Hot Hollywood property: Sam Worthington

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Sam Worthington is ‘Avatar’. With a $200 million film riding on the 32-year-old Aussie actor, studios were hesitant to commit to the man James Cameron handpicked out of obscurity. But Worthington was committed, having even said to ‘Esquire’ magazine recently, “I’ll do whatever you need to sell your fucking movie. I’ll call my first kid fucking ‘Avatar’ if it helps you sell it.”

It was accompanying his girlfriend to an audition at the NIDA school of drama that planted the seed for Worthington’s acting career when, signing up just for fun, he actually got in. He went on to feature in a string of Aussie film and television productions: ‘Bootmen’, ‘Gettin’ Square’, ‘Dirty Deeds’ and ‘Somersault,’ the latter having premiered at Cannes.

From these, to playing minor roles in Hollywood films, Worthington was one of the top seven actors contending to take over the James Bond role from Pierce Brosnan. With the support of Cameron, he was cast as Marcus Wright in ‘Terminator Salvation’, making him a household name.

In 2007, Cameron cast him as the lead in ‘Avatar’. The science fiction epic has been delayed in production since the 1990s, awaiting the development of more advanced technology. ‘Avatar’ is filmed entirely in 3D and is a tale of blockbuster proportions. In it, Worthington plays Jake Sully, a bitter ex-Marine confined to a wheelchair. Still imbued with a sense of battle, Jake partakes in the ‘avatar’ program, which transforms his body to resemble the humanoid inhabitants of the moon Pandora, the Na’vi. Now able to walk, the ensuing expedition to Pandora is embroiled with a waging war and a bourgeoning romance that threatens the fate of an entire world.

While Worthington’s onscreen roles seem to be drifting further and further from reality, he still has his feet planted firmly on the ground. With a no-nonsense magnetism, a strong work ethic, and unrefined good looks, the approach to his craft is an entirely pragmatic one. “Aussie actors take 15 hours to get to America – we ain’t going to waste our fucking time and money… and that means we’re not going to waste their time.”

CREAM: When you first heard you’d gotten the lead role in ‘Avatar’, what was your reaction?

SAM: I thought ‘Thank fuck!’ simply because I’d gotten a job. It took me six months to get. I think Jim (Cameron) said to me ‘Are you ready to work with me?’ and I said ‘Are you ready to work with me, mate?’ and that was it.

CREAM: Why did it take six months?

SAM: It’s a massive movie. I was unknown outside of Australia, and for a studio to take that on is a high risk. Jim backed me from the start and we basically had to convince them that I was the right guy for the job.

CREAM: You’re having an incredible year: first ‘Terminator’, now ‘Avatar’.

SAM: Yeah, it’s cool. And that’s what you want.

CREAM: Is it nerve-wracking though?

SAM: No, because hopefully I’ve done my job well. My job is to come in and ‘lie’ convincingly. My mate saw ‘Terminator’ and said ‘You don’t look like you’re acting’, and I said ‘Well that’s the point’. That’s my job: to help the director tell his story and have people enjoy it and invest in my character as they go along with the story. If I’ve done it right, and if I’ve put in 110% of myself – which I did with Jim and which I do with everyone – then there’s no need to be scared.

CREAM: Was Hollywood always your goal?

SAM: Well I kept coming back five or six times a year. I’d never tell people about that but that was the point; it’s a bigger office. I’d go there and audition, because I have agents in America – who I’ve had since ‘Bootmen’ – who were hounding me to come over. But I’ve always said you do as much as you can in your own country. It’s like when you’re an architect. You’re not going to just build one house and then go to fucking New York City and say I’m going to build the Twin Towers.

CREAM: You’re also filming ‘Clash Of The Titans’. Your profile is going to be much, much higher after all this. Have you noticed any changes yet?

SAM: I’ve noticed my head on a bus around Britain but no one bothers to look twice at me. I learnt years ago that if you want fame and attention, you can go and get it. You can go to the opening of an envelope. You can have your little VIP section. And you can have all your bodyguards around you, and wear your sunglasses inside… do all that kind of bullshit. But I’m there to do my damn job. That’s it. Then go live an ordinary life.

‘Avatar’ is out now on DVD.