Over the past year we’ve seen actor Sam Worthington take on machines, aliens, and even a few humans so we won’t be surprised when he enters an epic battle with the gods in Clash of the Titans. The film is a remake of the 1981 classic that was originally directed by Desmond Davis. This time around, Incredible Hulk helmer Louis Leterrier is bringing the story to life with Worthington leading the way.
At this point in his career, you’d think the actor would be jaded by all the hoopla surrounding his films. He headlined the highest grossing movie of all time with Avatar, and now he’s playing the son of Zeus, King of the gods. His character’s name is Perseus, and unlike his predecessor Harry Hamlin, his portrayal of the demigod depends more on his courage and strength than his boyish good looks. When we spoke to Worthington he was very excited about the release of the film, and interested to see fans reaction to Leterrier’s modernized take. There’s more action, better special effects, and this Australian kid with a buzz cut who’s become Hollywood’s new golden boy.
Clash of the Titans in heavily centered in Greek mythology. It’s based on the idea that there are multiple gods, with the big three being brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Zeus in the most powerful and the creator of mankind. Worthington acknowledged that even as a kid growing up in Australia he heard stories about the gods or in this case “titans” so acting with this material wasn’t new to him.
I don’t know about in America or anywhere else, but in Australia we grow up learning the myths, like the Minotaur and the Maze, and things like that. But, I didn’t really study Greek mythology for this film. This is a fun ride. It’s me in a dress with a couple of guys in dresses, with rubber swords, fighting monsters. It’s not a history lesson. I’m a big believer in that, so I didn’t really look deep into the old Perseus because he wore no clothes. I think that would have been quite horrific for young kids. We were well aware of them, but ours isn’t a history lesson.
Like most people growing up in the 1980′s, Worthington was exposed to the original Clash of the Titans but he didn’t use it as a source of inspiration for the remake. He feels that the major themes in the movies are completely different from each other.
Yeah. I saw it before, and then I just reacquainted myself with it. But, everyone has a fondness for the original. We were on tricky ground here. The purists can crucify you, if we screw up. So, I reacquainted myself with it to see if we were going to be okay with Louis’ intention of how to ramp this thing up. Obviously, the visual effects and the stop motion that [Ray] Harryhausen did was fantastic, for the time, but the visual effects nowadays can boost it, as you can see. I wanted to see, “Are the themes relevant to today’s society, especially to my 9-year-old nephew?” That’s where I felt it wasn’t up-to-date.
The themes of embracing the God side and achieving things as a god are not good for any of us. That you can only succeed as a god is a terrible thing to say to a kid. If you can say that you can do it as a man, and look deep inside of you and do it as a man, I think that’s a good message for anybody, and I really hammered Louis about wanting to embrace that side of it. So the original was a good jumping-off point for us, but we weren’t out to remake it as such. We were out to put our own modern-day spin on it, which is the key to watching anything. If you watch the Terminator series, you see how they had to create their own spin on the franchise.
The majority of the cast includes a group of guys, and there wasn’t a lot of time for them to sit and develop their characters internally before production began. The film was a big fun ride, and they tried to concentrate on the collective heroes journey instead of making it an individual character study.
We didn’t want the boys to get lost, to be honest. It is fast. It’s meant to be fast. It’s a fun movie, man. It’s fun, fast and furious. But, you don’t want to suddenly lose sight of the fact that it’s a group. It’s Star Wars, in a sense. You’ve got your Luke Skywalker (Perseus), Han Solo (Draco) and Princess Leia (Io), the other two boys are C-3PO and R2-D2, and the bloke made of wood is Chewbacca. I said that to Louis one day and he said, “What?!” I said, “That’s the principles of an epic journey. They’re the archetypes that you need to go along.” Thanks to the studio and thanks to Louis, we were able to flush out these boys. We went a lot different from what our original script was, and that means you’ve got a good collaborator of a director on board, who allows each bloke to try to bring out their individuality. That’s what we set out to do, as a group, and everyone was pretty hands-on. It was about, “What am I doing, at this point in time? Where’s the relevance in my character? If I’m just the spear carrier in the background, it’s not fair.” And, I like that. When you get a group that’s collaborative like that, that’s actually good fun to film for six months. No one is feeling like they’re wasted.
One of the actors Worthington got to work closely with was Liam Neeson who stars as his father, Zeus. Within those scenes, the actor admits he was a little nervous but excited to work with someone with Neeson’s background.
It was intimidating and I shat myself [laughs]. He’s the big boy. When you’re playing with the big boys now so you man up and shut up and you listen. Liam acts with such grace. He’s a gentle man and he’s an imposing force onscreen. You literally go in there and it’s a learning experience. You observe what he can do on set, and he gives you advice on how to handle all this and the outside world with hopefully some sensitivity. Same with Ralph [Fiennes]. You listen. These guys did Schindler’s List, and Liam did Rob Roy and Taken, recently. Collectively, there’s 100-odd movies between them, so as far as an infant like me is concerned, you listen.
Worthington’s was trained at a professional acting drama school in Australia so to jump from that type of environment to working with green screens all day must serve as a different type of a challenge, but he doesn’t see it as anything out of the norm.
Any acting is a stretch of the imagination. That’s your job. Acting is truth in imaginary circumstances. Acting with green screen or a motion capture stage, you’re striving for absolute truth in absolutely imaginary circumstances. The good thing about this is that we learned a lot of lessons off Avatar and I told Louis that you can’t act with nothing. It’s impossible. Plus, your body reacts differently. If you’re hitting something that’s not there, your muscles don’t react. So, we talked to Louis about making every special effect, or visual effect that was going to be in the movie, practical. So, we built a big fiber glass scorpion and we had guys dressed up in green screen suits. Anything to actually react off made our job easier. The fact that we were in proper locations helped. We weren’t in a motion capture stage. That changes it as well. But, I find acting with nothing, or trying to find the details to create something out of nothing, quite easy. That is drama school. That’s doing a play. It’s just about finding the details as necessary. We had to know the dimensions of the scorpion and how fast Medusa is going to run, and then we can act accordingly when they supply you with nothing there.
Speaking of reacting, he talked about doing his action scenes in a dress and a pair of sandals and revealed how he found a loophole around his uncomfortable costume.
I didn’t wear sandals. I wore Nikes, and I painted toes on my Nikes. I was sprinting off and doing a lot bigger stunts while they had dirt getting in their sandals and they were tripping all over the place. I was the smart one that thought ahead.
Contrary to belief, the majority of the film was shot on location, so the actors had to deal with their dialogue, fight choreography and the elements simultaneously.
The altitude was ridiculous. I don’t know exactly how high up we were. And, the terrain of Wales sucked. That was the worst place I’ve ever filmed. I love the Welsh and Wales is a beautiful place, but not a fucking slate mine with the rain going up. — that was tough. That is the entrance to the Underworld. You know you’re in trouble when everyone around you on set is wearing a hard hat and things are falling off while you’re just standing there in your dress. You know you’re in trouble.
And, shooting underwater was harder than I thought. Underwater is tough. I thought it would be easy. It slows everything down. It times everything by two. It’s weird. Screw doing The Abyss. I don’t know how Jim [Cameron] did it ‘cause underwater is a hard place to film. That’s only 20 or 35 seconds of film, but that took us at least four days.
After playing so many heroes on film, Worthington discussed the heroic qualities that are present in Perseus, that you’ll also find in Jake Sully, and Marcus Wright. You might be surprised by his answer.
It’s two things. It’s heroic it’s not fighting. It’s actually getting back up off the canvas. Or, if someone else gets knocked down, you help them up. That’s how I look at it. That’s my definition of a hero. I wanted Perseus to be like a troubled adolescent. The whole movie is about family, in my book. He loses his adopted family, and he is a boisterous teen. I didn’t want him to listen to anybody. Out of that, he finds a heroic quality through finding another family, and learns to calm down and become an adult. Every movie I do has a lot of similarities. There’s a duality of man, whether it’s half-man/half-God for Clash, half-man/half-robot for Terminator or half-man/half-big blue alien for Avatar. I’m either screwed up or searching for something within myself. I like those characters. Heroism doesn’t come out of what you believe you can do, but it’s how other people endow you with it. I think by him learning to calm down and embrace this family, they then can claim that he’s a hero. That’s how I look at heroism.
Between playing a blue alien, a cyborg and a demigod, Worthington jumped from one project to another. He discussed how hectic his schedule was during the filming for all three movies.
I finished Avatar in 2007. Then, straight after that, I did Terminator, two other movies and was going back and forth on Avatar. We worked on Avatar, right up until the last minute. I think Jim [Cameron] called me back one time after Clash. If that makes any sense.
Over the past four years he’s gained plenty of experience with from different directors, but the actor claims it’s hard to compare them to one another.
You can’t. Avatar is its own juggernaut. It’s its own beast. We’ve seen that at the box office, and I can tell you that by filming it. You can’t compare that movie to anything. But, this experience compared to say Terminator was a lot tougher. I thought that this would be a cake walk. I thought me in a dress, running around would be easy, but it wasn’t because it’s fast. The way Louis shoots is very fast. There’s a lot of energy on set, running around with three cameras the whole time. Going to these extreme locations made it tougher than I thought, I must admit.
As usual. Mr. Worthington can’t get out of any press situation without talking about Avatar 2 and the potential story for the film.
We have discussed Avatar 2. He brought it up, even when we were filming it. He would have ideas that related to what we were filming in the first one. Obviously, we’re not going to go into that until Jim finds himself a challenge. He’s not the type of man that just goes into movies lightly, especially he’s not going to just do a sequel to make money. But, also we know that it’s been embraced by audiences, so we’re probably definitely going to undertake another one. But it’s up to Jim to find the challenge to push himself. Avatar 2 has to push the boundaries like Avatar 1 did.
He also gave a little nugget about his work in the crime drama, The Texas Killing Fields, which will have him taking on a smaller, more serious role. He discussed his character and the schedule for when he’ll start filming it.
I play a guy who was a real cop. It’s inspired by true events, about murders that went down in a Texas city. It’s an amalgamation of stories, but it’s inspired by these horrific events that happened down there. It’s after I finish promoting Clash.
With all this success comes a lot of pressure, but Worthington has been able to keep his head on straight and stay the same guy he was when arrived in the States a few years ago. His job is to be an actor, and he wants to do that job to the best of his ability.
I’m not out here to be a star. I’m out here to help tell stories. If you want to be a star, go on “Big Brother.” I came out here to help the director facilitate his vision, which is to tell these escape stories. You can write whatever you want about me in websites and newspapers, but no one really knows me. They get the idea that I’m a tough, heroic figure. I’m a sensitive pussycat. When I do my job, I dive into these characters and try to flush something out of myself into these characters, and hopefully that translates well. But I don’t look at any disassociation. I do movies that I would like to go and see. I think that’s a good barometer of how I choose films. I’m with you, I like going to these movies. Our job is to make sure the audience gets their $16 worth. That’s my job.
Clash of the Titans debuts in theaters on Friday, April 2nd in both 2D and 3D.