Gaining clout in films
Sam Worthington goes out on a limb (actually, a ledge) in his latest role. VEN in his post– Avatar, post– Clash Of The Titans stardom, Sam Worthington remembers what it was like to put it all down on one throw of the dice, to gamble everything on that main chance. He remembers what it was like to unload his possessions, sell everything, buy a car and live in it until he landed a big break.
“I was living in a beat-up old Toyota Corona,” he says. “Mate, it was held together by rope. Spent my last cash – US$4,000 – on that, and it barely drove. So I had to live in it. Get some of my money’s worth, right? It had curtains. Why not?”
He was living on nothing, just clinging to the belief that he’d land a break. He wasn’t that unlike Nick Cassidy, the character he plays in his new film, Man On A Ledge – a fellow at the end of his tether, taking one shot at redemption by stepping out onto the ledge of a New York hotel, drawing attention to his plight even as he schemes to use that attention to mastermind a robbery that will clear his name.
“Nick Cassidy is looking for Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) to be that one person who believes in him. And any actor can identify with that; you’re looking for that one person in the business who believes in you, who gives you a big break. Jim Cameron believed in me and that was all it took – my lucky break.”
Worthington, a rising star in his native Australia, got his Hollywood big break when he was cast in the James Cameron-produced and -directed Avatar in 2009, which led to him being cast in the franchise Cameron started – Terminator Salvation. He could afford to move out of the car.
“I’ve moved up, a bit. Bought an American car – a Chevy Avalanche, something big, obnoxious and amazingly tough. Sends a statement, right?”
Yes, it does, a statement that’s in line with much of Worthington’s big-screen work. The movies have always needed actors able to play larger than life – from John Wayne to Charlton Heston to Bruce Willis, men of action who could stand in front of something epic and not have the movie swallow them whole. Worthington is filling that bill today.
He’s making Avatar sequels. He’s in Wrath Of The Titans in March, another 3D spectacle set in Greek mythology. It’s no wonder that The Village Voice’s Nick Pinkerton nicknamed him “Sam ‘ Mr Greenscreen’ Worthington”, WITH her sparkling blue eyes, blond hair and model-like body, it would be easy to dismiss Elizabeth Banks as just another pretty Hollywood actress.
It only takes a few seconds of talking about her latest movie, Man On A Ledge, to realise she’s a driven, determined and realistic person when it comes to the career she’s selected. “I just figured out that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. All they can do is say no. If you know that going in, then that’s all right,” Banks says.
That’s why Banks went after action-movie roles when good comedy roles dried up. She landed the serious role of police negotiator Lydia Mercer in Man On A Ledge, playing opposite Sam Worthington. after the effects background Worthington does most of his acting in front of.
“I never get offered romantic roles, mate,” he says, mocking his image. “I was griping about that to my agent the other day. ‘ Show me the romances, the musicals.’ I thought it was the haircut (he’s often crew-cut on the screen). But I’ve got a mullet in Man On A Ledge, just to change things up. Still no romance offers. Didn’t work out.”
“Mr Greenscreen” is getting some chances to mix it up. He co-starred in the romantic drama Last Night with Keira Knightley, and stood out in a formidable ensemble in the complex Nazi-hunting thriller The Debt.
“I just pick movies that I’d pay to go and see. Whether they’re Us$200mil (Rm600mil) spectacles, or this little Us$10mil (Rm30mil) movie ( Drift, about the birth of modern surfing) I just finished in Australia. As long as the story interests me and I think other people would be interested in seeing it, I sign on.”
And since he’d loved The Negotiator and Phone Booth, films involving life and death haggling and bargaining between two principal characters in crisis, he grabbed Man On A Ledge.
“It’s another variation on that stand-off negotiation sort of tale. Very simple premise – a man standing on a ledge, desperately trying to proclaim his innocence, making this stand, he’s taken his Alamo. His do or die moment. Stepping into the persona of a guy like that fascinated me and felt like my sort of acting adventure.”
At 35, the native Brit who grew up in Australia is at a point where he’s got “more weight to me,” more clout, which means he may yet get a shot at another acting adventure he’d like to make, about Australia’s biggest battle in the Vietnam War – The Battle of Long Tan. “Narrated a documentary on that, years ago,” Worthington says. “We were going to make it with (Australian director) Bruce Beresford, but it got held up – fell through. Maybe someday.”
He’ll have to make do with Thunder Run, an Iraq War thriller based on a true story of the capture of Baghdad by US forces, a film that will co-star Gerard Butler. And there are those Avatar sequels to get to.
“I went through a bit of that ‘ My time is no longer my own’ thing. But you come through the other side of that if you’re smart. You realise that you’re a very lucky man to be able to do this job. I’ve got to be a bit harder on myself. My job only exists if I keep making movies that audiences want to see. The pressure I put on myself is to do just that.” – Los Angeles Times/mcclatchy-tribune Information Services n Man On A Ledge opens in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.
Filming was done on a set 2.4m off the ground and on a real 27th floor ledge. Banks never balked at doing any of the stunts, including climbing onto the real ledge.
“One of the real fun things about this film was everyone’s commitment for shooting it for real. It was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. I liked the idea of running around with a gun, chasing bad guys and doing my own stunt work,” Banks says.
Banks doesn’t have a fear of heights, but she has what she calls a “fear of human error”. She praises the Man On A Ledge stunt