Tomorrow Man: Sam Worthington

Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage

This December, twelve years after the premiere of Titanic, James Cameron will return with Avatar, a $200 million–plus goliath that is expected to do nothing less than be the first 3-D blockbuster, thus revolutionizing filmmaking and saving the movie business. It’s also expected to launch newcomer Sam Worthington big-time. The Australian actor, now making his marquee debut as a cyborg in Terminator Salvation, spoke with Logan Hill.

You’ve done so many different things in Australia: Shakespeare, tap-dancing, TV, indies like Somersault. It’s hard to get a handle on who you are.
In Australia, there’s a minimal number of acting jobs, so you do everything to pay the rent. It was my apprenticeship. We travel fifteen hours to get to America, where our dollar gets cut in half. You’re not going to waste your time. It’s too expensive.

It took six months for James Cameron to persuade the studio to let an unknown actor carry his first film in twelve years. Why did he pick you?
He needed someone who was up for the job—a year of shooting. And you fucking throw something at me, I’ll do it. That kind of chutzpa and balls is what Jim likes, because that’s what he’s like.

Did Cameron get you the Terminator Salvation job?
I don’t know. McG [the director] said he wanted to see me, then I asked Jim what he thought and he said, “Just don’t fuck it up.” I’m sure McG asked Jim how I was to work with, and I’m sure he said I’m a pain in the ass.

You play an early-model, half-human Terminator. I noticed a few nods to Schwarzenegger.
Yeah. My character walks solid. His eyes scope before the head moves. But I didn’t want to come across as an android—I wanted to show a robot who feels pain.

Can you put Christian Bale’s infamous on-set blow-up in context?
It was a grueling shoot. We were making a gritty, visceral war film. This movie isn’t for pansies.

In Avatar, you play a disabled Marine in the future—another tough guy.
People try to pigeonhole me. My view is that everyone’s tough—it’s just how it comes out. Jim hasn’t given me the green light to start babbling about the film, but it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Are you prepared for stardom, American style?
I’m 32, man. If I was 22, I’d probably get lost and caught up in my own bullshit. I know who I am now. But you always fear you won’t get another job.

But you have lots of work lined up: Last Night, with Keira Knightley, then a big-budget Clash of the Titans.
You might say that’s a weird choice, but who wouldn’t want to chop the head off Medusa and battle scorpions and witches? That’s a boy’s dream!

Have fun while you can, right? Terminator’s dystopia is set in 2018.
Just around the corner, isn’t it? If I’m in my early forties, and that’s the world? I’ll kill myself. Fuck it!

Terminator Salvation.
Warner Bros. May 21.

Tomorrow Man: Sam Worthington