Brenton Thwaites

Some quick notes on Australian heartthrob Brenton Thwaites: He plays guitar (not in a band, more in an around-the-campfire kinda way); he drives a ’77 VW Kombi van, bopping around the Gold Coast with his mates, their boards in the back, surf-rock playing in the front; and while he just spent months filming the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, with Johnny Depp (“I don’t play a pirate,” he says with regret), he’s long been a fan of the Depp/Richards-style hat. Kicking back at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York this past December, the 26-year-old actor wears an oversize newsboy cap. “I bought it in two colors when I was in London shooting Maleficent, but I gave the white one away. I like to give away my hats,” he says, removing it to reveal a whole mess of hair stuffed into the dome.

When it comes to his craft, Thwaites doesn’t wax philosophical. “I like to have fun on set. I like big entertaining stories—Marvel movies, kids films, Pixar. The fantastical journey of moviegoing will never be lost on me,” he says. While his roles so far have been admirably varied—ranging from the quiet boy with an unexpected destiny in the 2014 sci-fi drama The Giver (opposite Meryl Streep) to a mortal hero in the fantasy-adventure saga Gods of Egypt, which is in theaters now—he’s always gone for big, loud, and exciting. “I haven’t really explored character yet, like Depp did when he went with Tim Burton. I see myself growing by taking roles I’ve shied away from. Maybe a period piece or Shakespeare.” Shakespeare happens to have been Thwaites’s intro to acting—at 16, a friend dragged him to a theater casting where he won the titular role in Romeo and Juliet.

While technically Thwaites is in New York on a junket; it’s also a celebration. His girlfriend is pregnant. And though not quite Shakespearean, the couple’s love story could very well inspire a Hollywood rom-com. After years living mainly in Los Angeles, he was back in Australia filming Pirates and found a house share on the Aussie version of Craigslist. She was one of the roommates. “Yeah,” he says matter-of-factly. “After traveling the world and meeting so many girls, you go back to your hometown and there’s the one, waiting for you in your backyard.”