Tag Archives: Sam Worthington

Interview: Elizabeth Banks of ‘Man on a Ledge’

With her shimmering blonde hair and elegant demeanor, Elizabeth Banks could have been just another rising starlet — but fortunately, her whip-crack sense of humor and no-nonsense approach meant she became an invaluable addition for directors looking for an actress who could fill out a punchline or a character as well as dress. In “Man on a Ledge,” Banks plays the disgraced hostage negotiator Sam Worthington’s character summons, by name, to the 21st floor of the hotel where he’s high above the city streets. It is, of course, all part of the plan … We spoke with Banks in Los Angeles.

MSN Movies: In this film, your character wakes up, hung-over, in a messy room — and then you have to get up and save the day as one of the NYPD’s best. When you read that and you’re completely embracing the cliché of the hard-living hostage negotiator, how much do you love that?


Elizabeth Banks: I pushed for more. I wanted there to be, like, three guys in the bed. I wanted it to be like real rough. I think it’s just the right touch actually. You want to know that there’s a place to go. You don’t want to show up in the movie and have one note to play. You want to make sure you have an arc. I really felt like that was a great intro to sort of say, “This person is in the dumps. She’s at a low point.” I need to redeem myself over the course of this movie, and that’s what Sam and I have in common of course, as characters, and he knows that. It really gave me sort of a place to go. Also I think they just wanted to see me in like my underwear. I’m pretty sure it was just like, “Let’s put the girl in her underwear.”

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Jessica Chastain on The Debt, Rough Thrills and the Sprawling Tree of Life

It’s the classic tale of Hollywood hyperacceleration — you work on a few films over a few years that all come out at once. It’s happening to Jessica Chastain, whose current performance in ‘The Debt” will be followed by a host of other movies — and whose work opposite Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas as a Mossad agent in the ’60s (with Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson as the three-decades-later versions of those characters) drives much of the movie’s excitement. We spoke with Chastain in Los Angeles as part of a round-table interview about “The Debt,” the fast-forward jump of her career and on going into the voice over booth over 60 times for “Tree of Life.”

Talk about, first of all obviously this movie, ‘The Debt,’ and working with Sam…

Chastain: Well, I was really, really fortunate because on ‘The Debt was the first time I met Sam, and a few months before we started shooting, we all came out to London, we all had dinner together — Sam, Marton, John Madden and I. And we knew kind of from the very beginning, the three of us guys, this is going to work. We really liked each other, we were laughing a lot. I felt like the chemistry was absolutely there. And that continued on through the shooting. I’d never done an action film. I mean, most of you guys know this — I went to Juilliard, I was trained in Shakespeare and the classics, and so the idea of me running and jumping into a moving van and shooting guns was so foreign to me. And Sam was wonderful because it wasn’t foreign to him, and he really was my coach during this film — my like action coach, where he would show me the best ways to hold a gun or … Even with the running scenes, he was teasing me. He nicknamed me Tommy Cruise because he says that my action run was as good as Tom Cruise’s. So we had real good fun. After working with him on that, we joked that we had a three-picture deal. So when Texas Killing Fields came up, I thought, well it’s another opportunity to work with him. And now I’m just looking for the third picture. Maybe we’ll expand it to a five-picture deal.

You tend to be unrecognizable in each of your roles. How important is the transformational aspect for you in terms of getting further away from either previous roles or yourself?

Chastain: To me it’s everything, because I don’t want to play the same thing twice. I’ve already started to feel, when Tree of Life came out, I started to get these scripts, and I was like, These are all ‘Tree of Life’ scripts. They’re like very supportive, stand-by-your-man-ty​pe of women. So I do see that Hollywood does try to think, Oh she can do that so let’s have her do it again. And I’m really fortunate that it goes from Tree of Life to ‘The Help to Take Shelter, where I’m hoping that they just won’t know what to do with me. And in fact after I do all my press, I’m going to go shoot a genre film at the end of the year because I’ve never done that before. It’s called Mama. It’s Guillermo del Toro’s company.

In this film, you’re sort of wrapping yourself around the performance duties of doing a thriller. Is that something where you have to educate yourself through study of a genre? Or is it more immersive? Like, you’ve spent your life watching thrillers ranging from the very good to the very crap, so you know how they’re supposed to look.

Chastain: Do you know what the funny thing, actually, about this film though? I didn’t really know that it was a thriller until I saw the first screening of it. Then I was like, What? Like, my heart was beating the whole time and I thought, ‘This is so different.’ I thought I was making like this sweeping drama action film, which of course when I watch it now it’s absolutely a thriller. But I think probably because I approached it like it was a drama — actually, I approach everything, I approached ‘The Help, even though she’s really kind of a goofy character, I approached it like I was doing this great drama. Because then I think that really helps me fill the characters out. But for Mama, the genre film, I’m going to approach it like it’s a drama. I’m going to watch a lot of films to kind of get in the zone, but yeah, that’s how I approach everything.

How much did the training that you actually had to go through mirror the character development, in that she is obviously trained to be able to be physical, but at the same time she has no experience. How did that inform the character as you were playing her?

Chastain: Gosh, I think it informed so much of it. I spent four months before shooting working in Krav Maga and learning that. I didn’t know how to throw a punch. I mean, I had fight combat at Juilliard, but it was more like swords and stuff for Shakespeare plays, which you don’t really see in movies. Um, so this was a lot of hand-to-hand combat, and my teacher was really good at teaching me to use my body weight and different ways that you can twist someone’s arm to make them fall on the ground, even if you’re not incredibly strong. So that gave me a lot of confidence to approach it, but you know I just really tried to put myself in the situation Rachel was in, so in a scene like in the doctor’s office, you know it’s an incredibly invasive spot for her to be in. Usually as an actor I just try to think the thoughts of whatever the character is thinking and that kind of leads to something. The first time I did it was with Al Pacino. He told me it always has to be a big deal. So if I’m really feeling something, it’s best if I can… I usually ask myself, I’m really uncomfortable, why am I uncomfortable? Oh, maybe my character’s uncomfortable. So I always try to connect the real to what I’m doing.

On a physical performance, meat-and-bone, ‘please get your hip out of my stomach’ level, which is worse to shoot, fights or love scenes?

Chastain: Oh gosh. You know, it’s so strange because… I mean, fight scenes are more exhausting, especially the fight scene I had in the film with Marton and Sam, because Marton’s a big guy, you know? And thank goodness for him. He didn’t want it to look like it was easy for me. That was a really exhausting day of shooting for me. But also when I was a child I had a lot of dance experience, so for me a fight, I realized, is like dancing because you have your scene partner and you’re both counting silently. So it’s like a duet of sorts. So that’s… you know physically, fight scenes are harder. Just love scenes are hard because they’re embarrassing. Like, nudity, all that stuff. Anything like that is just really embarrassing, and once you can kind of get over that, then it’s fine. So I guess love scenes are more emotionally difficult and fight scenes are more physically difficult.

When I saw you in Berlin, it was for ‘Coriolanus,’ and at that point none of your movies had come out yet, and you’d been working for four years. And now we’re going to have seven of them out. What’s it like to actually start getting the reaction, to be recognized, to do the red carpet, to sort of have this career pop now, when four months ago nobody knew who you were?

Chastain: It’s a very strange thing. I mean, to be honest I don’t get recognized, which is great. To me it’s not important to be recognized. When someone comes up to me and says that they saw Tree of Life or that they saw ‘The Help and were able to piece it together that I was in and say nice things, of course I love that. I love talking to people who have seen the film. But for me it’s so important to be able to disappear into the roles, and I think sometimes a trapping of fame is that someone knows so much about you that they don’t want you to disappear into the role. They want you to be how they think you are. So right now, it’s all great. I’m getting to do the work and I’m getting to have a normal life. I am still shy, like the red carpet for me is… it’s a shy thing. Especially that Cannes one was out of this world and terrifying and exciting at the same time. So I’m learning. I’m still learning this part of the business.

As a follow up to that, just so we have some perspective, could you tell us what order you shot the films in?

Chastain: Salome is the very first film I did, which was great because it started from… I was an actor who did a lot of theater and television, so I would go back and forth and do both. And I got cast in Salome, the play version, with Al Pacino. We did it at the Wadsworth Theater and then made the film of it. So it was a really easy transition to make the film for me because I’m acting opposite one of the greatest actors of all times, and I get to see his performance change from a 1,400-seat theater to the camera and all the lessons he gave me with that. So it started with Salome, Jolene, I did a movie — the title changed so many times — I think it’s called Stolen now, Tree of Life, ‘The Debt… what did I do next?

And then the one with Michael Shannon, ‘Take Shelter?’

Chastain: That was last year. So after ‘The Debt I think I did the TV movie, Murder on the Orient Express, then I did Coriolanus, then I did Texas Killing Fields, then I did Take Shelter, then I did ‘The Help, then I did a couple days on Terrence Malick’s next film. Then I did Wettest County. I’m exhausted. The Wettest County in the World is the John Hillcoat film with Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Gary Oldman.

As a follow-up and to clarify a matter of apocrypha, and asked politely just out of curiosity, I was informed by external sources that you went into the voice-over booth 60 times for ‘Tree of Life.’ Is that number accurate?

Chastain: I never counted, but that would make sense, yeah. Over the past four years, I was called many times and asked would I mind putting some voice-over work on tape. I love it. Because I come from the theater, I love the idea of workshopping something. I worked on Salome for a year. I love the idea of things taking their time and finding their way. So I made sure to let Terry know he could ask me to go in as many times as he wanted. I love being an actor, I love the creativity of it, of creating something. It’s not about me feeling, Oh, I want me free time. I could’ve gone in that booth 60 more times.

But if he called you right now, would you be like, ‘Oh Jesus, Terry, let it go’?

Chastain: No, I would do it. Because I know, someone told me, that he’s working on a longer… I would absolutely do it. Even for Salome, I did that a lot for Salome over the last few years, for ADR and actually — I think it was like a year and a half later — I did another scene for the film. So I have no problem. I’m such a fan of directors and films and actors, which is why I probably… every film I’m like working with Helen Mirren or Terrence Malick, all these great artists, that any opportunities to spend time with them is an opportunity for me to learn from them and kind of enrich my life. So I’m going to do it. I would be the one to be calling Terry going, Do you need more voiceover? That’s me.

From my article at The Hitlist

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Sam Worthington: Invested in The Debt

Skin tan, hair shaggy and a bracelet spelling out ‘CHEWY’ in small blocks around his wrist, actor Sam Worthington speaks his mind — great for interviewers, but maybe less so for the producers he’s worked with before. In “The Debt,” an English re-make of the Israeli thriller “Ha-Hov,” Worthington plays a Mossad agent alongside Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas in the search for the fugitive Nazi war criminal “Dr. Vogel” (Jesper Christiansen) behind the Iron Curtain in the ’60s . while Ciáran Hinds, Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson play the same characters decades later, with the aftershocks of their mission still playing out personally and politically. We spoke with Worthington in Los Angeles about “The Debt,” re-makes and how he’s hoping to make “Avatar II” and a second “Clash of the Titans” more than just Roman-numeral retreads.

When you know you’re going in a film that’s a remake, do you look at the original or do you shun it?

Worthington: In this case, I’d seen the original before the movie had even come up, so I knew what it was about and could recall it. I didn’t go back to revisit it. There’s certain bits of that we actually thought we could expand on the characters in that there was a bit more stereotypes than we wanted, and there was other little holes that we changed in our script. In this case, I didn’t go back to look at it.

Did you know while you were making it how claustrophobic the middle act was going to get, between the failure of the extraction and them being trapped for so long?

Worthington: The good thing about it, we filmed in order in that house, so we had four or five weeks in that house where we played happy families. By the third week, Vogel (played by Jesper Christensen) came in and was spitting porridge at us and stuff like that. That’s when the place started to get (like) you don’t want to go to work, because the parallel of being on that set everyday and the claustrophobia that set and the claustrophobia of the movie itself, the fictional part of it, started to cross over — which is always great, because you’re not having to act; you’re just in there hating the place. You can feel it, definitely; you wanted to get out of there.

Did you and Ciarán Hinds meet?

Worthington: Yeah, we met for about 45 minutes. I know that Marton and Tom had a lot more time, but Ciarán, I told him where I started: ‘So idealistic. He wants to do the mission, and he’s got all this family, the ghosts of his family that he wants to lay to rest if he completes the mission. This is where I think he starts to crack; it’s where he ends up. I don’t know what happens in that 30 years or where you want to start,’ but that’s what I gave him. I think that’s the type of person Ciarán is: He doesn’t need too much information to create his own character or his own transition.

You were saying earlier that you don’t really read scripts. It’s all about good story. If somebody said to you — somebody were rude enough or direct enough — and said, ‘In a nutshell, why ‘The Debt?” what would be the one sentence you’d say to them?

Worthington: It’s three things: Always the goal of the director, because no matter what, a script can change; a director cannot. Someone like John Madden, there’s a sensitivity about him, there’s an ease and a grace about him that translates itself to work ethic. Then with the script, what I loved about the script was I read it, and it just read fast. You didn’t go, ‘I’m bored.’ It was a page-turner. Straightaway, you go, ‘This guy — who’s an easy director — can he take on a speedy-paced thing?’ You put the two together and say, ‘Would I pay $16 to go see a movie helmed by John Madden? This guy did ”Shakespeare in Love,’ so he’s going to try extra hard because this is a different type of movie for him, and there’s a speed on the script. I’m in.’ That’s how it works: Director, script, and then, would I go and see it.

The whole acting process thing — how much of it is the retro clothing and the retro haircut? When you get that haircut put on and it’s short and it’s close –

Worthington: I think that all helps. Accent, costume, clothes: It’s all in building something that then, all of a sudden without you knowing, is like an osmosis, and some parts of that character come out of your own personality. In this case, there’s an introversion and a shyness that are there for four or five weeks, you become a bit shier than when you’re in your normal life. You don’t know why, and you’re banging your head against, and you realize later on in hindsight that’s the character. It does help, putting on the clothes; it does help, having a different haircut. You can see now without the drift, ‘I’ve got to be in this.’ You get to see your attitude changing already to become the character (or) put on more weight; for ‘The Debt,’ you were taking off more weight. That’s the exciting thing: People think they’ve got you pegged as a human being. I’m 35 and I don’t know who the f**k I am, so how the hell does anyone else know who I am? They just assume who you are by your roles that you take on. Because I don’t tend to do mega-flashy roles where there’s a guy with tics, a guy with a funny walk, funny voice — I do introverted character work. It’s a bit different.

You do introverted character work, except of course when you’re doing motion capture scenes with someone nine feet tall and blue.

Worthington: Yeah, and I’m a kid in that: I’m my nephew. Now he’s 11, but he was seven years old at the time. When I go back (to) Jake Sully II and ‘Avatar II’ be my seven-year-old nephew; that’s who he’s going to be.

This raises the question: As an obsessive movie nerd of a certain generation, I totally grew up with James Cameron. Do you have a dedicated blue phone at home, where only he has the number to and he’ll call you?

Worthington: No, we’ve got emails. We email.

You’re just standing by for him to say –

Worthington: He knows my schedule. He emailed on my birthday, and I emailed him when I finished ‘Clash.’ I emailed him saying, ‘I’m going to Australia.’ He’s like, ‘Look, man, phone’s always open; my house is always open for dinner.’ He knows, we always keep tabs, and he keeps tabs on what I’m doing. When he pulls the trigger, I’ll jump. That’s it. I love working with him. I love it.

Is it as educational as it is fun to watch him juggle the whole equation?

Worthington: You don’t leave the set. I never left the set. I sit in my trailer. I’m always on set. Even if it wasn’t my day, I’d be on set. You just learn so much. That’s watching him. Then when you’re working with him, it’s challenging. He picks up on the slightest things; he’s so creative, and that’s why you do 18, 20 hour days and don’t get tired. You want to come back the next day.

So much of your character in this is stuff that is unsaid. Did Mr. Madden trust your instincts, or is he somebody who says, ‘Hold this for a beat, give it two seconds –?’

Worthington: No, he guides your instincts and he guides you, like a good director should. He trusts what you’re offering, because that’s why they pay you the money. Eventually, he’s like a conductor. It’s a piece of music to John. I have to be the introvert for Marton to be the extrovert, because Marton is the loud politician later on. The smaller I go, the bigger Marton can go. It’s how you play it. It’s just music, and then he’ll just say, ‘Bring it up a bit, Sam,’ ‘Pull it in a bit,’ ‘Do less,’ ‘Do more,’ ‘Marton, do more.’ That’s how it works. You trust the conductor like that.

A lot of the discussion around this film has been evoking classic, great thrillers of the past. I’m wondering, what are your go-to classic thrillers? When you feel like, ‘I’m at home, I feel like watching a movie, I feel like a little artificial adrenaline –?’

Worthington: ‘Three Days of the Condor’ I like. I like ‘The Getaway’ with Steve McQueen. The original ‘Thomas Crown Affair’ I like. Things like that. Those type of movies, there’s a speed on them. There’s an energy, a different kind of energy. (It)  is a different look, but there’s different emergency on them.

The thing that I love is that the book of ‘Three Days of the Condor’ is actually called ‘Six Days of the Condor.’ Fifty percent speed-up.

Worthington: We need the time frame different; the ticking clock has to be better.

What was the toughest day you had on set for this? Is it night shooting that gets you down? Is it claustrophobia?

Worthington: There’s the scene with Vogel where you throw the cup at him — it was always hard. It put so much expectations on me of where you have a vision of the scene in your head of what you want to achieve, so you’re nervous about doing it. Physical scenes don’t bother me; emotional scenes bother me, because it’s a case (where after) you pinpoint the action, this is the emotional scene. That always worries me. You can’t stress about it; you just got to let it organically flow. You do worry about it the night before.

I’m not asking this pointedly, but rather because you seem like such a forthright gentleman every time we’ve spoken. ‘Clash of the Titans’ clearly made enough money to rationalize a sequel. Is it fair to say — based on things you were saying earlier — that you signed on board to the sequel primarily to take another run at it and really stick the landing this time?

Worthington: Pretty much, yeah. I’ll say that. I’ve even been quoted as saying myself, I don’t think I did the best job I could do. Of course, there is no real character in the first one. For these movies to work, you’ve got to have a central character, not just the pretty boy standing there thinking he knows what he’s doing. I go and try to create a character for this one. Where has Perseus gone 10 years down the track? In “Die Hard,” John McClane is a character. In ‘Lethal Weapon,’ Martin Riggs is a character. Jason Bourne is a character. Old Perseus didn’t have a character (in the first ‘Clash’); now he does. Hopefully, anyway. If they cut it right.

From my article at The Hitlist

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Clash of the Titans (1/5), MSN Movies

“In his classic tale of mortal rage and divine folly “Medea,” Euripides tells us, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” After watching “Clash of the Titans,” director Louis Leterrier‘s modern revamp of the 1981 stop-motion special-effects bonanza, I think there’s a new-Hollywood spin on Euripides’ maxim: Whom the gods would destroy, they first translate their movie into 3-D in post-production. “Clash of the Titans” was not shot in 3-D or for 3-D, and was notoriously extruded into the third dimension in post-production by outsourced effects companies.

The end result is a film so distracting, so diluted, so altered and amputated in the name of making a bigger, better buck (Warner Brothers likes the cha-ching sound the cash register makes when it can charge the premium prices for 3-D), that I almost, almost, wanted to see it in 2-D before reviewing it. My experience of “Clash of the Titans” was truly that dimmed (literally) by the shabby retrofitted effects and the darker, drearier projection that the technical needs of 3-D imposed on the film.

And yet, even if 3-D didn’t make the film so dank and drab that it looked like you were watching it through three feet of bong water, “Clash of the Titans” is no great shakes. As in the original, Zeus’ illegitimate son Perseus (Sam Worthington) has to lead a ragtag group through a series of quests to prevent the city of Argos from being destroyed by the kraken, a monstrous leviathan released by Zeus (Liam Neeson, a ham bedecked in sparkles) to instill fear in humanity and get them back in line. As in the original, the story line’s an excuse to drag Perseus and his comrades from pillar to post and from one effects-heavy action scene to the other, as Zeus and Hades (Ralph Fiennes) put obstacles like the mutilated, monstrous Calibos (Jason Flemyng) in their way. …”

From my full review at MSN Movies

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Avatar Video Interviews

<br/><a href=”http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/exclusive-inside-look-at-avatar/5nkoh4c?fg=sharenoembed” mce_href=”http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/exclusive-inside-look-at-avatar/5nkoh4c?fg=sharenoembed” target=”_new”title=”Exclusive: Inside look at ‘Avatar'”>Video: Exclusive: Inside look at ‘Avatar'</a>

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Avatar (3.5/5), MSN Movies

“In the years and days leading up to the release of “Avatar,” James Cameron’s long-in-production dream project and first feature film since 1997’s box-office record-breaking “Titanic,” anticipation and recrimination seemed to be running neck-and-neck. It would be a game-changer, the future of cinema OR it would be an expensive rehash of “Dances With Wolves,” a hollow cartoon.

Now that “Avatar” is actually here, the reality falls somewhere between the peaks of hype and hatred: “Avatar” is a very big, very enjoyable, summertime action film that, much as it covers several actors in computer-generated imagery, drapes new flesh over very old bones. The technology and technique are as shiny and innovative as the story and themes are familiar and recycled, and the end result is something like ordering and eating a $100 burger at some white-linen four-star restaurant. It’s well-made, and clearly cost a lot, and, at the end of the day, it is a burger. But considering how few big sci-fi action films are actually any good at all, perhaps we should just consider ourselves lucky. If there’s nothing here as subversive as “The Matrix,” there is also nothing here as stupidly silly as “Transformers 2.”

In 2154, ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is recruited for a high-tech project in which his twin, now deceased, had a cloned body made that combined his DNA with that of the indigenous population on Pandora, a planet that houses the intelligent, tribal Na’vi. The idea is to pour one’s consciousness into these bodies to survive Pandora’s atmosphere and communicate with the locals, who just happen to have their home atop a huge deposit of a naturally-occurring superconductor. The priceless nature of “Unobtanium” makes all the expense and effort worth it. And Jake’s a match for his brother’s DNA, so he can use the “Avatar” body (and, as he’s paralyzed from the waist down, wants to). All pleasures of the new flesh aside, he can earn enough to afford the operation to fix his spine. (Take note, progressives: Even in 2154, we don’t have single-payer.) …”

–From my full review at MSN Movies

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