Sam Worthington: interview
Sam Worthington talks of his experiences making the year's most anticipated movie, James Cameron's 'Avatar'
How did you come to be cast in ‘Avatar’?
‘I did an audition in Australia but I knew nothing about the project. I wasn’t told who the director was and I couldn’t read the script, which peed me off a bit. But obviously Jim saw something in that rebellious attitude. A week later I got a call to fly to LA. And we kept auditioning for six months, on and off, back and forth, to convince the studio to take a punt on an unknown Aussie.’
So Cameron was behind you but the studio wasn’t?
‘It’s a lot of money to rest on the shoulders of a guy who’s not tested. But Jim always said, “If the project’s good, my name’s big enough.” He backed me from the very beginning.’
What do you think he saw in you?
‘It’d be arrogant to assume anything; you’d have to ask him. I do know he’s a truck driver from Canada, I’m a bricklayer from Australia, we share a work ethic. We look at making movies not as a God-given right, but as a job. You have to drag us off set.’
When you first read the script, could you visualise it?
‘Jim is a stickler for detail, that’s what makes him unique. His scripts are four times the size of normal scripts because of the amount of detail. I said to him, “How the hell are you going to make this?” He took me to the motion capture set. There was a guy running around, pretending to be a banshee, squawking and flapping his arms. I looked at the monitor and saw a banshee, and I thought: I get it! I’m mad enough to do this, let’s go!’
James Cameron has a tough reputation. Did the two of you get on?
‘He’s changed my life, I owe him everything. He demands excellence, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We connect because we’re tough, opinionated, passionate and love working. He protects you. You don’t feel any outside influence, media exposure, studio involvement; you’re in the eye of the hurricane – it’s very calm and you’re there to create.’
What kind of preparation did you do for the role of Jake Sully?
‘At the start you don’t know who he is, we’re not revealing too much. Then as the movie blossoms, he blossoms. I looked at my nephew, a seven-year-old kid opening his eyes to the world, and I played him like that. Not as a hard-ass marine who’s despondent and surly.’
Did you enjoy the process of motion capture?
‘If you leave your vanity and self-consciousness at home, you’ll have a good day at work. We used a studio called the Volume, about the size of a netball court. It’s Jim Cameron’s play pit. It’s filled with fibreglass; you run and climb. There was a fibreglass bird to ride, with six guys swinging it side to side and a wind machine blasting at you. They had actual horses brought in. They shaved them and marked them and we rode them through the Volume.’
Your next two roles are both more dramatic. Do you feel a need to prove your versatility?
‘Yeah, but I’m trying to bring that versatility into all my roles. Jake isn’t a one-dimensional action hero, he’s funny, engaging, emotive, romantic. I do movies I would go to see.'
Read our review of ‘Avatar’.
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