Worthington to star in ‘Terminator’

Cameron recommends 'Avatar' lead to McG

Sam Worthington will star in “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins.”

The fact the Australian actor just played the lead in the James Cameron-directed “Avatar” is no coincidence. Cameron recommended Worthington to “Terminator Salvation” director McG, indicating that the director of the first two “Terminator” installments might be warming to the new pic.

While the “Terminator Salvation” plot has twists and turns that are being kept under tight wraps, Worthington will play the role of Marcus, a central figure in a three-picture arc that begins after Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust. A group of survivors led by John Connor (Christian Bale) struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.

Cameron kept his distance from “Terminator 3,” the first he didn’t direct.

Cameron never took a public position on the Jonathan Mostow-directed “T3,” which grossed more than $430 million worldwide. Speculation is his history with some of the producers could have prompted him to stay on the sidelines.

“T3” was owned by Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna, who years ago bought the rights at a Carolco bankruptcy auction out from under Cameron, prompting the director to remove himself from involvement. And the “T3” rights package included a multimillion-dollar rights buyout and exec producer credit for Gale Anne Hurd, Cameron’s former partner and ex-wife. He famously signed over his “Terminator” rights for $1 to her before they made the first film, in exchange for a guarantee he wouldn’t be replaced as director. It was a deal that left him on the outside looking in as everyone else cashed in on “T3.”

The slate is clean after Halcyon Co. bought out all franchise rights from Kassar and Vajna and set the new film for domestic distribution at Warner Bros. for summer 2009.

Sources said McG spoke on the phone recently with Cameron, who is in New Zealand working on “Avatar.” It was during that chat that he recommended Worthington, who in “Avatar” plays a paraplegic war veteran from Earth who’s brought to another planet inhabited by a race of humanoids at odds with Earth’s inhabitants.