Gain­ing clout in films

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By ROGER MOORE By RICK BENT­LEY

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

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