How Hemsworths pulled off the impossible
It's hard not to be a little jealous of Chris Hemsworth and his younger brother Liam.
The pair both made that oh-so-tough leap from Aussie soaps to Hollywood blockbusters - then leapt back, returning to Australia and setting up idyllic new lives in Byron Bay.
But they haven't retired or faded into obscurity. Instead, the brothers are sustaining their Hollywood careers, all while surfing, working out and in Chris' case raising a family in a beach town some 11,500km away from LA.
WHY THEY LEFT
Chris Hemsworth and his wife, Spanish actress Elsa Pataky had been living in LA for years, but in 2014, as Hemsworth began filming the second Avengers film, Age of Ultron, they bought their sprawling hilltop property south of Byron Bay for $7 million.
Soon, they demolished the existing property, spending several years building their dream home - a sprawling $20 million mega-mansion filled with individual details like this mural by Indigenous artist Otis Hope Carey:
"You're a little bit too much in the eye of the storm when you're living in Hollywood," Chris told GQ of the move to Byron earlier this year.
"Living in Australia, it's also easier to detach myself from work - and you get a bit more leeway to let a few emails and phone calls slide on by."
In another interview with The Daily Telegraph, Hemsworth admitted to feeling "suffocated" by his career while living in Los Angeles.
"When you're suffocated by the work, every conversation that you're having and every billboard you're seeing is to do with a movie or whatever around the industry. You lose perspective," he told the publication.
The father-of-three added: "There's not a single person there (Byron Bay) that I interact with, or close friends of mine, that are really in the industry and so that's hugely refreshing."
Speaking to OK! Magazine earlier this year, Hemsworth said living in Hollywood meant "you just kind of lose touch with reality".
"You go from press tours and work, and then straight back into reality and you're handed a child with a nappy," he said.
"I love what I do as an actor … but it's nice to be a part of a community that doesn't live and breathe that world."
For his younger brother Liam, the move was an opportunity to lick his wounds after a string of private disasters in 2019. Liam and wife Miley lost their Malibu home in devastating LA wildfires - and shortly after they suffered a very public break-up, after a decade together but less than a year of marriage.
As his divorce dominated the headlines - thanks to his ex-wife's string of new lovers and break-up anthems - Liam retreated to Byron Bay and his family. Soon after he arrived, the Hemsworth family company expanded their property holdings in the area, purchasing a $4.25 million 35-hectare estate a stone's throw from Chris' home.
AN IDYLLIC LIFE
Their quiet lives in Byron Bay couldn't be more different from the red carpets and paparazzi scrums of Hollywood. Occasionally a local snapper will photograph Chris or Elsa, barefoot and doing the school run, but for the most part fans only see them via Instagram, working out at their massive mansion or enjoying humble caravan holidays with their children and local friends.
And despite being on the other side of the world, their careers haven't suffered. Six years after leaving Hollywood, Chris' latest action blockbuster Extraction became the most-watched original film in Netflix's history, with a sequel to follow. He and his super-fit wife Elsa have also diversified into the lucrative health and wellbeing industries: Chris launched the Centr fitness app, offering his fans the chance to learn his fitness secrets (for a small monthly subscription fee, of course).
OTHER STARS ARE FOLLOWING
The Hemsworths were perhaps ahead of the curve here, demonstrating pre-COVID that it's possible to sustain a Hollywood career while living on the other side of the world. Now, other stars are following. Zac Efron's arrival in Byron Bay earlier this year - choosing to see out the pandemic there rather than in virus-riddled America - solidified the beach town's A-list credentials. Months later, Efron shows no signs of returning to his home country, having settled with a new Aussie girlfriend in Byron Bay.
And one of the biggest movie stars of the past 25 years, Matt Damon, is also following suit. Damon and family are close friends of the Hemsworths, and have frequently been spotted holidaying with them around Byron and surrounds. One chance encounter suggests where his priorities lie: During the 2019 Oscars, the most prestigious night on the Hollywood calender, Damon was spotted - shopping in a Kmart at Ballina, south of Byron Bay. It was reported in November that Damon had finally taken the plunge, snapping up a massive $22m beachfront mansion.