By Ryan Smith
2:38 PM CST, January 27, 2012
Sam Worthington doesn't exactly look the part of a big-shot movie star.
The 35-year-old Aussie shuffles into a Trump Tower hotel room wearing a dark hoodie, baggy jeans and a generous five o'clock shadow as if he’d just spent the last couple of days hanging out in a skate park instead of jetsetting across the country for a publicity tour.
But don’t take that as evidence that the burly actor most famous for CGI-laden, big budget flicks like "Avatar" and “Clash of the Titans” doesn’t care about his craft. The opposite, in fact, seems to be true.
He went beyond the extra mile when filming “Man on a Ledge,” a crime-thriller-meets-heist flick opening Friday. Worthington plays an ex-cop-turned-thief who threatens to jump to his grisly death on Madison Avenue if the NYPD doesn’t investigate his side of a mystery that implicated him.
Worthington insisted on doing all of his own stunts, even if it meant spending countless hours perched precariously on a 14-inch wide ledge of concrete 255 feet high on the side of New York City’s Roosevelt hotel.
“Afraid of heights? Yeah, I was petrified out there at first. I had a safety harness, but after a while you kind of forget you’re wearing it,” said Worthington, who also suggested that the filmmakers record his very first time on the ledge to add to the realism.
“In the script, my character was desperate from the very beginning and he’s going out on the ledge for the first time, and it’s a very nervous thing,” he said. “So I just thought, ‘Let’s actually put the camera on me the first time I step out there and see what happens.’ Fear can be a hard emotion to get across to an audience convincingly.”
Worthington says he’s committed to being convincing to moviegoers as more than a hunky, muscle-bound prop. He expressed disappointment in the tunic-on-tunic mess of “Titans,” including his own performance, and wants desperately to inject more acting into his future roles. The goal, he says, is to create memorable action roles like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” or Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon.”
“It’s weird because the character isn’t normally there in the roles I’m given. He’s not the driving force of the plot. So I’m working on improving the characters in these things and trying to act a bit instead of just being a conduit for yourself and having fun,” Worthington said. “I don’t think Perseus existed in the [“Clash of the Titans”]; he was just a generic action hero who was just me running around with a shaved head. I don’t think that’s fair on an audience.”
Creating iconic roles is an ambitious goal for an actor who just five years ago was struggling to make ends meet. He literally was sleeping in his car before James Cameron plucked him out of obscurity to play the lead in “Avatar.” After his starmaking turn in Cameron’s blockbuster sci-fi epic and “Terminator: Salvation,” pundits began branding Worthington Hollywood’s “It Guy” in 2009.
Instead of resting on the laurels of his new-found fame, Worthington works even harder.
“I know I’m in a lucky position, but it also means my work has to improve, because my job only exists because of an audience, and my job is to give an audience their 16 bucks worth on a Friday night, and that’s it,” Worthington said. “If I stop doing that, I won’t have a job. You can’t shy away from it, but there’s no point in indulging in it, you just embrace it.”
Embracing the work also means that unlike some of his peers who aim for Oscar-bait type of films, Worthington isn’t embarrassed about making what he calls “popcorn movies.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making movies where it’s just pure entertainment. I like making them and audiences demand them so there’s a place for them along side all your awards movies,” he said. “It’s weird because a lot of actors won’t admit that, but I don’t mind saying it.”
Worthington does draw the line, however, at making another movie that involves hanging on for dear life. So don’t look for “Man on an Even Higher Ledge” in the future.
“‘Man on a Curb’ maybe? I’d do that,” he said. “‘Man on a Couch,’ definitely.”
Man in a video game commercial
The makers of the “Call of Duty” video game series didn’t have much trouble convincing Sam Worthington to co-star with Jonah Hill in commercials promoting “Modern Warfare 3.”
“I’m like ‘Are you kidding me? I get to run around and play real “Call of Duty” and look super cool doing it?’” Worthington said. “Yes, that’s super fantastic.”
Beyond playing the cool-as-a-cucumber “The Vet” to Hill's bumbling “The Noob” in the ads, the Aussie was excited to tell RedEye about all of his other “Call of Duty” experiences.
What was it like to voice Alex Mason in “Black Ops?”
It was great fun, because I had absolute freedom with it. The script was written already but I said, “How mad can Mason be?” I wanted Mason to be an off-the-charts lunatic. My mates were in there the two days I did the voicework, and they were laughing because they’d never seen me play a character like this. It was the kind of thing that can give you more confidence for other jobs.
Do you actually play “Call of Duty” at all?
I played all of them, so it wasn’t like it was something new to me. So I said I'd be involved because I’m a fan. I mean if Rockstar said they wanted me in the “Grand Theft Auto” series, of course I’ll do that for zero money!
Are you good at the multiplayer?
No, I’m [bleep]. I try to get some points but my mates say, it doesn’t improve your game just because you do the [bleeping] voice.
Some have criticized your “Call of Duty” commercials saying they glamorize war. What's your response?
It’s not a reflection of what actual soldiers go through, it’s not what they’re aiming for. To me, their aiming for a reflection of a game, that’s it.
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