Chris Hemsworth embarked on a personal and physically demanding journey for his new series “Limitless” that ultimately led to a sobering discovery.
The “Thor” actor, 39, learns in one episode of the Disney+/National Geographic limited series — which shows him exploring ways to improve his longevity and fight aging — that he has two copies of the APOE4 gene , one from each of his parents, meaning he has an increased predisposition to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“They took all my blood work and did a bunch of tests and the plan was to tell me all the results on camera and then talk about how you can improve this and that,” Hemsworth shared with Vanity Fair in a article published on Thursday. “And Peter Attia, who is the longevity doctor in that episode and oversees a lot of the show, called [“Limitless” creator] Darren [Aronofsky] and said, ‘I don’t want to tell him on camera. We need to have an outside conversation and see if he even wants it to be on the show.’ It was quite shocking because he called me and he told me.”
When Hemsworth heard the news, Hemsworth said he had “a bunch of questions,” later adding that he “didn’t really know what to think. I was like, ‘Am I supposed to be worried?’ Is that a concern?’”
He also said that the show then “became even more relevant and important to me, even more poignant than I ever thought it would be,” adding that APOE4 “is not a pre-deterministic gene, but it is a strong indicator. Ten years ago I think it was considered more decisive.”
The new information, which Hemsworth said makes him “eight to 10 times more likely” to eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease, naturally made him reflect on death and his own mortality.
“There was an intensity to navigating it. Most of us like to avoid talking about death in the hope that we will somehow avoid it,” he told Vanity Fair. “We all have the belief that we will figure it out. Then suddenly it has to be said that some major indicators actually point to it, as the route that is going to happen sinks into the reality of it.”
“Limitless,” which shows the Marvel star engaging in various stunts and exercises to prolong and enhance his life, actually deals with death in the final episode.
“I think this is my favorite episode. That’s where I worked with the death doula and people who worked in palliative care and end-of-life care and then talked to a number of people who were at the end of their days or coming across them – even younger people who were diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have long to live,” he shared.
“Doing an episode about death and facing your own mortality made me go, ‘Oh God, I’m not ready to go yet,'” he later added. “I want to sit and be in this space with a greater sense of silence and gratitude. And then you start talking about kids and family and say, ‘Oh my God, they’re getting older, they’re growing up and I keep slapping another movie on top of another movie.’ Before you know it, they’re 18 and they’ve moved out of the house, and I missed the window.”
In preparing the show for air, Hemsworth also mentioned that he was offered “a version of the episode that we didn’t talk about [his discovered genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s],” but that the prospect of helping others helped him overcome any hesitation.
“I thought, ‘No, look, if it’s a motivator for people to take better care of themselves and also understand that there are steps you can take – then that’s fantastic.’ My concern was that I just didn’t want to manipulate it and overdramatize it, and turn it into some kind of hokey grab for empathy or whatever for entertainment.”
Hemsworth, who most recently appeared as the MCU’s God of Thunder in his fourth solo outing in this summer’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” will next appear in another sequel, next year’s “Extraction 2.” He is also set to play a yet-to-be-revealed role in 2024’s “Furiosa,” starring Anya Taylor-Joy, set in the “Mad Max” universe.