It’s always interesting to see a young actor reinvent their careers by tackling a first-time biopic as in Ron Howard’s upcoming “Rush.” That becomes all the more fascinating when the star playing a notable from the past wasn’t born when the person they’re playing was active. Even if Chris Hemsworth was only 10 years old when legendary racecar driver James Hunt died, taking on the zeitgeist of the 1970s isn’t always easy if the actor wasn’t around to see it firsthand.
That’s the only mystery in the new impressive “Rush” trailer where mid 1970s fashion and hair are seen in all their glory amid chaotic European racetracks. That immediate transformation for Hemsworth starts with the long blonde hair he’s seen sporting as attempt to resemble the late Hunt. Possessing the physicality of the 1970s is always a good start, and the cast seems to truly be out of time and in the era.
The challenges will be in hearing how he converses and other personality nuances that those who remember the 1970s would immediately recognize. Those little nuances are what sometimes knock down the believability of a movie or TV show that take place during an iconic era when people behaved in particular ways. If you have to scope out one of the worst offenders, it’s in the differences of how people speak today compared to earlier eras.
Hemsworth grew up during the 1990s and 2000s when the nuances of language were slightly different in tone from 40 years ago. Sometimes you hear that dichotomy on “Mad Men” where an actor with a speaking cadence of 2013 differs wildly how one would hear people conversing back in the 1960s. But that’s with Americans, and Hemsworth is an Australian playing a British racecar icon.
Differences in how the British spoke in the 1970s to today are virtually unchanged to American ears. So Hemsworth may not have any problems re-creating exactly how James Hunt spoke and acted in the 1970s. For those in Britain, though, they may be able to tell the difference based on their own perceptions of changing speaking cadences.
Considering Hunt was also a devil-may-care type, the above mentioned sexual zeitgeist of the 1970s is the toughest aspect to portray accurately. Many young notables of the 1970s were typically caught on camera acting as if they’d smoked something not of the cigarette variety. As well, the sexual freedoms of the 1970s fostered a more insouciant attitude in that younger generation you don’t see from Generation Y.
Hemsworth reportedly studied footage of Hunt to get down all those nuances. Physical qualities of the 1970s, however, sometimes have just as many problems. Sometimes the long hair doesn’t always fit with the shape of today’s celebrity countenances.
With that, the Hunt-like long blonde hair might look a little forced on Hemsworth, unlike how it looked when he played “Thor.” It’s at least a step up for the actor in portraying past time periods, unless you considered The Huntsman in “Snow White and Huntsman” to be a real person from an unknown, older era.