LOS ANGELES—Sam Worthington could have stayed in Australia and had a pretty good life. A graduate of the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art, he was working regularly in film and television series and seemed to be on track for a lengthy career in his homeland. However, he wanted more challenges and felt that the best way of having them was to create incentive. At a Los Angeles hotel, where he has come to promote the film Clash of the Titans, Worthington says he got rid of all his material goods and started over again.
Watch the trailer for Clash of the Titans.
“I was on the cusp of 30, and I woke up and looked in the mirror and I didn't like what I saw. I sold the mirror and everything else. I call it ”˜control delete', where you just reboot yourself because you can be defined by what you own. I had a great career in Australia. I worked 14 years solidly, but I didn't like the position I was in. So I sold everything at auction to my friends at my house. I even sold the gavel in the end. It is like the Rudyard Kipling poem. If you can risk it all in pitch and toss, then you are a man. I got in the car and drove and thought, ”˜Something has got to give; something has got to crack.' ”
Things worked out. Worthington got the lead role in what has become the highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar. And the producers of Terminator Salvation and Clash of the Titans knew enough about Avatar to hire him to star in their films after he had wrapped principal photography on James Cameron's epic. He says that he is now a big believer in the theory that you do your best work if you have nothing to lose.
“When I started over again, I didn't know that there would be a man [Cameron] who would come along and literally change my life, but I think that if you have nothing to lose, then you have everything to gain. That was the key. If I had auditioned for Avatar and didn't get it, then I put myself in the position where I still had nothing, so it didn't bother me. I could go in and give everything to Jim. I still feel the same now. I don't own anything. I have a bag of clothes and a bag of books and that is all I have. Me and my mate bought a bicycle because I felt it was easier to get around L.A., especially the way I drive. So I am going around like the witch in The Wizard of Oz with a little basket in the front. But my life has changed considerably. Every day you pinch yourself. I am truly humbled by the experience of what Avatar has done. I think you try to handle it with some sensitivity, and you buckle up and enjoy the ride. I am a very lucky boy.”
In Clash of the Titans, which opens in Vancouver on Friday (April 2), he plays Perseus, the mortal son of the Greek god Zeus. When Hades, the god of the underworld, kills off his adoptive family, Perseus vows revenge. Eventually, he joins forces with a small Greek army to show the gods that man is their equal. Worthington says that the experience was different from at least one of his other movies. In Terminator Salvation, he spent most of the film battling demons on his own, while in Clash he is part of an acting ensemble.
“The undertaking was a lot tougher than Terminator. Clash is different. It is an epic journey about a troubled teenager who loses his adopted family and calms down by finding another family. I found that working with a group of actors was a lot more fun.”
Avatar has already helped him to take lead roles in two movies, and one would expect more to come. However, Worthington says he isn't in the business for fame or fortune. “Avatar has given me a lot of freedom. I have said before I am not in this profession to be famous. That is the byproduct of the size and scope of the movies I do. If you want to be famous, you go on [TV's] Big Brother. This job is too hard. It requires a lot of skill and passion. So if I am going to do a film and invest six months of my life in something, it has to be something worthwhile that I would want to go and see myself. Hopefully, we give the audience their 16 bucks' worth. When you get to this point, you get to play with the big boys, and I just want to make big movies.”