Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor best known for playing the hammer-wielding superhero Thor on the big screen (a third “Thor” film hits theaters next month and the next installment of the “Avengers” franchise lands next year), recently landed a sweet-smelling side gig as Hugo Boss’ new global fragrance ambassador, the face of its Boss Bottled line and star of its latest “Man of Today” advertising campaign.
To kick off the campaign — and unveil Boss Bottled Tonic eau de toilette (a fresh jolt of citrusy ginger with a woody dry down, the new juice launched exclusively at Macy’s this summer and widened retail distribution last month), Hemsworth popped by New York Fashion Week: Men’s over the summer, where he screened the new TV campaign for the media, answered a few softball questions from ESPN broadcaster Will Reeve (son of Christopher Reeve who starred in four “Superman” films) on stage, and took in the Boss spring/summer 2018 runway show.
That’s where we caught up with Hemsworth for a fragrance-focused face-to-face that touched on surfing, a mixed bag of lollipops and Scarlett Johansson as the top note of the “Avengers” films. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
I’ve read that the sense of smell is more closely linked with memories than any of our other senses. What are some of your earliest scent memories?
Funny enough, I had Hugo Boss cologne given to me when I was, like, 16 by my mum. It was one of my first fragrances — and one of the few I’ve ever had. Smelling the cologne brought me back to that period of my life. It’s funny how the sense memory [related to] smells [makes] you instantly remember, “Oh, wow, I remember who I was dating then, who I liked, who my friends were.” It was like [being] back in high school.
There’s a certain plant, a bush/shrub on the coast in Australia that was very prominent in this one surf spot where I learned to surf. I think it’s called bottlebrush. It has quite a sweet scent to it, and on the track down to the surf spot where we spent most of our youth, you would just be overwhelmed by the smell. And if I smell it now, it takes me instantly back to that time.
What are some of the other smells you associate with growing up?
Surfboard wax, sunscreen, coconut oil and the beach.
Once you were tapped as Hugo Boss’ global fragrance ambassador, how did it work? Did you get a short course in fragrances and how they’re created?
We sat down and talked through the different scents and fragrances and [learned about] top notes and so on.
Chris Hemsworth in a photo from Hugo Boss' new Boss Bottled Tonic fragrance campaign shot by Nicholas Goldberg. Nathaniel Goldberg / Coty Inc.
What did you take away from that?
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but it was fascinating. I met the lady who designed the [original] Boss Bottled Classic [fragrance], which was inspired by apple strudel. My wife’s favorite dessert is apple strudel, and she loves the fragrance, which is good because if she didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be wearing it.
Is there a scent you like to smell on her — or women in general?
I like a lighter, more floral sort of scent but nothing overbearing. I don’t want to smell it from 6 feet away, but if we’re having a cuddle …
Boss Bottled Tonic ($70 to $119), the newest fragrance in the Boss Bottled portfolio -- and the first "fresh" scent in the lineup. Coty
The way the top, middle and base notes interact in a particular fragrance reminds me of the way the different members of a movie’s ensemble cast play off each other. Because you know the lingo, who from the “Avengers” films epitomizes each class of notes? For example, the top or head note is the one that catches your attention right away like a citrus or a ginger.
I’d say that’d be Scarlett [Johansson] — beautiful, prominent, competent, strong. [She’s] right there, and it’s like she’s the only one in the room.
Who’s the heart or middle note?
Captain America — Chris Evans. He’s the heart and soul of the team, isn’t he?
And the the base note?
That’s the stronger foundation — Robert Downey Jr.
From left, Hemsworth as Thor (scent profile: "an intense, nighttime, stormy version of Boss Bottled"); Kevin the receptionist from "Ghostbusters," 2016 (scent profile: "marshmallows"); and the Huntsman from "Snow White and the Huntsman," 2012 ("a stormy mountain scent"). From left: Simon James / FilmMagic; Hopper Stone / Sony Pictures; Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures
I’m going to name some of the characters you’ve played over the years and I want you to tell me — in fragrance-speak — what they smell like. Let’s start with Thor.
I’d apply the intense, nighttime, stormy version of Boss Bottled to Thor — the older Thor. The newer Thor? I’d say he’s more of the classic, lighter citrus vibe.
What about Kim Hyde, the character you played on Australian soap opera “Home & Away”?
He’d be all sorts. He’d be a bag of mixed lollies — because as you do on a soap opera, you’re the villain one week and the heartthrob the next.
What about your Kevin Beckman character from last year’s “Ghostbusters”?
Captain Kirk’s father George Kirk in “Star Trek” (2009) and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013)?
I don’t know why but I think something strong, a foundation, redwood forest — the father to young James [Kirk].
Eric the Huntsman in “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012)?
Well, he probably belongs in the forest too, doesn’t he? I say he’d be something colder — kind of a stormy mountain scent.
"There was always a warm, nurturing, kind sort of energy to her scent," Hemsworth says of Natalie Portman, his costar in two "Thor" films, including "Thor: The Dark World" (2013) shown here. Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios
Is there any co-worker, costar, anyone you’ve ever met, on-screen or off, whose scent profile was so memorable you can still remember what the person smelled like the first time you met?
[“Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” costar] Natalie Portman. There was always a warm, nurturing, kind sort of energy to her scent. It felt like so comfortable. It wasn’t like it was abstract or intimidating.
Where do you live? Do you have a place in Los Angeles?
No, we sold that place. We’d bought a place there right before we had kids — a beautiful place we loved up in Point Dume, that was the first place that my wife and I bought together. Then we had kids, and it was just kind of a nightmare because of the paparazzi. We couldn’t do anything or go anywhere.
On a trip back to Australia, we fell in love with this place we live [in] now, a place called Byron Bay on the coast. It couldn’t be more different from L.A. either. We have horses and live on the beach, and there’s a whole lot of organic farming, a coastal sort of atmosphere. And [it’s a] quiet country surf town. It’s good, though, because I like coming to L.A., not living there. I [can] appreciate it, and it’s kind of cool. But living there, for me, was a little bit suffocating.
When you are in L.A., do you have any favorite shopping spots?
Before Malibu, we lived in Santa Monica, and down Abbot Kinney, [there’s] a lot of little boutiquey sort of stores with all sorts of funky local designers and smaller, unique brands. I liked to go there because you could find all kind of different things.
Being the face of the brand essentially means a guy who wants to smell like you can get there by simply buying a bottle of Boss Bottled Tonic, but the “Man of Today” campaign sounds like it’s urging something more. If some guys want to not just smell like Chris Hemsworth but emulate Chris Hemsworth, what should they do?
What I’d really liked about the [campaign] messaging is that it’s a largely positive message about being kind and compassionate and appreciative and being ambitious and chasing your dreams — but doing it with integrity and honesty and having respect for the people involved in that journey and that path. … [So] I think, “Staying true to yourself.” Actions speak louder than words.
Do you work with a charitable organization?
I do. It’s the Australian Childhood Foundation. They work in child protection, in raising awareness about child abuse, and they provide very therapeutic counseling care for children who have suffered from abuse, neglect and family violence.
What are you working on right now?
We just shot No. 3 of the Avengers [franchise], and we’re shooting No. 4 pretty soon.
A clip from the new Boss Bottled television campaign featuring Chris Hemsworth and directed by Nicholas Winding Refn.