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Ron Howard on the Moment Chris Hemsworth Found Out He Was PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive 2014

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Sexiest sailor alive?

When Chris Hemsworth learned he was crowned PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive last year, he wasn’t quite emulating his typical smoldering good looks. The Thor actor, 32, was in the midst of filming In the Heart of the Sea when he heard the announcement.

“I was around when he found out,” director Ron Howard told PEOPLE Now.

Howard said that the day Hemsworth learned of his new title it became a bit of a joke around set because of what Hemsworth looked like at the time. In order to play first mate Owen Chase in the film, Hemsworth had to drop 33 lbs. in four weeks to have the appearance of a fisherman lost at sea – scruffy beard and all!

“I think it was a day when he was particularly messed up and scruffy, so I think the joke was ‘This is the sexiest [man alive]?’ ”

Chris Hemsworth
Courtesy Chris Hemsworth

Besides dropping the weight, Hemsworth and the rest of the cast spent time with real sailors to learn the tricks of the trade before filming.

“Because it was a real tall-ship, we actually had members of their crew,” explained Howard. “They were there as technical advisors.”

And of course, Hemsworth picked up the life of a sailor like a natural.

“Chris is very handy, it was easy for him to pick up on all of it,” said Howard.

In the Heart of the Sea, also starring Tom Holland and Benjamin Walker, sails into theaters Friday.