Chris Hemsworth, best known for playing the Marvel superhero Thor, was in India in 2019 to shoot portions of the action thriller Extraction. Hemsworth and director Sam Hargrave were supposed to return to India in March to promote the film for Netflix. And then suddenly, the world as we knew it stopped because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of the film’s premiere on April 24, Netflix arranged for a virtual interview between Hemsworth in Australia, Hargrave in America and a few journalists in India and the rest of Asia.
“I loved shooting in India,” Hemsworth said. “The people were incredible. I didn’t realise how popular the Marvel films are in India. At times that was overwhelming, such positivity and enthusiasm, for all of us. We had thousands of people on certain days, lining the streets, on top of bridges and in buildings, cheering and applauding after every take. I have never experienced anything like it.”
Extraction is set in India and Bangladesh. Its cast includes Pankaj Tripathi, Priyanshu Painyuli, Randeep Hooda, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, David Harbour and Golshifteh Farahani. The movie is an adaptation of the graphic novel Ciudad, illustrated by Fernando Leon Gonzalez and written by Ande Parks and the brothers Joe Russo and Anthony Russo. The Russo siblings directed Hemsworth in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and they have produced Extraction.
Joe Russo has written the screenplay and changed the setting from Paraguay in the graphic novel to the subcontinent. Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, a mercenary hired to rescue a young boy who has been kidnapped by a Bangladeshi drug lord. Tyler is a flawed and conflicted character who is battling his own demons, an aspect that drew Hemsworth to the script.
“There is so much action in the film, but it is layered with emotional complexity and components that I had not had the opportunity to dive into before,” the 36-year-old actor said. “We didn’t want to have a two-dimensional action hero who was predictable. We wanted a vulnerability to the character, an accessibility.”
Playing Tyler required Hemsworth to not just throw his well-admired physique into the role, but also tap into an emotional layer. “His moral compass lay in the grey area and we see a real awakening and transformation,” he said. “To have the action and the emotion constantly dictating to one another – as to where things went next – was unique.”
Reaching in to find vulnerability becomes easier when the victim is a child, Hemsworth explained: “I guess I am as vulnerable as anybody else, especially when children are in jeopardy and their safety is threatened.” He was separated from his family – his wife Elsa Pataky and three children – during the shoot, which also involved a stint in Thailand.
“I was certainly missing them more than usual, so those emotions were a little more accessible, I guess,” he said. “I think vulnerability is an access point for an audience. It shows you are human, that there are qualities in you which audiences can relate to, uncertainties and questions that people can identify with. That was so wonderful about the script.”
Sam Hargrave, who makes his directorial debut with Extraction, has been the stunt coordinator on a number of Marvel films, including Infinity War and End Game. Making a film for a streaming platform was a first for Hargrave and Hemsworth.
“Netflix has carved out a space for itself to support mid-budget action films like this, which is great,” Hargrave said. “There are a lot of great stories out there, like Joe’s script for Extraction, and these kinds of movies now have a space to be viewed and enjoyed.”
Extraction is “a throwback to classic action films, where you are not relying on special effects and visual effects and it is all in camera”, Hemsworth said. He described the “oner” camera trick, in which several shots are stitched together to appear as a 12-minute long uninterrupted action sequence.
“As performers we were right in the thick of it and Sam was right there with us, holding the camera, with the camera strapped to the front of a car, running up and down the stairs with us, jumping from building to building. It was an exhausting but wonderfully collaborative experience,” Hemsworth said.