I’d first interviewed Sam Worthington strangely enough in Cannes when he was promoting Somersault alongside Abbie Cornish. The former bricklayer seemed very much like his character, a country lad and a manly kind of guy, and his natural brio stood him in good stead when he made Clash of the Titans, Terminator Salvation and even Avatar.
While the 38 year old now awaits the three Avatar sequels to go into production, he has taken numerous supporting roles. Most prominently he has appeared in the American film Cake where the usually glamorous Jennifer Aniston is being lauded for her damaged portrayal as a chronic pain sufferer who forms a bond with the sympathetic Worthington; and in Robert Connolly’s Australian film Paper Planes Worthington is trawling the emotions again as a grieving husband and dad to 12-year-old Dylan (rising Australian child star Ed Oxenbould from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) who has a special gift for creating and flying paper planes which takes him all the way to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
You haven’t been as visible of late.
I’ve finished around seven movies that haven’t come out. I wanted time off (from leading roles) and did what I felt like doing. It’s more interesting to be in movies where you support actors even if sometimes it’s kind of bizarre. I came in four weeks after they started filming Everest—two to three months after the guys had been up the mountain. You’re the gun for hire and you come in armed up with a character and a direction you want to take that you present to the director.
Still you will be the lead in James Cameron’s three Avatar sequels. Is it difficult not knowing when they will to start?
No, no. I’ve a rough idea when we’re meant to start but that’s been shifting for the last four years. Jim’s in no hurry. No one tells him that he has to go and do it. He’s the boss and when the boss says, “Come!” I’ll come and jump. That’s it.
What effect did the first movie have on you?
It changed my life. James Cameron changed my life.
What is your relationship with him?
He’s one of my closest friends. He’s a man who took an extreme risk on an actor who had primarily worked in Australia and who was unknown anywhere else, to front a $200million-plus movie and he backed me from the very beginning, even up until now. Without him I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity, so I’m indebted to him forever.
He has a farm in New Zealand.
Yeah, he bought half of New Zealand! He turned it into an eco-friendly farm.
You’ve been there?
No, but we keep crossing paths. He’s a guy who’s very passionate about saving the planet and I think Avatar helped him cement that idea in his head, that there is something bigger than this industry, there’s something bigger than our own lives. I think the success of that movie made him realize that others felt the same way. He hit on something that affects us all and how we view our position in the world.
Did it affect you in any way on an environmental level?
It’s about connectivity; we’re all connected. You can’t tell me that we’re just solo on this big ball of mud. We’re inclined to sit in a room like this and do interviews, but our world has got to be a bit bigger than this. This can’t be the pinnacle.
"Jim’s in no hurry."
Given your recent run of movies are you now like a travelling gypsy?
SW: Yeah pretty much. I want to have a base and home but because of the nature of the job I’m always traveling. I have a house in Hawaii, but I’m never there. LA’s my office--I go there to get a job, but I never really wanted to live there.
Will you keep doing this for many years?
SW: Yeah. I just did a job with Anthony Hopkins (Kidnapping Freddy Heineken). That guy’s turning 77 and he’s still making movies and TV shows.
You were born in England and your parents migrated to Australia when you were six months old and you grew up in Western Australia. How important is it for you to make films in Australia?
The greatest thing that a movie like Avatar does is to give you the power to come back to your home country and help finance movies and stories that might not get financed. You’re giving back to the hand that helped craft you and set you on your way. In Paper Planes I have a small role where a 13 year old is the lead and the director has a well-known career in Australia, but this could be the biggest movie of his career because it’s traveling so much. (Paper Planes premiered in Toronto and will soon screen at the Berlin Festival). So if my being involved with that helped them get over the line with the financing that’s great. I went back to WA to make Drift and it was the same thing. I only had a week’s work but that got them the money to get over the line to make the movie.