Chris Hemsworth is on fire. Literally.
“Well, it was snowing, so I was like, ‘Light me up,’” agrees Chris.
They’re talking about a scene where Hemsworth’s character, Tyler Rake, is escaping a subzero-cold Georgia prison as a riot breaks out, whomping prisoners and guards left and right while his arm is ablaze.
“Watching Chris put himself on the line, light himself on fire for all of you—it wasn’t just because it was cold out— think that deserves a round of applause,” jokes Sam.
Hemsworth and Hargrave sit down like old buds, and they’ve definitely been through the action wheelhouse before. Hemsworth is, of course, very chiseled and buff, but not currently at Thor levels. He’s got the piercing blue-eyed stare, but shows a bit of playfulness—flashing the “heart” sign for the Asia-Pacific media. Later, on the red carpet, you see him putting himself out there for about 800 fans, signing everything in sight, doing endless selfies, answering fan Qs.
At 39, he’s maybe on the verge of slowing things down a bit. If you’ve seen the NatGeo series Limitless with Chris Hemsworth, you know the actor thinks a lot more about his longevity and health these days—especially since discovering he carries a pair of genes linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. So a bit of self-care on the set is understandable.
“Yeah, I’m a little older now. So it hurts a bit more (doing action sequences),” he tells us. “I mean, in my 20s doing things, it’s headfirst and everything—and that doesn’t really lean into the longevity of it all. I was not even warming up and you just smash yourself around again and again, no worries, and all you want to do is just impress the stunt coordinator, the director.”
If he’s slowing down, you wouldn’t know it from Extraction 2. Besides being lit on fire, Hemsworth engages in some of his most skull-crashing sequences yet, including a shot atop a train moving at 50 miles an hour, with a helicopter hovering nearby.
“Probably one of the craziest things we did was land a helicopter on a moving train,” he recalls. “I think the helicopter was about 20 feet in front of me, flying.”
“Just a normal Tuesday,” adds Sam.
Shooting atop a moving train alongside a helicopter is no cakewalk, says the director. “That was probably the most difficult shot for me because I was operating the camera. Walking under that’s like walking into a hurricane. I could reach out and touch the pilot and get a high five, if I wanted to. It was difficult to not get blown off the train.”
The helicopter scene was nuts, but the stars are proud they pulled it off.
“It was terrifying,” says Hemsworth, “but I think we all knew the elevated risk was gonna give us an elevated performance and elevated effect for the audience.”
Probably one of the craziest things we did was land a helicopter on a moving train. I think the helicopter was about 20 feet in front of me, flying.
Physically, Hemsworth says it’s a whole different workout routine, playing Tyler as opposed to an Avenger. “In the Thor films, it was more aesthetic, about building muscle, but in this it wasn’t only functional, it’s being able to move with more flexibility, for functionality.”
And what about Hargrave’s workout routine? “I just have to keep up with this guy. He’s physically running all around the set and I have to keep up, carrying a camera, which is actually a little heavier.”
There’s a certain vulnerability about Hemsworth now, and that translates to his character as well. “It was really exciting to dig into his character, creating things we played with in the first film, exploring what made this character tick—why there was a sort of suicidal approach to his existence and the type of work he did.”
Like the battered family he’s rescuing from a tough Georgia prison, Tyler has personal issues as well. “There’s a pain and a struggle there. I think the vulnerability of the character is very deep underneath this tough exterior, and it’s ultimately what people empathize with and connect with.”
Besides lighting Chris on fire, there’s one shot Hargrave is particularly proud of: “The ‘oner’ is pretty special,” Hargrave says, referring to the extended one-take sequence in Extraction 2. “We really pushed the envelope. I think the oner in the first movie timed out about 11 minutes and 40 seconds or something, and this one’s 21:07.” Spoken like Nigel Tufnel showing off his amp in Spinal Tap. Yes, that’s nearly 10 more minutes of hanging on to the edge of your seat, as Tyler moves from peril to peril, guns blazing, heads cracking.
Extraction 2 raises the ante in terms of action, of course, but also the emotional stakes for Hemsworth’s character, last seen in Extraction riddled with bullets, tumbling off a bridge and into a river. (Or was that him in the final shot, standing in silhouette?) He’s a chiseled black ops mercenary, but you know there’s some backstory there.
Another way Hargrave and Hemsworth tried to keep it real was by avoiding the superhuman action hero stuff. “At the end of most action films, the character’s still stoic and nose-breathing,” says Chris, “whereas we were huffing and puffing and sucking oxygen—it was very important to me to make sure you could see it on the guy’s face and you weren’t trying to tell the audience, ‘Look how perfect he is, his cardio doesn’t even break a sweat.’ We want it to be dirty and gritty and real.”