It’s not difficult to see why James Cameron had Sam Worthington lead his 2009 film “Avatar”; after all, the Australian-born star looks like a real-life John Smith (barrel-chested and handsome, but not pretty), something that came in handy since Cameron’s film was basically Pocahontas in space. Yet, at the time, the King of the World’s choice was slightly risky: who was Sam Worthington? Three years and billions of dollars in worldwide grosses later, the answer is a bit more clear: Worthington has become the consummate action hero — whether playing a Mossad agent in “The Debt” or a part of Greek mythology in “Clash of the Titans.”
His most recent role is in the Asger Leth (“Ghosts of Cité Soleil”) directed “Man on a Ledge.” Here, Worthington plays the titular edge-dweller, Nick Cassidy, an ex-cop who hopes to clear his name through the somewhat unorthodox method of an attempted suicide, while his brother plots a heist nearby. (The title kind of gives away the major plot point.) The slap-dash thriller — which feels like an amalgam of everything from “The Negotiator” to “Dog Day Afternoon” — boasts an impressive cast of Ed Harris, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie and Edward Burns.
Worthington rang up Moviefone earlier this month to discuss his latest role, playing a “boar-headed idiot” in “Clash of the Titans,” and why seeing “Titanic” in 3D is one of his top priorities for survival.
Was “Man on a Ledge” actually filmed at the Roosevelt Hotel?
Yeah, we were on the top; we built an extra level on it, like a room that could swing back and forth so we could change the camera angles a bit. But I was actually standing there right on the ledge. It’s like a 14-inch wide ledge and you stand or sit on the edge of the building, looking down 20-odd stories at New York City.
That’s sounds very scary.
Oh, I was petrified. I think you’d be out of your mind if you said you weren’t. The first time I ever got out there is the scene in the movie — which you actually see me getting out — we just rolled the cameras to see what would happen. Because I said there’s no point in practicing it, let’s just see what happens. And luckily I didn’t burst into tears and curl up into a ball.
I loved the “make it rain” scene, when you threw money down at the crowd below.
It was probably from Jamie Bell’s paycheck … there was no line, [I just had] to throw the money off the building, and my mate’s cousin said, “Why don’t you say [make it rain!],” so I did — just to make him laugh.
Is it true that you were a contender to head up the James Bond series?
Yeah, years ago. It was me, Daniel Craig and Henry Cavill, I think those were the final three.
Do you have any regrets about missing out on that?
I don’t really look at it like that. I pick movies that I would like to go and see at the cinema — that’s how I kind of pick. Because if I were to spend a period of time doing a movie A) I want it to be fun but B) I want to know it’s a movie that I would go and see therefore I can work hard on it because I know Joe Blow is going to pay $ 16 to go and see it.
You’ve been branching out into the world of comedy a bit with the “Call of Duty” commercials alongside Jonah Hill, is this a new direction you’d like to go in?
Yeah, I loved doing that. I always wanted to do a romantic comedy and things like that, or any kind of comedy, or anything kind of different. It’s what to get offered that’s the thing, what comes across your table. I once thought it’d be funny to do a comedy with like me, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. I think that would be really funny.
…Yes, that would be hilarious.
But I know for a fact that these guys aren’t getting offered those other things, so it’s like you try to make the most of what you get offered. Like with the “Call of Duty” thing, that was great fun because I’ve been a fan of Jonah’s for a long time and Pete Berg [“Battleship”], the director, kind of let us run and let us scat with it. It’s just getting the opportunity to do that and convincing other people.
Did Jonah give you any tips to be funny?
Jonah’s very quick, you know. It was easier for me just to balance with him. The first day was all him talking the second day was me and him firing bazookas and throwing grenades and he went, “Man this is tough work” and I said, “Well, what you do is tough.” So it’s a nice balance. I loved doing it.
Tell me a little bit about “Wrath of Titans,” I know “Clash of the Titans” was a big hit even though…
Well, it got critically slammed — let’s be frank. Look, a lot of people went and saw it, and I talked to a lot of people and they enjoyed it. I think my biggest thing was when I watched it was I didn’t like what I did and I was a bit underwhelmed with my performance. I thought I could have worked a bit harder, I thought I could have created a character at the least instead of being a stoic, bland, boar-headed idiot — and that’s just my opinion.
What about the 3D element, something that was really criticized in the first film?
Well, that’s out of my hands, I have no control over that whatsoever but I know that the producers and the studio took the criticism of the 3D seriously so you know they’ve been working continuously on that, from day one of filming. You don’t want to kind of screw up a movie by having a lazy conversion. So I know that they’re definitely really refining and lifting their game in that respect.
What’s the status of “Avatar 2”?
I think [James Cameron] is doing something at the moment — I think he’s in Australia or something like that — but we’ve talked a lot about the story behind “Avatar 2” and whenever he’s ready to go is when we go. No one really tells him what to do. I think he’s still probably just refining it and he’s going to do it when it’s a challenge for him and when he can give an audience another adventure, because that’s how he looks at movies, making sure the audience can get the best ride that they can get.
Are you going to go see “Titanic” in 3D?
I’ll be shot if I don’t.
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