When people watch movies, it’s easy to forget that underneath the facade of Batman, James Bond and John McClane are real people and actors who are not nearly as bulletproof as their movie characters would suggest.
Case in point: Actor Chris Hemsworth, best known for portraying Marvel’s iteration of the Norse god of thunder, Thor, recently opened up about a harrowing medical discovery that could dramatically alter his life.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Hemsworth revealed that while working on his new show “Limitless,” he learned that his genetic makeup includes two copies of the gene APOE4, which has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Crazier yet, the fact that Hemsworth has two copies of APOE4 is an extreme rarity. A study by the National Institutes of Health in 2021 found that, while 25 percent of people typically carry one copy of APOE4, only about 3 percent of the population has two copies.
Hemsworth got one copy of APOE4 from his mother and the other from his father.
“Limitless” is a show that is about testing the boundaries of human beings who you might consider “older.” As part of that show, Hemsworth took some genetic tests to get a glimpse into his future.
That’s when he learned about the anomaly.
To be clear, Hemsworth does not have a hard diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. He has simply learned that it may very well be a part of his future.
“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,” Hemsworth told Vanity Fair. “It’s not like I’ve been handed my resignation.”
For his part, Hemsworth still appeared to be in good spirits during the interview, even joking with Vanity Fair about his prognosis.
“Yeah, it’s like one in a thousand people…or one in 10,000. I can’t remember. But eight to 10 times more likely. Since you told me that, I feel like my memory’s getting worse. It’s a placebo effect—or it’s taking place!” Hemsworth told Vanity Fair with a laugh.
“Anytime you forget something it’s like, ‘Oh no, is this it?’” Vanity Fair asked him.
“Yeah, it’s my excuse now.”
Of course, working on a show that forces you to address your own mortality is difficult. Hemsworth acknowledged as much, including how the medical discovery gave him a newfound appreciation for family time.
“Doing an episode on death and facing your own mortality made me go, ‘Oh God, I’m not ready to go yet.’ I want to sit and be in this space with a greater sense of stillness and gratitude. And then you start talking about kids and family and going, ‘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.”
That newfound appreciation has led Hemsworth to announce he’s planning on taking a break now that his current commitments are completed.
“It really triggered something in me to want to take some time off. And since we finished the show, I’ve been completing the things I was already contracted to do. Now when I finish this tour this week, I’m going home and I’m going to have a good chunk of time off and just simplify. Be with the kids, be with my wife.”
Hemsworth is most known for his role as Thor, but his other big roles include Agent H in the “Men in Black” franchise and Tyler Rake in the “Extraction” movies. His last major movie release was “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
And while “Extraction 2” and “Furiosa” are both in post-production (so barring any re-shoots, Hemsworth is done with those movies), Hemsworth is also slated to appear in “Avengers: Secret Wars” and an untitled Hulk Hogan biopic.
It is unclear whether his roles in the latter two movies will be affected by his newfound health diagnosis.