Written by Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub
If there was any debate about James Cameronís casting of Sam Worthington as the lead in his upcoming sci-fi epic ďAvatarĒ, ďTerminator SalvationĒ will stop the chatter. Thatís because Sam absolutely holds his own against Christian Bale in the film, and I have to say, I left rather impressed with this relative newcomer.
And Iím not alone.
Because after shooting ďAvatarĒ and ďTerminator SalvationĒ, Sam has been working non-stop and heís currently shooting the remake of ďClash of the TitansĒ - another big budget action film. So if you enjoy his work this weekend when the film comes out, youíre about to see a lot more of him.
But enough of my intro. Below youíll find a transcript of my recent roundtable interview with Sam. During our time we talked about not only making ďTerminatorĒ, but all the other projects heís involved with. And while some actors are guarded with their answers, Sam is refreshingly honest, and I loved the way he didnít pussyfoot around certain things.
As always, you can either read a transcript after the jump or click here to listen to the audio.
ďTerminator SalvationĒ opens this weekend, but you can see some clips now by clicking here.
Question: Sam, what were the biggest challenges of this part for you?
Sam Worthington: The biggest challenges, it was an extremely physical movie. So I was actually trying to bring some sense of depth and gravity and truth within all the big bangs and explosions and tumbles in the film. That was the biggest challenge
Did you do a lot of your own stunts?
Sam: You do as much as you canóI think Christianís the same--before the insurance people step in. This day and age youíve got the Bourne franchise and audiences want to see you. Thatís part of your character.
You spent quite a bit of time in makeup, didnít you?
Sam: Yeah it was six to eight hours at the most, when they put all the prosthetics on and they digitally do, you walk around like Cirque du Soleil because youíre all blue. But thatís not hard, youíre just sitting there. The hard part is those guys doing it for six or eight hours, theyíve got the hard part.
When you say blue, you mean you had blue parts where theyíd put in the CG later?
Have you been a fan of the Terminator franchise?
Sam: I reacquainted myself with it obviously before we started. But I would have been what, 14, 15 when the second one came out. I remember the liquid man back then. I think when you reacquaint yourself you see what James had done, the level of expertise he has as a storyteller. Our job is to try to do a movie that hopefully kind of gave something to the canon of movies or itís a fucking waste of time.
Did you see something in that canon that you wanted to bring forward?
Sam: I wanted to make a role where heíd actually feel pain Ďcause Iíd never seen that, Iíd seen a bit of it in Blade Runner but Iíve never actually seen a movie where a cyborg or a robot hurts, not only physically but mentally and emotionally. I wanted to ramp that up a bit.
What is it about the Terminator franchise that makes it so popular?
Sam: Any good science fiction will reflect the mirror of society today and in Jimís first two in particular and in this one hopefully, is a case of manís humanity, and you know I think it has a lot of hope in it even though itís bleak and dark. Itís got these heroes standing up against a bunch of bullies. I kind of like that message. My nine-year-old nephew is the barometer for movies as far as Iím concerned, and if he gets the message of Ďdonít get bulliedí and Ďdonít be afraid to stand up and take a stand,í I think thatís a good message to send.
Are you still working with James Cameron now?
Sam: I know heís still working. Heíll call me up in a minute if he knows Iím in town, Iím fucked!
I wondered if he had any curiosity about doing this?
Sam: No, heís busy doing Avatar. He passed on the franchise a while back. I think heís keen to see if we fucked it up or not, to be honest. That was his message to me anyway, do your best and tell the story you want to tell.
Difference between working with Cameron and McG?
Sam: Two different beasts. The movies are two different beasts. McG is very passionate about movies. Heís an Energizer Bunny. His enthusiasm rattles across the whole of the cast and the crew. He doesnít stop. And thereís a similarity there with Jim, an excessive nature and making the best damn movie you can in that period of time. The difference is Jimís got five years and we had four months. Whatever you had you had to film it. Thatís the similarity but the difference is theyíre two different people.
What has this last year been like for you? Youíve gone from being someone not recognizable to getting all these high profile films
Sam: Iím enjoying the ride, for starters. Any actor wants their movies and their work to be seen. You donít make a movie or get into this profession for your work not to be seen and just to show them to your mates at home. So Iím liking the fact that people are going to get to see my work and fingers crossed, theyíll like what Iíve produced. Weíll soon find out, wonít we? I might not be working next year. And all this, itís just on a bigger scale than what we do in Australia.
People say you work for free but get paid to promoteóagree?
Sam: Yeah, pretty much, totally. Iím Australian, we work for free anyway
Do you like the physicality? Were you planning to have that be part of your acting career?
Sam: Getting beat up and blown up? Itís part of the character, part of telling the story. I donít mind running, I donít mind taking a few knocks. But hopefully itís just not ĎSamís an action dude.í Tha to me is not what I wanted. I wanted to bring a sense of weight and emotionality of doing Australian films and bring that into a bigger blockbuster, so youíre not just kind of grunting and groaning and running around. Thatís what I wanted and hopefully it came across.
Whatís your regimen, what do you do to keep in shape for this kind of role?
Sam: I get up. I donít go to the gym and shit like that.
Was there any boot camp or weapons training for you?
Sam: Well, I AM the weapon. Itís not that hard, when youíre running through a minefield and theyíre blowing shit up all around you itís not that hard to run faster. Thatís the way I look at it
Anton said you all worked on the script when you came to Albuquerque and worked out scenes
Sam: Yeah there was one scene where we were kind of teaching, with the rope, and it was crap and I said I wasnít gonna do it. The script is a blueprint, which is what I kind of believe, and weíre there to tell a story. Things have to develop. The script is like an infant and when youíre making it it becomes a teenageróeveryone is yelling and fighting and rebelling. And in that scene it wasnít working. It was one of the lamest gags Iíd ever read. I said Ďwe donít have to become friends, letís bond another way.í Anton said, Ďare we allowed to do it?í I said, ĎI donít care if weíre allowed to do it, letís do it.í They can say itís crap and go back to the original. My job is to come in and help McG facilitate the movie and facilitate his vision in the film. And however I do that, my job is to come in and make the best story that I can tell and if that means taking the script and rejiggering it, then fine. Luckily we had a director who wanted input from everybody. He wasnít just ĎIím the director, this is what weíre doing.í It built a solidarity amongst the cast and crew as well. It tells a better story so we can stand by what we did
Do the same with Jim?
Sam: Yeah, I work it out with Jim. Thatís what he hired me for. Iím not a puppet, man. ĎI can make this work, but if we change this line it will be a better scene.í We argue, argue, argue, and either he wins or I win. Either way, youíre making it better. Thatís what itís about. Itís not about being a fucking puppet or a monkey. Itís about pinging it and making it alive.
Were there other scenes in Terminator where you did this?
Sam: You change certain things, you cut a lot of the stuff. Iím a big fan of less is more. You donít need to spell it all out. Iíd ratherÖthatís how I think. So certain scenes I tweaked or go, Ďthat line is shit, can we get rid of it?í But thatís the process of making any film. Youíre investigating the script and trying to make it real and alive. So that kind of struggle and friction, you know, thatís how a pearl is made, sandÖ
Have you seen the final version of Avatar?
Sam: Iíve seen the latest cut. A lot of it isnít all rendered. Whatís my thought on that? Itís a fucking beast thatís going to kick everybody in the head
Can you talk about your character?
Sam: Heís a former Marine who goes to another planet to drive these remote controlled bodies called Avatars. Thatís basically it.
Whatís more challenging, Terminator or Avatar?
Sam: Two different beasts. Totally different. With Jim it was 13 months non-stop, eight months of motion capture. This we shot four. Avatar was 13 for me and I was short. Jimís been working on it five years.
Have you seen it in 3D?
Sam: Yeah. You see the playback in 3D. 3D for Jim is like digital for Danny Boyle. Thatís just the format Jim likes. He believes it brings the audience more into the screen. Itís not ooga-booga, itís literally youíre looking around shit. And with it being photorealistic it actually pings in a lot better. Your brain starts to buy it. It doesnít get distracted and distanced. You believe youíre on Pandora.
Did you have that kind of immersive experience while watching it?
Sam: Yeah from what Iíve seen in 3D, yeah. It looks like we shot it in Hawaii, itís that fucking real
Are there themes in Avatar of a post-apocalyptic world that are similar themes to this movie?
Sam: Kind of, in the sense of hope, thatís definitely a theme in Avatar and this. Humanity, people finding hope in desperate times, which is good in this day and age.
Were you psyched to go toe to toe with Christian in your scenes with him?
Sam: I was chained up, and I was nervous as hell because heís a guy that Iíve watched his work and I admire. This is a guy whose movies Iíve rented at the video store and here he is in front of me. ĎYou will not kill my mother!Ē Half the time Iím looking at him going, Ďthis aintí fucking real, is it? Oh shit Iíve got a line!í Heís extremely giving. People call him intense, itís the wrong word. Heís dedicated. Heís passionate about the story. He doesnít give a crap about selling it. He gives a crap about the story, are we on the right path? Are we telling the story? I love that.
What surprised you about him as you got to know him?
Sam: That he doesnít care about how big his trailer is. He walks around in his fucking track pants and heís dedicated to the work. A guy of that kind of magnitude or that big a star who isnít walking around like ĎIím the fucking kingí I love that. Heís there for the work.
Whatís going on with Clash of the Titans?
Sam: At the moment we took on the Medusa and we took on the witches. We go back and take on a heap of scorpions and then we take on the Kraken. Weíre running around in a dress, fucking killing everything!
Is it a remake of the one from the Ď80s?
Sam: Yeah. Itís the same kind of general story, we just ramped it up
Did you take a look at the Harry Hamlin performance?
Sam: Oh I want to do it exactly the same. That guyís gonna come after meÖno, I had a take on Perseus that I said to Louie and he went with it and the studio kind of liked my take, and weíll see if it works
Comes out when next year?
Sam: March, I think. Itís real quick. Weíre done in two and a half weeks. Itís extremely quick
Where did you shoot Avatar?
Sam: Eight months on a motion capture stage here and five or six in New Zealand.
Based in Australia or here?
Sam: I go where the work is. I donít have a real home. When I got Avatar I sold everything that I owned because I knew it was going to be a long journey. Iíve got two bags and that was four years ago and Iíve been working ever since and Iíve still only got two bagsóa bag of books and a bag of clothes. Thatís about it. My base at the moment is up the road.
You said when you came on to Terminator the script was an infant, when you come onto a project and the script is in that stage, what gives you the confidence it will be a good project in the end, the director, other actors, what is it?
Sam: I sign on to any project because of the director, because they wonít change and youíve got to feel confident that youíre in good hands, in their vision. McG had a clear sense of what heís doing. We just came in and added the color, added the details. Thatís to me what it is. He had an idea of what the painting should be and my job is to come in and give him as many colors as possible so he can go and make the movie he wants to make. Thatís how I look at it.
Have you already started thinking about projects beyond Clash of the Titans?
Sam: Haha, Iím doing as much as I can till people realize Iím a sham! Obviously they throw shit at you, and weíll see how this goes and theyíll throw shit at me and anything that piques my interest Iíll do. I like working
You must be craving a drawing room comedy
Sam: I did a drama, just me, Eva Mendes and Keira Knightley in New York, in normal dress and I craved a gun and a sword, to be honest with you. It was bizarre. The kissing scenes, I wasnít getting the same sort of rush
Is that Last Night?
When does it come out?
Sam: Iíve no idea
Itís an indie, right?
See a place for yourself in future Terminator movies?
Sam: I hope so. They havenít written a script. You might know something I donít, man