Exclusive Interview: Sam Worthington Talks The Shack, Avatar 2 And Hacksaw Ridge

It looks like you’re going to be in Avatar land for the foreseeable future. The films are going to be shooting back to back, right? Is that the plan?

Sam Worthington: They’ll shoot kind of concurrent.

So you’ll have a little time in between to do other stuff?

Sam Worthington: Yeah, that’s the plan. I think. Those things are always ambiguous until you start them.

The first one is still set to start shooting in the summer?

Sam Worthington: Yeah and more so now probably than it’s ever been. In the past, people have said, “yeah, we’re going.” But until the boss tells me, until James Cameron tells me — I talked to him the other day and he was like, “yeah, this is what we’re aiming for.” So I think he just had to perfect the scripts. Like I said, it always comes down to that and that’s what he’s been working on.

Has there been any struggle with the time gap in between finishing the first one and now, staying committed to a project that long? Like you said, you were in a different place in your life during the first one.

Sam Worthington: It’s two things. Whenever Jim says jump, I go because he’s the man.

True, this is James Cameron we’re talking about.

Sam Worthington: I love working with him. He brings out the best in me and spoils you for everybody else because I just love his intensity, commitment and collaboration. Then, he’s also an extremely smart filmmaker. He knows you can’t have Jake Sully from say eight years ago as the character now. So where has Jake Sully gone? Jake’s journey was over. So what happened to him in that eight years and then what’s happened to Sam in those eight years and is there a way we can marry them and where does that take the story?

Have you seen any of the scripts?

Sam Worthington: Yeah, I’ve read them all, talked to him about it.

Is there anything that you can share as to where Jake will be going?

Sam Worthington: I don’t think it’s a secret, Jim says they’ve got family now. He’s very smart. That’s a uniting thing. Yes, it’s going to be a blockbuster and like nothing you’ve ever seen. The world is a lot bigger than the first one. But essentially it’s a movie about a family and we can all relate to that whether you’re six or sixty. You can relate to the relationships and issues that go with having a family.

This time around, knowing that you are Jake Sully, he should be more able to write the character with you in mind, right?

Sam Worthington: He knows me. He knows what lines I refuse to say or can’t say or struggle with. He knows my truths very well, better than anybody and he knows the character of Jake because he helped create it. Jake is a kid. That’s what he was. We designed him as a big kid. He was based off my nephew when I approached it who was at the time six or seven. It’s a character seeing the world for the first time and being told not to touch things and he does. That rebellious spirit makes him a teenager. That was to me how I approached Jake Sully. Plus, that’s a lot more fun to play than as a hardened marine.

In this one you still have to have that essence of a kid seeing the world for the first time. But he’s been living in the world, so what’s the world that he’s seeing for the first time? Well, parenting is the lesson. So he’s still learning like he does in the first one because they’re learning to be this family dynamic. That’s relatable. Even though we’re going to be on this fantastical planet or movie.

You have to keep these fantastical stories grounded in certain universal respects.

Sam Worthington: Jim is the best at that. Look at Titanic. It’s the connection between those two people even though we know the boat is going to sink and that’s the spectacle of it. Terminator 2? One of the best sequels there is. It’s about fathers and sons.

That’s actually my top action sequel of all-time.

Sam Worthington: Yeah, he’s very good at sequels. Aliens anyone?

Exactly!

Sam Worthington: So you don’t ever underestimate the man, dude. [laughs]

You can never underestimate James Cameron. So, you’ve got a TV project coming up. Can you talk about the difference in process and how you’re able to balance that with your film work?

Sam Worthington: I’ve always been able to balance. I don’t ever look at it whether they’re blockbusters or indies, support or main roles. I’ve been in the very lucky position where I can pick and choose. It’s weird. People go, “you don’t do blockbusters anymore, Sam.” I did them! I don’t want to do them anymore. If I’m going to do them, I’ll do Avatar, the biggest one. I did those studio films, Clash and Wrath. Now, you want to satisfy another urge. So you satisfy it with an indie film or a support role or a TV show.

The hard thing about a TV shoot is that is it’s like shooting four films at once but you get to develop a character for more than say ninety minutes. There’s a speed facet that’s unusual for me. So I always look at it as is the story compelling? Am I going to get something out of it? At the end of the day, if you’re picking the same massive movie all the time, you’re going to get bored. Actors are these travelling entertainers. That’s what they are. They would do anything in Australia. Go talk to Hugh Jackman. That’s what they do. They do anything. You do musical theater to movies if you’re lucky enough. That’s how I’ve always approached it. What am I going to learn from this one? Is this going to be a different experience for me?

That concludes our chat, but many thanks to Sam Worthington for his time. Be sure to check out The Shack when it opens in theaters nationwide on March 3rd!