Texas Killing Fields - Sam Worthington
Homicide Detective Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) © 2011 Anchor Bay Films

Known for his roles in such blockbusters as Avatar, Clash of the Titans and Terminator Salvation, this year has given us a new Sam Worthington, indie actor, starring in the critically acclaimed The Debt opposite Jessica Chastain and now Texas Killing Fields, also with Jessica Chastain.

Inspired by true events, Worthington plays homicide Detective Mike Souder, working in a small Texan town, who along with his partner, a transplanted New York City cop, Detective Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Detective Pam (Chastain) attempt to track down a sadistic serial killer who is dumping his victims’ bodies in a marsh the locals call ‘The Killing Fields.’

When you were initially talking with Ami Mann, the director of the film, what things did she say to you that made it clear that you had to take part in this project?

Texas Killing Fields - Sam Worthington
Detective Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) © 2011 Anchor Bay Films

I had one meeting with Ami and Michael (Mann, the movie’s producer), and they gave me a stack of information about the ongoing investigations, and pictures of the actual guys Jeffrey and I were going to play.

There was a piece of paper that had pictures of a multitude of girls who had gone missing in that area and had either been found dead or it was still an ongoing investigation into why they’re not around.

They were about the same age as my sister, if not younger, and it touched me, and it made me go, ‘I’ve never even heard about this place, or these events.’ That was it. If this movie [nudges] someone’s [memory], who maybe sees it and remembers something, it might help the investigation.

How closely does the movie follow the real events?

It was not just one murder, there have been many murders and we had to be very careful with the movie, and that’s why we fictionalized the events.

The characters are real but the actual events are a fictionalized amalgamation, because you want to be sensitive to the families who have lost people, or are still searching to figure out what happened to their loved ones.

It’s because of that responsibility I think you try to do the best that you can to portray a movie worth seeing so that the families go, ‘They’re not just exploiting us. They’ve got a reason to make this movie and maybe that reason is to [jog] someone’s memory.’ So you do have to handle it with some delicacy.

When you started to know about the Texas Killing Fields, what surprised you the most about the real events?

I went out there with the character I play, Mike, and I walked around the place and it does have a scary atmosphere to it. Then I went with Mike to the dump sites where he found several of the bodies and what you realize most is how easy it is if you were going to dump a body there.

It’s so remote, it’s so removed; it’s so distant and disturbing that you can see why this place has been picked by so many horrible people.

The affect it’s had on Mike helped me get into his head space. Also what I found about that place was there is still a fearful factor about it. People do travel along that highway all the time between work, and people do live near it, there is a foreboding sense of fear along there.

Can you talk about playing Mike?

Texas Killing Fields - Sam Worthington
Detective Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) © 2011 Anchor Bay Films

Mike is a real former detective, he’s 6’4”; he looks nothing like me. He’s volatile and bombastic, but it was something that I really admired because he was just concerned about getting the job done.

When you’re portraying someone like that, who is that passionate and antagonistic, it’s stays with you, it comes out of the fabric of your being. Being that guy all the time does affect you, it does take its toll, because I’m not as full on as he is. I’m a bit more shy and reserved than him.

But you have to try and pull those characteristics out of you, that forcefulness to solve the crime no matter what.

He’s out for justice; he’s committed his life one hundred percent to getting justice against criminals. I really respect him, finding a murderer is like finding a needle in a haystack. And this guy puts his life on the line to do it.

Can you talk about working with Jeffrey?

Texas Killing Fields - Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) © 2011 Anchor Bay Films

There is an antagonistic quality between our characters. But Jeffrey’s a nice, sensitive guy. He’s a lot like his character Brian, in that he’s sensitive to other people’s needs.

You work with Jessica Chastain again in this. How does she bring out the best in you as an actor?

Jessica is completely immersive as an actress. She finds her way into a character from the outside in, and I work from the inside out, so we complement each other’s style.

She’s so prepared that she forces you to be equal and to step up to the mark in that respect. And I also get on with her as a human being, we’re friends and we have a trust with each other.

You seem to go effortlessly between blockbusters and indie films – which do you prefer?

I don’t think that you should have to choose. It’s nice to go between the two. I don’t look at the movies in regards to whether it’s a $200 million blockbuster or a $20 million indie.

I don’t look at them as action or drama or romance, I look at what interests me. Is it a movie that I would want to go and see? It’s as simple as that.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.