Before touching down in Pandora, Sam Worthington nearly landed a license to kill.
The Australian actor was one of the finalists for the role of James Bond in “Casino Royale.” Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the producers and stewards of the 007 franchise, were looking for a younger star to play the super spy after Pierce Brosnan wrapped his four-film run. Worthington, along with Henry Cavill, the eventual “Man of Steel,” and “ER” star Goran Visnjic were among those vying for the chance to order a martini shaken, not stirred.
The audition process was memorable. Worthington flew to London, was filmed doing a scene in the tuxedo (it’s a meticulous recreation of a sequence in “From Russia With Love”), and was fussed over by Barbara Broccoli, the producer of the 007 franchise, who went to his hotel room before the screen test to personally cut his hair to match her vision of Bond.
“I could play Bond as a killer, but I couldn’t get the debonair down for the life of me,” Worthington remembered. “The suit did not fit.”
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Worthington admitted.
Worthington says he went out to dinner with the Bond producers and even though he lost that role to Daniel Craig, he felt that watching Broccoli and Wilson in action gave him invaluable insight into the making of a successful franchise.
“They are so detailed and meticulous,” Worthington says. “They are protective and passionate about this series. And what I learned is that you listen to these people. It’s the same thing with [‘Avatar’ director] James Cameron. He’s done all the research and there’s nothing you can’t ask him that he doesn’t have an answer for.”
After “Avatar” became the biggest movie in the world, Worthington was launched on to Hollywood’s A-list. He nearly got a chance to slip on Green Lantern’s spandex, meeting with director Martin Campbell (who also helmed “Casino Royale”) when he was casting the lead role in the 2011 superhero film.
“It didn’t make much sense to me — the suit comes out of his skin?” Worthington remembers asking. “And I was like, ‘He’s got this powerful ring that can create anything. Well, what can beat the ring?’ The answer was nothing. I was like, ‘Well, something needs to beat it, or it won’t be very interesting.’”
The filmmakers tried to give him a better sense of the franchise by showing them Green Lantern’s most powerful weapon.
“They had the ring on the table and were like, ‘put it on,'” Worthington remembers. “But I’m like, ‘it’s not real, is it?’ It was very bizarre.”
“Green Lantern” came out as Hollywood was still mastering the art of making a successful superhero movie, and the final film, which starred Ryan Reynolds, didn’t score at the box office.
Worthington latest movie, “Avatar: The Way of Water” finds him back on the magical planet of Pandora. He talked about reprising his role as Jake Sully and Cameron’s ambitions for a five-film saga in this week’s Variety cover story.