World Exclusive: Drama coach, Agent & Casting remember how the Hemsworths were discovered. Plus rare footage of unaired pilot The Coast (2002).
Drama coach Louise Talmadge can still remember a hard-working young man named Luke Hemsworth was very popular in her drama classes -especially with the ladies.
“Somebody said, ‘He looks like Brad Pitt, doesn’t he?'” she recalls.
“He said, ‘You should see my brother, Chris’ So I said, ‘Let’s see him!'”
And with that, a show business family was born.
Talmadge was the first drama coach of the Hemsworth family, Luke, followed by Chris, Liam and mother Leonie. It was the late ’90s / early 2000s when Luke Hemsworth would drive from Phillip Island to Prahran to attend Talmadge’s drama classes. The US-born coach was renowned for her honest and sometimes brutal feedback and the ability to spot the emotional intelligence necessary for success.
“He used to come in wearing overalls from a job that made him greasy. Luke was very good. He had a lot of natural ability, very good at comedy, which unfortunately, I don’t see him doing. It’s too bad, because he’s really good at that,” she reveals.
“They would come from Phillip Island at night, after working. They were all a little bit afraid of me because I’d really give them hell if they didn’t know their lines. But the Hemsworths were hard workers.
“He had lots of natural ability”
“Chris was a teenager and he had lots of natural ability. What I taught them was really audition skills and confidence.”
Eventually all three boys, plus mother Leonie completed Intermediate & Advanced Courses.
“Luke wanted to be an actor and I think the others probably did it because he was doing it,” she reflects.
“I was worried about Liam because he was only about 15 or 16 and he was so tall. A good looking boy, but really tall. I remember telling his mother ‘He might not get any work as a young person, because casting directors can be silly. They think if a guy’s young, he’s got to be shorter than his dad… but he’s very good. He’ll do fine when he gets to a certain age.'”
Talmadge even recalls recommending the boys to an agent, who declined, preferring to focus on NIDA graduates.
“She was (kicking) herself that she missed the chance to have them!”
But agent Jennifer Hennessy, who came to represent Luke Hemsworth, also remembers meeting his younger brother.
“I remember quite well the day he asked if his younger brother could come in for a chat. I asked what his brother was like, and the answer from Luke, with a cheeky smile, was “taller and better looking”. I had a high opinion of Luke, so any sibling with the same qualities was exciting,” she insists.
“Luke brought his brother into the office, still wearing his school uniform”
“Luke brought his brother into the office, still wearing his school uniform, and Chris said he’d like to give acting go. Whilst it was a very casual, laid back meeting, it was obvious he -like his older brother- was taking the opportunity very seriously, which was unusual for his age.
“Both Luke and Chris were quick studies regarding the industry, their place in it, and what they needed to do to be constantly moving forward. You never had to repeat things, they were always available, they took every bit of advice on board and grabbed every opportunity with a professionalism you don’t often see at that age.”
Casting director Lou Mitchell cast Chris Hemsworth in a guest role as King Arthur in Guinevere Jones, a children’s series by producer Lynn Bayonas.
“Rather than audition kids, sometimes we used to say, ‘Can you tell us a bit about yourself?’ and the thing about the Hemsworth boys is they could always spin a yarn. They had outdoor / adventure lives, so they could always talk about surfing, camping or fishing or doing something with their family,” she says.
But their big break was due to be an ongoing role in a Nine / BSykB soap, The Coast.
Created by John Hugginson & Ray Harding it was set in a fishing village, filmed in Queenscliff. Produced by Linda Klejus and Peter Beilby of Circa Media, there were hopes it might become Nine’s answer to Neighbours and Home & Away. And for two young Hemsworths, it was set to be their first series role.
“We cast Luke Hemsworth, I think his character in the Pilot got injured, and we cast Chris Hemsworth in another family in the show, so they weren’t cast as brothers,” Mitchell recalls.
“Chris had already worked for us on Guinevere Jones. In that same year we cast him as in Marshall Law as a love interest for Lisa McCune in one episode, and then we cast him in The Coast.
“It was a very exciting time to be in Television”
“The Coast Pilot was absolutely gorgeous to look at. It was a very exciting time to be in Television. We were all hoping that was going to go ahead.”
Other cast members included Tracy Mann, Nicholas Bishop, Jude Beaumont, Rachel Gordon, Andrew Mitchell, Gary Files, Joe Petruzzi -and a guest role from a young Liam Hemsworth.
While producers delivered several half hour episodes pitched as soap, Nine execs also wanted to see the same show as a one hour adult drama, prompting a re-edit into another Pilot. Eventually the network passed on the series. It would be Home and Away that would become Chris Hemsworth’s starring vehicle, while Luke went on to Neighbours.
“You always know when someone’s going to go somewhere”
Their success does not surprise Mitchell.
“From a casting point of view, you always know when someone’s going to go somewhere. It was only a matter of time before somebody picked Chris up. Home & Away was exactly what Chris needed because he had a lot of charisma, but he needed to go through that factory of learning on the job.”
Jennifer Hennessy, who later started her own agency (Hennessy & Harman Management), bears no grudges in watching the trio go on to success with other representation.
“What you see is what you get”
“Luke, Chris and Liam had moved onto other agencies by the time I’d started mine, but was lucky enough to pick up Leonie and was once again working with another Hemsworth. Despite their huge success, you never lose that instinct to want to help, guide and protect some actors you start out with… the nice ones anyway. I can genuinely say you’d be hard pressed to find a more “normal” family in this industry. What you see is what you get, and that’s also probably a large part of their appeal, both here and in the US.”
Louise Talmadge is equally proud of her star graduates.
“Chris, when he won his Logie, said, ‘I want to thank my drama coach Louise Talmadge. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for her.’ I thought, ‘How cool is that?’ Actors usually thank their agent, but a lot of actors don’t want to admit that they needed training.”
She added, “I’ve heard from Luke quite a bit. When Chris got Thor, I said ‘My grandson loves Thor.’
“Chris sent me a lovely poster saying, ‘Your grandmother rules!'”