some weeks.

    And the that brings up movies for the masses and those for the art house. While I am bursting to see “Born to Be Blue” or ” Everybody Wants Some,” both are playing in theaters 3 hours away in a major city. So I end up looking for something else to do because I have no desire to see another “Huntsman” movie, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with Chris Hemsworth. I love Hugh Jackman and I like what Taran Egerton has shown us so far, but those two and wild horses couldn’t have dragged me to see “Eddie the Eagle.”

    Hollywood has alway known what to do with big, handsome lugs. Rock Hudson had a stellar career. It is easy to see Hemsworth playing in a film like “Giant,” “Winchester 73,” or even “Pillow Talk.” Get him and ALL the other actors relatable material that plays on their strengths, and quit force feeding us sequels and films that all look alike!

  10. The crazy part is that he’s not even attractive – not even in the unconventional sense. None of these recent white actors are. It’s like women are so hard pressed to find a six pack on pale skin that they’ll take literally anything.

  11. It continues to boggle my mind as to why he continues to get PART after PART. I can understand, Thor or Rush, but Blackhat, Huntsman and etc and etc is enough mate. I’m sorry Chris, but you’re a lucky man. However, he won’t truly be famous until he goes full retard, plays in a biopic or immerses himself in an LGBT…..chances that I think we can all agree that NO ONE OF COLOR can land in this kind of shitty Hollywood climate.

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