Sam Worthington has insisted over the years that he isn’t the tough guy he often plays on the big screen, but the star of “Avatar,” “Clash of the Titans” and “Terminator Salvation” did little to disprove his macho persona when we met in his downtown Chicago hotel last week — at least at first.
Worthington, who was born in England but raised in Australia, greeted me sporting a hooded sweatshirt and what looked like week-old stubble. He took a seat on a sofa and said he had never been to Chicago before but heard it was a good place to eat steak and have beers from friends who filmed the Batman movies in the city.
“Stunt guys,” said Worthington, 35, leaning forward on the sofa.
It’s not surprising Worthington is chummy with stuntmen. The bricklayer-turned-actor has worked with several over the years and seems almost envious of their jobs. If it wasn’t for the fact that he physically can’t do certain stunts — including the flip he seems to do in his ad for the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” — he says he would do them all himself.
“I don’t mind doing (stunts),” Worthington said. “That to me is the exciting part of the job. Plus, I think the audience demands it. I think if they suddenly cut away and you realize there is a stunt guy, you’re out of the movie. I try to do it as much as I possibly can. Like the car chase (in ‘Man on a Ledge’). I love doing that. I got to spin the car around the graveyard. I’ll never get to do that in real life.”
In “Man on a Ledge,” which hits theaters Friday, Worthington plays an escaped convict — locked away for stealing a diamond — whose threat to jump off a building buys time for his brother to locate the diamond and prove Worthington’s character’s innocence. Worthington said he required 32 stitches when he cut his leg open jumping through a glass window in the film but, of course, he played down the injury.
“You get yourself back up, get a couple stitches and come back the next day,” Worthington said. “It wasn’t life-threatening. … My nephew gets more (scars) than I do.”
While he won’t complain too often about an injury or demanding stunt, Worthington has admitted in interviews that there are aspects of the job he could do without: Kissing scenes, photo shoots, and, well, interviews.
(It should also be noted that he refuses to own a phone. Why? Because he can. And because he doesn’t want people to be able to reach him directly.)
Worthington, although talkative throughout the interview, seemed most comfortable speaking about anything but himself. He especially loved talking about movies he’s not in. And rather than discuss them like an A-list actor breaking down the craft, he sounded more like an excited fan.
“One of the best movies of the year was ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes,’” said Worthington, listing his favorite action films. “That’s not just an action movie, it’s a prison film. Once the movie goes to (the primate shelter), it’s a prison film and you’re rooting for the (expletive) monkeys. When (Caesar) says, ‘Nooo,’ I lost it. I’m hitting my girlfriend (on the arm), like, ‘You don’t understand. I didn’t see that coming.’”
Worthington also delved into “Die Hard with a Vengeance” and “I Am Legend” and called the action film genre, as a whole, “underrated.” He said the main reason he likes starring in action films is simply because he likes watching them.
By this point in the conversation, it was clear Worthington is the kind of guy Maxim magazine writes about — and for. Not as clear? Why he feels he isn’t as macho as he is made out to be. And so I asked him to prove it.
“I like the Kardashians,” said Worthington, now leaning back comfortably on the sofa. “I watch ‘em. When Kim got the botox in her face and it made her face go weepy, that was funny. I also watch ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ I’ve always been a big fan.”
It didn’t make sense. Why would would an action star watch those shows — let alone one who refuses to join the 21st century and own a phone or join Facebook or Twitter?
“It’s easy to watch,” Worthington said. “And it’s entertaining. That’s what TV should be. Like ‘Man on a Ledge.’ Sometimes we overthink things, but we’re supposed to entertain. That’s what our job is.”