The Sam With The Golden Gun

When it came to replacing Pierce Brosnan the focus was firmly on Clive Owen and Hugh Jackman. When it became apparent that neither would be strapping on the shoulder-holster for Casino Royale speculation down the finishing stretch switched to British actors Daniel Craig and Henry Cavill; who appeared to have generated a stalemate between the powers that be. Craig got the final nod but the disparity in age between him and Cavill suggested a difference of opinion on how far to go with the young Bond angle, which was of course the explanation for not making a fifth Pierce Brosnan film. Recent stories however suggest that a darkhorse contender came perilously close to beating both Cavill and Craig to the role. His name? Worthington. Sam Worthington.

Born in August 2, 1976, Sam Worthington graduated from Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 1998. He won critical praise for his first professional role - as Arthur Wellesley in Belvoir Street Theatre's production of Judas Kiss, directed by Neil Armfield. Worthington made his film debut in 2000's Bootmen for which he was nominated for an AFI award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. He later won an AFI Award in 2004 for his role as Joe in the film Somersault. Director Cate Shortland explained how Worthington won them over: "He came in and he just had such a fantastic sense of danger and honesty; he wasn’t scared what people thought of him. And that was one of the big keys to the character-in that he was hiding a lot of stuff and he uses charm. And Sam’s incredibly charming."

"They (Eon) had seen my tapes and wanted to make Bond younger, like (Matt Damon in) The Bourne Identity," said Worthington in a 2006 interview. "So they kept phoning up, wanting me to audition, but I kept refusing." Eon's persistence eventually paid off and Worthington flew to London to take part in a day’s filming with director Martin Campbell. "I read every single book, saw every film I could and did everything to prepare myself. I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time; I gave it the best I could. I think it’s amazingly good-going to get where I did." One newspaper story suggested that Worthington got as far as undertaking weapons training to prepare himself for the part of James Bond. He may have got as close to the role as Sam Neil did in 1986. "Things would be completely different now," said Worthington. "But I gave it a damn good crack."

Other Worthington roles include a part in Bruce Willis’ World War II movie Hart’s War, Dirty Deeds and Gettin’ Square. Jonathon Teplitzky on casting Sam Worthington in Gettin' Square:
"He’s fantastic. In many ways his part was the hardest to cast because we needed someone who could convincingly play a tough guy and also have elements of the leading man about him. It was really a case of working out who we wanted to pitch this film at, because we had tested guys up to eight years older than Sam. Ultimately, we decided to go Sam and then have David playing the older, slightly more streetwise accomplice. It worked."

In 2006 Geoffrey (Romper Stomper) Wright took Shakespeare's classic and updated it to a contemporary criminal underworld. Worthington took the lead role. "Sam is rugged and, physically, a little dangerous," said Wright. "There’s a volatility and unpredictability that matches Macbeth at the climax of the story. He’s got an intensely dark side. Sam is not a bloke I’d like to tangle with if I crossed him." A review on IMDB noted 'He (Worthington) is charismatic, enticing; he does seem like a brave champion with a dark side'

Ain't It Cool commented: 'At the moment, I'm selling the actors short a bit, so I should probably mention how much I was actually impressed with the performances. Sam Worthington plays the title character, and with the exception of the odd moment here and there, he nails it. Macbeth's never been my favourite character, but Worthington hits all the right notes. Everything from the level of manipulation versus his own ambition, to his eventual descent into a non-Hamlet-imitating madness is played brilliantly. I really, really didn't like the film SOMERSAULT, but kept watching because of the performances of Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington. This is the film that should propel him into the public eye, or at least a high profile film'

The high profile breakthrough film which could have been Casino Royale will instead be James Cameron's Avatar in which Worthington will take the lead role. Cameron described Avatar as "a futuristic tale set on a planet 200 years hence... an old-fashioned jungle adventure with an environmental conscience... [that] aspires to a mythic level of storytelling." Due in cinemas in 2009 the huge film has been in the planning stages for many years and only now does Cameron feel that he has the technological wherewithal to tackle the project. Cameron has a good track record of employing interesting but not largely well known actors: Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton. Worthington looks set to continue that trend.

So how would Worthington have shaped up as James Bond? Evidence suggests that Eon were impressed. The handsome actor certainly looks to have solid leading man credentials and is a respected 'under the radar' performer who has apparently turned down mainstream Hollywood productions in favour of more eclectic Australian films. "I've turned down more movies than I've done" said Worthington. He would have been thirty years old in his debut James Bond film, bang in the middle of Craig (37) and Cavill (23). If anyone realistically fitted the 'younger' Bond brief without being too young or too old it was Worthington. Other plus points? Well, at 6'2 no one would have accused Worthington of being too short for the role. Unlike Craig his fair-hair can also be darkened without too many problems. Interestingly, Worthington is not quite the archetypal dark James Bond type like Henry Cavill or Alex O'Lachlan yet finished second behind the even less archetypal James Bond Daniel Craig. It suggests to me that Eon wanted to change the character completely after Brosnan.

It also suggests that Sam Worthington is a young actor with a lot of potential.

- Michael Cooper


c 2006 Alternative 007