Chris Hemsworth is opening up about an important moment in his health docuseries Limitless that nearly didn't make the final cut.
The Thor actor underwent a series of health tests and screenings while shooting the National Geographic series, which sees him collaborate with scientists and other experts to explore methods for reducing stress, maximizing performance, and slowing the aging process. In the fifth episode, Hemsworth's bloodwork revealed that he carries two copies of the APOE4 gene, making him genetically predisposed for Alzheimer's disease.
"I was offered a version of the episode where we didn't talk about it, and for the exact reason you are mentioning now, I thought, 'No, look, if this is a motivator for people to take better care of themselves and also understand that there are steps you can take — then fantastic,'" Hemsworth told Vanity Fair. "My concern was I just didn't want to manipulate it and overdramatize it, and make it into some sort of hokey grab at empathy or whatever for entertainment."
The initial plan for the episode, according to Hemsworth, was that his test results would be revealed on-camera, but that was quickly changed given the discovery.
Nina Westervelt/Variety via Getty Images Chris Hemsworth learned he was genetically predisposed for Alzheimer's while filming 'Limitless.'
"Peter Attia, who is the longevity doctor in that episode, and overseeing a lot of the show, called [show creator] Darren [Aronofsky] and said, 'I don't want to tell him this on camera. We need to have an off-side conversation and see if he even wants this to be in the show,'" Hemsworth said. "It was pretty shocking because he called me up and he told me."
While it's not a firm diagnosis, the gene does make Hemsworth "eight to 10 times" more likely to develop Alzheimer's in the future.
"The show, which initially was an exploration of longevity and, of course, should be fun, became even more relevant and important for me, even more poignant than I ever thought it would be," he shared. "It was a really good catalyst to dive into everything I needed to be doing in either the prevention front or the management front or however you want to classify it. It's not a pre-deterministic gene, but it is a strong indication."
While a potential risk of Alzheimer's didn't come as a complete surprise for Hemsworth, whose grandfather is currently battling the disease, it was still a sobering revelation.
"Most of us, we like to avoid speaking about death in the hope that we'll somehow avoid it. We all have this belief that we'll figure it out," he said. "Then to all of a sudden be told some big indicators are actually pointing to this as the route which is going to happen, the reality of it sinks in. Your own mortality."
While chatting with EW back in September, Hemsworth shared that he gained a new appreciation for the mental and physical fortitude of the human body while filming Limitless.
"It was one extreme after another — a series of scientific experiments where I was the guinea pig," he said at the time. "I was just in awe of the individuals I was working with who did this day to day. But also, I gained a beautiful understanding and appreciation for how incredible the human body and mind is, and what potential we all have."
Limitless is streaming now on Disney+.