Sam Worthington was plucked from obscurity - indeed, worse: Australia - to star in James Cameron's Avatar, but since then he's made Terminator Salvation and the upcoming Clash of the Titans. But with his sci-fi epic about to hit, we talked to the no-nonsense star about his journey so far and why he and Cameron get along so well...
The shoot looked pretty mental. The sets in New Zealand were incredible.
Yeah, they're big you know, as you expect on a project like this. Everything's big. And the best thing about Jim is his attention to detail so even when you're in volume with nothing, there's still stuff to react off and it's detail. Even if it's part of the sets we're not even shooting on I'm sure he goes round and double-checks to see if their spaceship can fucking fly.
How did you first get involved in it? Did he see you in something?
No. I did an audition and no one told me what the movie was called, who the director was. At the time I was stuck. Every actor fears unemployment, and there I was unemployed. Sold everything I owned and was just living in the car basically, not doing much. I thought this audition was a waste of my fucking time.
About a week later they said, "Jim Cameron wants to fly you to America.” I said, “What the fuck for?" I flew to America, said to him, "Basically, I'll give you everything I've got ‘cause I've got nothing to lose." That started a relationship with him for about six months, convincing a studio to take a punt on an unknown guy. Over the course of that, I just kept auditioning and auditioning, or as I call it, cos I hate that fucking word, working. Getting a working relationship because I knew it would be a long haul. And, you know, you do everything from go to dinner with the man to just sit and discuss the script to film scenes with Zoe. I was fortunate enough that he backed us from the get-go.
So what flagged up the audition?
Obviously he was travelling around the world looking for a guy, looking for an unknown dude cos he's obviously got any name he could've wanted on this. I was at the time fortunate to be in what, the top ten dudes in Australia who will go to an audition like that. Jim obviously saw something in there that then he continued to nurture over those six months. And then, even more so, that could continue to mature over the 14 months of working with him. I said to my mate, "What, there's only a billion odd people are gonna see me, so I better not have fucked it up”. It's high risk, whatever you're doing. So you better put 110% into it. Jim's put in fricking five years on this. Those guys are putting 110% all the time because that’s the standard that Jim demands. You work your 16 hours, 18 hour days, for 14 months, that's what you do, you don’t rest.
Sully's an interesting character; he's a disabled action hero. When you saw him on paper, what did you make of him?
|This is a movie essentially about bullies.|
You know, he is a disabled action hero but I didn’t want the disability to be him in a wheelchair. The disability is the world he's in, how people perceive him. To him, well, shit happens. He says it at the start of the movie, "I don’t ask for your pity." The world is a cold ass bitch and someone's gotta do something about it and that’s Sully's attitude. This is a movie essentially about bullies.
I played Jake Sully as a seven year old, for several reasons. One is, you can play him as a hard-arsed, grizzled marine but this movie is essentially for a gamut of ages and if young kids go and see this, how are they gonna relate to a grizzled, hard-arsed, born-on-the-fourth-of-July kind of marine vet? So my idea was, now they have someone who has the same attitude as them, someone who is a smart-ass, has a buoyancy and a playfulness about him. Plus, we're on another fucking planet, so why wouldn’t you be playful and open and buoyant and enjoy it? So it takes the audience on the journey with the hero. If you make him "woe is me, I'm disabled", that’s not the point of the story. The point is a guy who goes to another planet and has his eyes open and gets to stand up against bullies.
In the original scriptment he does come across all bitter and twisted.
The first thing that Jim put in, and I don’t know if it's in the script, was him on Earth. And he's in a bar and he gets in a fight. In a wheelchair, he takes out the biggest dude in the bar for hitting a girl and I always thought, straight away, there's the character. We straightaway know he's a defender. But I said to Jim, "It shouldn’t be him, down on his luck, drowning his sorrows. People don’t do that when they're depressed. You fucking party up. You cover it." That’s what I think that bar scene. I put the shot glass on my head, did a wheelie and made the girls laugh. And that’s what gets him into the Na'vi clan, this inner-spirit of a guy who's just looking for something worth fighting for.
It's nice it's got a strong eco message.
Yeah and Jim's, basically, whether he wants to admit it or not, talking about what we're doing to the environment. He's talking about what we're doing in wars. What we're doing to people from other countries that we don’t know about. It's filled with typical Jim Cameron deeper messages in this other kind of format.
They are talking about this film changing the face of cinema.
Hopefully it's the beginning of what this technology can do. This is what performance capture can offer. This is what 3D technology can be used for, in it's greatest capacity. Then we are kicking in the door a bit and hopefully other filmmakers will come and join in the party. But if we say, "This is it", that's too much pressure and we'll all fuck up and it will kill us all. And Jim'll disappear forever. But it's the beginning of something and that's what I think Jim likes to do. He likes to push the boundaries of cinema.