Chris Hemsworth on filming ‘Extraction,’ ‘the most intense film’ he’s ever done
MANILA, Philippines – Netflix's new action drama Extraction gets tense early on – and once it starts, it hardly stops.
At the center of all it all is the film's star Chris Hemsworth, whose physical strength and emotional vulnerability anchor the film even as it unfolds in a series of heart-stopping action sequences that leave viewers little room to breathe.
In the film, he portrays Tyler Rake, a mercenary who is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned crime lord.
Chris, perhaps best known for playing Thor in the Avengers series, is no stranger to intense action. But even for him, Extraction was "the most intense film" that he's ever done, both physically and emotionally.
'Shock to the system'
Coming right from shooting another film, Chris had to fit what would normally take 6 to 8 weeks of training into an intense 2 to 3 weeks.
"It was a shock to the system for all of us, but it set the pace for the rest of the movie and it didn't stop," he said in the film's production notes.
Later on, he said that to recover from each exhausting shoot, he would simply keep going.
"I guess this is one of the first times I’ve shot a film without my family being with me," Chris said in a phoner with director Sam Hargrave, Rappler, and other Philippine media.
"I guess, there was a benefit in that which meant I could come back to the hotel or wherever after a day of shooting and we could just get down to rehearsing the next sequence because we had a very compressed schedule."
He shared that because he didn't have much prep time for the film, rehearsals were continual, and happened on the fly – so he didnt' really have time to feel tired.
"You know, you go through periods of training and you’re feeling really good and then you just start to have a few days off or a week off and that’s when everything starts to hurt and you realize, 'maybe I’m exhausted,'" he said.
"It was a bit like that you know, we just did not stop, I did not have a chance to notice how banged up my body might have felt and kind of collapsed at the end of the shoot," he laughed.
Their motto for the film, said Chris and Sam, was to keep moving – which makes sense after one has seen the film.
Extraction is heavy on the explosive action and also heavy on violence. Some of the most brutal scenes happen when one least expects it — and there are many moments where one might feel the need to pause the film and digest everything that just happened. It's only to be expected from the directorial debut of a veteran stunt coordinator and stuntman.
Balancing action and emotion
But there is also tenderness in the film – especially in the quieter moments that happen between Tyler and Ovi (played by newcomer Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped kid that Tyler has to rescue.
As the film progresses, Tyler and Ovi form a sort of father-son bond, and it's their friendship that keeps one watching even through the most difficult scenes.
"Not often do you have – and this is what I loved about this script – such complex, incredible action coupled with an emotional story and a heartbeat at the center of it," Chris said, adding that the action resonates so much more because of the emotional heart of the film.
He shared that Tyler's emotional state informs the way he moves and fights — and one can see how it changes as the film moves forward.
"There is a real complacent sort of suicidal approach to his style at the beginning and with very little care or regard for his own safety. That shifts and changes as his sort of deeper self starts to awaken and he’s emotionally drawn out of himself," Chris said.
Sam said he focused on developing the characters and their relationship as much as the action sequences, so that viewers would care when the action did happen.
For someone whose background is in stunts and action, Sam often placed himself in the middle of the action even as he was directing.
“Sam was not only demonstrating stunts for us, writing the sequences, and directing them,” Chris shared in the film’s production notes.
“But there he is strapped in front of a bonnet as close to the action as you could possibly get. At one point his car crashed straight into the side of my car. We called cut and looked down and his leg was jammed down in between the two cars, but in some miraculous way, his foot was in that little gap between the wheel and the chassis. A couple of inches to the left or right and it could have been pretty gnarly.”
Directing the quieter scenes was a matter of translating the conflict from kicks and punches to conversations.
"I’m always trying to tell a story even if it's, you know, a fight scene between two people or one person versus 20, there’s always a story and drama and motivations to be found in those action sequences,” Sam said during the phoner.
"So just taking what I’ve learned through action and then putting that in a dramatic sequence, now they may not be throwing kicks and punches then but they might be fighting with silence or you know, with words the subtext of what they’re saying," he added.
Sam added that while it's hard to beat the size and spectacle of, say, a superhero film from a big studio, the fun of doing Extraction was that they got to do a lot of practical stunts and fighting – a throwback to how action movies were done in the 80s and 90s, where the action is as real as it gets.
"Chris was inside those cars as they’re sliding around corners, he’s doing the fights as motorbikes whiz past him, an inch in front of his face. So it’s a different experience to the audience, you’re in there, with Chris Hemsworth, doing these crazy things and so then you’re just kinda like 'whoa!,'" he said.
"For me this is a way to tell a story, like Chris said that mixes a primal need, the heart of a man who’s kinda broken from his past and his desire for redemption and then through that story we get to see him do all these amazing things and really do them," he said.
Extraction premieres on Netflix on April 24. – Rappler.com