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Man on a Ledge – Sam Worthington dares us

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Man on a Ledge - Sam Worthington
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) on a ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York © 2011 Summit Entertainment

Perhaps the most popular action hero in movies today, with such successful films as Avatar, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Clash of the Titans, Sam Worthington’s new movie could certainly be called a thriller.

In Man on a Ledge the actor portrays Nick Cassidy, a former NYPD officer-turned-prison escapee, who enters the famed Roosevelt Hotel in New York, checking into a room on one of its highest floors. Cassidy goes out on the ledge of the building, insisting on speaking to New York Police Department negotiator Lydia Spencer (Elizabeth Banks), who tries to talk him.

At the press junket for the movie, which was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, the journalists were invited to step out on the ledge surrounding the 16th floor. When Sam Worthington entered our room, he asked us if we had dared to do it, like he did when shooting the movie? When we all said no, he laughed and remarked, ‘Smart move!’ And then the interview began.

Why didn’t you just do the ledge work with green screen, did you feel people wouldn’t believe it?

Man on a Ledge - Sam Worthington
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) on a ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York © 2011 Summit Entertainment

That was the plan. I just happened to get a bit more confident out there, so the more confident I kept getting, the more confident and ambitious the camera guys got, and then you find you’re doing the majority of the movie out there anyway.

It was one of those things, ‘Shall we try this scene to see if we can do it out here?’ So we got a bit surprised by how much we could actually achieve on the ledge.

Did being out there serve the character?

The first time I ever stepped out on the ledge is actually in the film. That’s the first moment I actually stepped out that window. I just said, ‘Roll the cameras and see what happens.’ I got lucky that I didn’t burst into tears or roll up into a little ball and go, ‘I want out.’

That wouldn’t have been a good career choice or a good character choice. Essentially the more you’re out there you just don’t get complacent. You can’t run up there, you can’t swing and jump and do things, but every now and then a solid doze of where you are comes back into play.

With all the action in this you are limited on the ledge. As an actor was that hard?

Man on a Ledge - Sam Worthington
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) on a ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York © 2011 Summit Entertainment

Kind of, it’s different, because it is an action movie where the majority of the movie the action guy is rooted to the spot. So I didn’t find it much of a challenge, it was just how do you keep the dynamics of those scenes different?

In the end, edit helps, flicking back and forth between the different journeys, that keeps the pace up. And when you’re working with someone like Elizabeth, she’s very smart at trying to find different dynamics in a scene.

How important is it to you that all the pieces of the story puzzle fit?

Some of them, I’m not too sure if they do fit. I’m not putting the movie down, there are some bits if you think too hard on them you’re going to go, ‘What? I don’t buy that.’ That’s fair enough, that’s the type of movie that I think this is.

I think it’s an unashamedly popcorn movie, it’s a really heighten concept and if you think too deeply on it, is a guy really going to be able to hold a city hostage in this day and age? So you just suspend you disbelief a bit and go with the entertainment factor.

What was the scariest scene for you to do?

Man on a Ledge - Sam Worthington
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) on a ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York © 2011 Summit Entertainment

The car chase probably. Lorenzo (di Bonaventura, the producer) allowed me to do the car chase myself. That was good fun. I liked doing that, but it was hard because in action movies you think it’s as easy as driving a car really fast, but they are more technical than most people give them credit for.

Any action scene is meticulously designed, and then you throw an actor in the mix and anything can happen.

That’s what keeps the best action scenes on the edge of your seat, because there is an element of danger and threat that is real and prevalent. But to be a part of that and to see how we can do it, I get a kick out of that. That’s the best thing I like about these action movies.

So you were actually behind the wheel and not in a rig being towed?

No, I spun that thing. I was laughing, because I was going, ‘It’s not going to go very fast, it’s a family wagon,’ but you get that thing going on the muddy track and you can get some speed going. And then they said, ‘Don’t burst through the gates!’ And you burst through them anyway. I get paid to do stuff I’d get arrested for.

Do you think of yourself as an action star?

Man on a Ledge - Sam Worthington
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) on a ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York © 2011 Summit Entertainment

These are the only films I get offered. I really would like to do a comedy. I think me, Christian Bale and Russell Crowe would be amazing in a comedy (he laughs).

Anything happening on Avatar 2?

I talk to Jim next week. I know he’s still writing it and he’s doing all these other things, but that type of thing goes when Jim wants it to go.

I had an idea that I wanted to put into Avatar 2, and I just ran it by him and he said, ‘That’s pretty good, keep thinking on it and we’ll see where we can take it.’ He’s the most collaborative director I’ve ever worked with. He loves actors, so you can have those discussions.

He’s very open, it’s his universe and he allows you to play in it. His universe is meticulously designed and then he goes, ‘What do you have to offer?’ It’s like, ‘Here’s the play pit, how are you going to play in it?’

I asked Worthington about returning to the role of Perseus in Wrath of the Titans. Click here to listen to his surprising confession

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