Sam Worthington is what you might call a "straight shooter." What's most surprising when talking with the Australian-born star -- other than learning about his "Hunger Games" fandom -- is his candor when discussing past films. He's the first to admit that he didn't like his performance in "Clash of the Titans" (the 2010 predecessor to his current film, "Wrath of the Titans"), going as far to say that he felt he didn't have a character in that first film. But what if he didn't like his performance in a movie that he's currently promoting? Worthington is far from shy when discussing what he feels is his responsibility as an actor in relation to the audience.
In "Wrath of the Titans," Worthington once again plays Perseus, the son of Zeus. The now-famed half-man, half-god, Kraken-killer has decided to, along with his son, Helius, live the quiet life of a fisherman. And through the course of the film, we learn how important and exciting the fishing industry is, even in ancient Greece. OK, that last sentence is a lie. In "Wrath of the Titans" there are gods and lava monsters and sword fights, as Perseus and his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), must battle Perseus' grandfather, Kronos (CGI Lava Monster).
Here, Worthington explains what works about this sequel, as opposed to the first film; why criticism is healthy; and why he didn't wear his "Hunger Games" t-shirt to our interview.
Unless James Cameron is sending you updates from the bottom of the ocean, I'll spare you the "What's the latest with "Avatar 2"?" question.
Yeah, I've know about his expedition for years. The Mariana Trench: No one knows what's down there! I don't think he's going to come back. I think there's a sea monster.
You've been pretty critical of "Clash of the Titans." What do you like better about "Wrath of the Titans"?
Well, I like my performance better. Because I don't think I had a character in the first one -- and I think I created one this time. I like the fact that we dealt more with issues like family, that we kind of utilize with Liam and Ralph [Fiennes]. And it was one of the big things that me and [director] Jonathan [Liebesman] set out to try to do -- try and do bigger things instead of just blowing up shit. I like the fact the special effects in this one are amazing -- they look much better.
I did like how the scene of Pegasus flying under the wall of fire looked.
Yeah, it's a good little scene. And Jonathan was really smart: he extended that. Originally it was kind of the same as the Kraken: as soon as Perseus appears with the Kraken, the Kraken died. And me and Jonathan definitely listened a lot to what was being blogged and what was being said -- because he went in and extended that whole sequence. And it fleshed it out a lot better than it was. Mainly, that's what we set out to do. There's only a point in doing a sequel if you improve on the first or you give the audience more satisfaction.
I don't doubt that Jonathan reads the blogs. I spoke to him for a Wired magazine piece about "Battle: Los Angeles," right before he started filming 'Wrath." After the interview, he asked me for my honest opinions about "Clash."
That's why me and him get along. We both are fans of movies, which helps when you're doing something that's kind of a commercial movie like this. Then, secondly, you do take into consideration everything that's said -- that's the paranoia aspect of this.
And at least in this one you didn't have Jake Sully hair.
Well, yeah, the hair sucked. So, you grow it.
I was under the impression you didn't have a choice, because you were basically filming "Avatar" and "Clash" at the same time.
Oh, no, it was my idea in the first one. No, man, I wanted it to be shaved because I thought, well, all of these other sword and sandal movies are coming out and everyone had the long hair and it looked a bit girly. So I thought we'd go completely opposite. The problem is, we went too opposite. They said on one blog, "You look like a jarhead out of place in this mythological time." So, I take that into consideration and I grow the locks out.
There's a scene in which Perseus explains the family lineage to his son, Helius. "You're the son of Perseus. You're the grandson of Zeus." I wish you had taken it one step further, "And your great-grandfather -- see that lava monster?"
"That's your great-granddad, Kronos."
"And I just flew a horse into his mouth."
There was a line [laughs] that Toby [Kebbell's] character had earlier when he appeared, "How's that granddad?" But [laughs] it kind of lowers the stakes of the movie. It was a good line, but, in retrospect, the stakes dropped.
In relation to this movie versus the first movie, you've said, "I'm going to try harder this time." Yes, there were problems with the first movie, but I didn't feel you were the problem. Are you being too hard on yourself compared to the other problems that movie had?
No, that's my job. My job is to have a responsibility to the audience and I read everything that the audience said and I took it on board myself. I don't have faults with the movie as a whole. And I don't have faults with anyone else in it. I have faults with myself. And, to me, that's my responsibility. So I don't think I'm being "too hard" -- I think that's my job.
But I feel the main complaint was the 3D. There were many comparisons to "Avatar" in a, "Here's how to do it and how not to do it," kind of way.
It ripples, man. It ripples. It starts with that, then it can ripple. Go read! [laughs], it's as simple as that, and you'll figure it out for yourself. But "Clash" was the first blockbuster to come out after "Avatar." And the conversion was, you know, we didn't spend as much time as we should have. But the studio took that under consideration with this one. The 3D is so much better.
What's the statute of limitations on criticizing a past film? I mean, I've heard you say things you didn't like about "Terminator: Salvation," too...
Well, they're all personal, man. It's like a basketball player or a soccer player -- you're always going to criticize your own job. But I didn't criticize the movie. I loved "Terminator." So I don't think there should be any statute of limitations. I mean, if Diego Maradona wants to talk about how fucking bad his last game was, or David Beckham wants to talk about how fucking bad his last game was, they have every right to do that. Because of his responsibility to the fans and to the country. So my belief is, that's my responsibility -- to criticize a bit. You can say, because of the way it can get written, is that being too humble -- putting yourself down to take the hits before they even come -- I don't know... I think I've done that all my life with every job.
Hypothetical: We're no longer talking about "Wrath of the Titans." You're sitting here promoting a movie called "Hope's Promise." If you didn't like your performance in "Hope's Promise," you can't say that right now because the studio would be angry.
It depends what I don't like about it. Sometimes you do it in retrospect because you have to get away from it yourself and look back. And if it's "Hope's Promise 2," then you have a responsibility to "Hope's Promise." With "Terminator 4," we were the fourth quadrant, so you have a responsibility to the canon of the films that came before. With this, there's a responsibility to "Clash 1" and, in some respects, the 1980s movie. If you've noticed, I haven't criticized myself in "Avatar," do I? So, in "Avatar 2," if I can go, "Well, in 'Avatar 1' I tried this, now I get the opportunity to try it in 'Avatar 2.'" So you have to look at it in context.
So when "Avatar 2" comes out, that's when you'll be critical of yourself in "Avatar"?
Well, if there's stuff that I didn't do in "Avatar 1" that I want to put in "Avatar 2" -- whether that's criticism or healthy constructive criticism.
I think it's healthy.
I think it's good, man. And I don't know why people make a big deal about it.
Because not many actors do that publicly.
You know, I'd like some actors to turn around and... Like if Johnny Depp hassled the other "Pirates" movies -- that's a bit weird, right? But when he talks about his own performance in say something like "Secret Window," or another one he did, that's cool. At least he took on board something -- some level of responsibility that you should have as an actor.
I was surprised to see Bubo back because I'm under the impression that you hate him.
[Laughs] That's the producer. The producer, Basil [Iwanyk] likes Bubo. And, to its credit, that scene works now because Bill [Nighy] has someone to bounce off of. Initially it was just an imaginary friend, but, for some reason, having him talking to Bubo grounds the scene. It gives it another level. So Basil was right on that, I was wrong.
Which do you enjoy doing more, independent movies like "Last Night" or action movies?
Well, I consider them "blockbusters." I don't look at them as "action movies," or "romances."
Why do you look at it that way?
Because I think there's drama in this one. I think there's humor in this one. So, therefore, how do you classify that? I mean, there is action. But there's action in "The Debt," but you don't call that an action movie.
I feel CGI and Action have become interchangeable terms.
Yeah, kind of. But I don't like classifying them that way. I don't like doing that. That's good for a DVD store or Netflix, but I don't really find that it's good for me.
OK, let me rephrase: a smaller movie versus a larger movie.
It's tougher because they're quicker. You have less time, so there's a different sense of pressure compared to a bigger one. But you can't look at it that way. I think if you ask Liam that, he'd say the same thing. You don't judge them by the size or the scale or the budget.
But you can judge it by, "I get to wear normal clothes."
Yeah, well, I like doing the crazy ones. I like doing the big ones because I'm doing stuff that I wouldn't do in normal life.
You get to be a superhero.
Yeah. In the other one I get to, what? Court women? Walk around New York City?
Well, those sound like fun things, too.
[Laughs] But I can walk around New York City! But I can't ride a Pegasus and fly down the throat of a fucking lava monster! Part of me gets excited by visiting new worlds.
If a lava monster showed up at the end of "Last Night," that would have been an unexpected plot twist.
[Laughs] It might have improved it. It might have been a little bit weird, but it would have been, "Oh, that's cool."
Before you did "Avatar," did you look back at what happened to Leonardo DiCaprio for the first few years after "Titanic"?
He did "The Beach." And he was criticized for it.
Right. And he was on the cover of an endless amount of Teen Beat magazines. Were you worried about that happening after starring in the biggest movie of all time?
I think Leo was in his 20s. I was 30. So the age helps.
But it's not like you don't look young in "Avatar."
Yeah, but I'm still 30. So when my publicist says, "Do you want to be on the cover of Teen Beat," I go, "No." I'm not going, "OK!" So that kind of distances you from that. I think, also, I don't know... I already had a career. DiCaprio, yeah, had been working since he was 16 or something, but I had done 10 years in my own country. I kind of knew where I wanted to go. And it's whether you get caught up in it or not or want to get sucked up into it. You look at the "Twilight" boys or look at Liam Hemsworth now in "The Hunger Games," with what's about to go and happen with those boys. That's a situation that, I know, DiCaprio's been fighting against for several years. And it's one in which it has its ups and downs and hindrances and helps, but I don't know personally if that would have been good for me.
Are you going to see "The Hunger Games"?
Yeah, man. Go Team Peeta!
There's my headline, "Sam Worthington is Team Peeta." I was not expecting that.
[Laughs] I almost wore my "Hunger Games" t-shirt today, but I was worried that Warner Bros. wouldn't like that.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter