Most of the questions at the Los Angeles press conference for "Clash of the Titans" are directed towards Sam Worthington – and many of them don’t have anything to do with his newest film. Rather, the majority of raised hands are followed by questions about Worthington’s last starring role, as Jake Sully in the #1 highest grossing film of all time, "Avatar"… Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Worthington, dressed in a well-worn heavy metal t-shirt and looking fresh from his bicycle ride to the junket, is asked how his life has changed since appearing in "Avatar", and his answers are unfailingly humble, fitting his dress at and conveyance to this press conference. In many ways, this is a guy who seems to understand that the phenomenon that is "Avatar" has more to do with the audience’s immersive experience of the film than his own performance. Worthington’s a leading man of modern spectacle, and he’s at peace with that. “Part of the reason you make a movie like this is, it’s a fun romp,” he says of "Clash of the Titans". “It’s a Saturday morning popcorn movie. We take it seriously, but the audience doesn’t take it too seriously.”
From last summer’s "Terminator Salvation", to "Avatar", and now "Clash of the Titans", it’s not a stretch to say that audiences have gotten to know Sam Worthington because of the fantastic visual effects that have surrounded him on-screen. But Worthington’s only used this as motivation. On 'Clash', he says, he insisted on doing the bulk of his own stunt work. “The 'Bourne' movies I think changed the game,” he says. “If you cut to a stunt guy, it takes you out of the experience.”
So as the protagonist in so many new digitally-enhanced (if not fully-digital) films, Worthington’s aware that his prime responsibility is to make his own physical work as realistic as possible. And co-star Mads Mikkelsen, who plays warrior Draco, adds that the reason he too insisted on doing many of his own stunts was to fulfill boyhood dreams of heroism. Why make a movie like 'Clash', if you don’t get to fly through the air with a sword jokes Mikkelsen. “Take that away from you, and you’ll go crying to bed.”
Both Worthington and Mikkelsen cite an early sword training sequence as their favorite of the new "Clash of the Titans", and for the same reason: director Louis Letterier ("The Incredible Hulk") gave his actors a great deal of leeway in terms of choreographing their own fight moves. The process, they stress, was collaborative – which made their commitment to its demands that much more rewarding. “We figured it out together,” Worthington says. “We’ve all seen these training scenes before, let’s try and reverse it. That really opened the floodgates… And that’s how you should make a movie.”
For all the digital effects work in 'Clash', this is a film made with big sets, and big stunts – unlike, say, Worthington’s last movie, perhaps you’ve heard of it… “Nothing compares to "Avatar",” he states plainly, and not without some obvious relief. Though it’s clear he’s very grateful for his time working with Cameron, it’s also easy to see that working on 'Clash' was a refreshing change for Worthington.
The film’s penultimate action sequence at Medusa’s lair was shot in the very first week – and Worthington speaks about arriving on that set, with its vertical drops and rocky overhangs, as something of a shock, after four years in a motion capture suit. The dangers were real – finally. “This wasn’t a 300-style green screen movie, so the sets were fun and epic, but they were precarious, especially that set. None of us knew what the hell we were doing. So we formed real solidarity as a group.”
As for what drew Worthington, Mikkelsen, and co-star Alexa Davalos to the project in the first place, all agreed that it was director Leterrier, whose enthusiasm for the potential of a state-of-the-art mythological epic was impossible to resist. Davalos remembers Leterrier acting out whole sequences in their first meeting – a one-man 'Clash' that sold her on him, and the film. “I put my trust in him immediately,” she says. Mikkelsen added, “I met Louis at a café in London. He got up on the table and started acting out the witches, the Kraken, he was everybody... I loved his energy.”
Worthington, for his part, appreciated Letterier’s malleability in shaping the role of Perseus. In both the new and original 'Clash', Zeus (played by Liam Neeson in 2010, and Sir Laurence Olivier in 1981) offers his son a divine sword, capable of slaying even the nastiest enemy. It was Worthington’s suggestion to change Perseus’ response in the new film, from gratitude to apprehension. “He’s half man half god, and he embraces the gods’ side,” Worthington explains. “I thought that was a terrible message to send – that the only way to succeed is as a god. I had this idea that he’d really try to push that aside.” To this end, Worthington’s input made the finished 'Clash' not only a departure from its ’81 predecessor – but also from the early drafts of its own screenplay.
As for what’s next for the stars of the new "Clash of the Titans", both Mikkelsen and Davalos say they’re going to take some time off – though they agreed they’d all love to work with one another again, should 'Clash' earn a sequel. Worthington’s staying a bit busier; next up is the crime drama "The Texas Killing Fields", for which he’s already attended a ‘detective school’ in preparation for his role.
And as for the question on everyone’s lips, Worthington says he’s ready and waiting for marching orders from James Cameron. Even while on set, Worthington says, Cameron was firing off ideas for a planned "Avatar" trilogy.