Limitless with Chris Hemsworth is National Geographic’s new six-part documentary series produced by Protozoa, Nutopia and Wild State for National Geographic and Disney+.
To lay a rigorous foundation for Limitless, Nutopia’s research teams spoke to hundreds of experts and combed through more than a thousand academic papers. They consulted with scientists from leading institutions around the world, including MIT, Harvard and Stanford and the Mayo Clinic in the USA, Oxford University and Kings College, London in the UK, and Australia’s Griffith and Bond Universities, as well as Olympians, military personnel, and many indigenous experts.
They also wanted to include the wisdom and diversity of lived experience of remarkable people from different cultures around the world. With the help of local fixers and researchers, the casting process spanned locations including China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Fiji, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, South Korea, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.
There were particular production challenges across different episodes. For the Acceptance episode, to select the cast of more than 60 older contributors who “inhabited” the constructed retirement community, Sunset Pines, the casting team spoke to more than 500 people, including 4 centenarians.
To capture the stories required 62 shoots in 12 countries, across a total of 175 filming days. As filming continued whenever viable during the pandemic, a total of 733 days (more than two years) was spent in solitary hotel quarantine by production team, crew and contributors.
Safety was always a priority, especially in the more complex and unpredictable shoots. The longest risk assessment for a Limitless shoot was over 50 pages.
Filming Chris’ arctic swim required an underwater camera op, underwater stills photographer, 4 camera teams and a drone team. To keep them safe, there were 4 jetski teams, and a 3-person safety boat team in the water. Close by on land was a doctor specializing in hostile cold environments, 2 safety advisors, an additional ice swim expert, and a paramedic ambulance team.
To film the crane walk challenge in Stress-Proof, a 32-strong team of riggers, safety specialists, and pedestrian and traffic management coordinators ensured Chris and the crew’s safety at height, and the public’s safety on the ground.
As a foundation for the anatomical animations in the series, more than 140 hand-drawn illustrations of body parts, organs and cells were created.
Chris Hemsworth and Ben Grayson are executive producers for Wild State. Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel are executive producers for Protozoa. For Nutopia, Jane Root, Arif Nurmohamed and Ruth Shurman are executive producers. Bengt Anderson and Matt Renner are executive producers for National Geographic.
Clip 1 – Science skewed
Limitless with Chris Hemsworth | Room for Improvement | National Geographic
Clip 2 – Stunt/Science
Limitless with Chris Hemsworth | Drown Proofing Take 1 | National Geographic
LIMITLESS EPISODE CHALLENGES
STRESS-PROOF, with social psychologist Modupe Akinola
• By attempting to walk along a crane arm projecting from the roof of 900-feet-
tall skyscraper, Chris learns how we can use physical and psychological techniques to protect ourselves against the impact chronic stress has on our lives.
SHOCK, with Extreme Athlete Ross Edgley and Longevity Physician Peter Attia
• Building himself up to swim 250 yards across a near-freezing Arctic fjord, Chris discovers how extreme cold and extreme heat can benefit health and may even extend our lives.
FASTING, with Peter Attia and champion free-diver Tanya Streeter
• Going four days with no food and learning to freediving and spearing a fish
for his first meal, reveals to Chris how fasting can help the fight against the biggest killers of old age and trigger cellular renewal.
STRENGTH, with Ross Edgley and Peter Attia
• Training for a punishing climb up a 100-foot rope dangling over a canyon
teaches Chris how to unlock the full capacity of his muscles – as organs that protect us from injury, age-related decline and disease.
MEMORY, with Neurologist Sharon Sha, Peter Attia and artist Otis Hope Carey
• Navigating through rugged wilderness without GPS or map in the wilderness,
alongside a close buddy – shows Chris how we can future-proof our brains and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease in later life.
ACCEPTANCE, with Palliative Care expert BJ Miller and Death Doula Alua Arthur
• Three days in a specially constructed retirement community, wearing a suit
that simulates how it will feel to live in an 87-year-old body can help Chris learn that accepting old age and the end of life can make us happier and even help us live longer.
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