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Clash of the Titans – Sam Worthington on how you don’t need to be a god to succeed

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Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington
Perseus (Sam Worthington) © Warner Bros

On a roll with epic, special effects, sci fi flicks, Australian actor Sam Worthington has another blockbuster ready to open, Clash of the Titans. Early last year he co-starred with Christian Bale in Terminator Salvation, and followed that with James Cameron’s Avatar, which has now earned more than $2.35 billion at the worldwide box office, making it the top grossing movie of all time.

In Clash of the Titans, a re-imagining of the 1981 movie, Worthington plays Perseus, the mortal son of Zeus, King of the Gods (Liam Neeson), who volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades, God of the Underworld (Ralph Fiennes) before he can unleash hell on earth.

I spoke with Sam Worthington about his new journey into the realm of Greek mythology.

Were you familiar with the Greek myths that this film is based on?

Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington
Perseus (Sam Worthington) © Warner Bros

In Australia everyone grows up and you learn the myths; like the Minotaur and the Maze, but I really didn’t look at studying Greek mythology for this film. I think there are no bones (about it) this is a fun ride. It’s me in a dress fighting guys in dresses with rubber swords fighting monsters. It’s not a history lesson. I’m a big believer in that so I didn’t look deep into the old Perseus because he wore no clothes. I think that would be quite horrific for young kids (he laughs). But we were well aware of them (the myths), Aussies as much as anyone else.

Did you see the original film?

Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington and Gemma Arterton
Perseus (Sam Worthington) and Io (Gemma Arterton) © Warner Bros

I saw it before. I just reacquainted myself with it.  I’ve been quoted on FilmSchoolRejects.com about what I felt about the original so you can look on that and see it, but everyone has a fondness for that original so we’re on tricky ground here. The purists can crucify you if we screw up so I reacquainted to see are we going to be okay? What was Louie’s (director Louis Leterrier) intention of how to ramp this thing up?

Obviously, the visual effects; the stop-motion Harryhausen did was fantastic for the time. Visual effects now-a-days can boost it as you can see and other things relevant to today’s society, especially to my nine-year-old nephew, so that’s where I felt it wasn’t up to date. There are themes of embracing the God-side and achieving things as a God that I don’t think are good for any of us.

You can only succeed if you’re a God? That’s a terrible thing to say to a kid. If you can say you can do it as a Man and look deep inside you and pull something of yourself out and do it with other men, I think that’s a good message to anybody. I really hammered Louie about that, about wanting to embrace that side of it.

So, the good thing about the original is it’s a good jumping off point for us but we weren’t out to re-make it as such. We were out to put our own modern-day spin on it. That was the key eventually. Watching The Terminator series, you’re trying hard to put your own spin on the franchise.

You’ve done a couple of these films now with special effects. Having come out of a drama school and gone the traditional route originally, does it get easier as you do each one or did each of the special effects films have its own particular challenge for you?

Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington
Perseus (Sam Worthington) © Warner Bros

Any acting is a stretch of the imagination. That’s the job. Acting is truth is imaginary circumstances. Acting with green screen or on a motion capture stage, you’re striving for absolute truth in an absolutely imaginary circumstance. The good thing about this one is I talked to Louie and we learned a lot of lessons on Avatar. If we can’t act, we’re nothing. It’s impossible.

Plus, your body reacts differently. If you’re hitting something that’s not there, your muscles don’t react, so we talked to Louie about making every kind of special effect or visual effect that was going to be in the movie practical. We had, if need be, guys done up in green screen suits, anything to react off of makes our job easier.

The fact that we’re in proper locations helps, we were not on a motion capture stage. That changes it as well. But, I find acting with nothing or trying to find the details to create something out of nothing quite easy. That is drama school. That’s doing a play. It’s just about finding the details as necessary. The more details you put in, the easier it is. So, we had to know the dimensions of the scorpion; how fast is Medusa going run? Then, we can act accordingly when there’s, supposedly, nothing there.

Can you talk about some of the physical challenges of acting in this film and also the challenges of acting in sandals and short outfits?

Clash of the Titans - Sam Worthington
Perseus (Sam Worthington) © Warner Bros

I didn’t wear sandals. I wore Nikes. Nike was a God anyway so that helped. I painted toes on my Nikes. The boys didn’t know about this until about a month in. I was sprinting off and doing a lot bigger stunts and they had all the dirt getting in their sandals and tripping all over the place. I was the smart one.

What about working underwater?

Underwater is harder than I thought (it would be). Underwater is tough.  I thought it would be easy. It slows everything down and times everything by two.  It’s weird. Screw doing The Abyss. I don’t know how Jim (Cameron) did it because underwater’s a hard place to film. It’s only twenty-odd seconds or thirty seconds of film and it took us four days.