From bricklaying to blockbusters, Australia’s latest action hero, Sam Worthington, talks about how he made it big ahead of his new James Cameron movie, Avatar

You used to be a bricklayer. How hard was it getting into acting?

I was never really trying to get into the industry. I was a bricklayer. I wanted to build houses … and I just fell into the industry. I fell into drama school. And then I’ve been fortunate enough to work ever since I got out of drama school at 21. You name it, I did it in Australia.

I couldn’t do any more. That was it. I hit the glass ceiling. People were turning me down for jobs, going: ‘I can’t afford him. Why the fuck doesn’t he go to America?’ So it hasn’t been a case of me struggling, but it’s been a case of me keeping on working.

How important was Somersault, with Abbie Cornish, to your career?

I started to take things more seriously after that. A lot of the movies I did in my apprenticeship, I saw how you can coast, because you’re in your early twenties.

You go out on a bender, and you come in at 6am, and your call time is five past six – and you still do fucking good work. But to me Somersault was ‘Come on, man, let’s buckle down a bit and see what you can get if you work a bit harder and not be an inherently lazy actor like most of them are.’

How was working on James Cameron’s Avatar?

It was 14 months, so it was a mega-experience. Apart from Avatar 2 – if they make it – most movies won’t take that long.

Essentially, you’re working in the most rudimentary style with the most advanced technology. Working with Jim, any job after that is easy.

After Avatar, Terminator Salvation and Clash Of The Titans to come, how do you feel about being in three of the year’s biggest blockbusters?

I fucking hope I’m in more, to be honest!

But doesn’t that amaze you?

No, I’m fucking excited! I’m not going to be coy here! Fuck that! Fucking A! If I’m coming in and playing with the big boys, I want to do it the right way. They’re offering me blockbusters – fantastic! I watch blockbusters. So I like to do movies that I watch.

Why do you think some of the more successful film actors are Australian?

I always look at it that it takes us 15 hours to get to America, and that’s a long time, so we’re not going to waste our time or their time. And we come packed with a bag of experience.

To pay the bills in Australia, like any small cottage industry, you have to do theatre, film and TV. You check your ego at the door. You may win an award one week but the next week, you’re doing a Nescafé commercial, and the next week you’re digging a hole … So that’s what I think it is. We’re armed up with passion and we’re experienced.

Do you feel that you’ll get typecast, though, as the tough guy?

I’m always going to get typecast as what I am – a 33-year-old man who has a soft heart … In a way, I’m trying to choose movies to identify what I’m going through in my life. So in Avatar, it’s about a young kid – a marine, but I played him as a five-year-old kid – going to another planet.

What are you soft-hearted about?

I’m soft-hearted about a lot of things. I’m a gentle soul. If I tell you, you might hurt it.

Terminator Salvation director McG said they had to pull you out of a lot of bar fights during the shoot. Is that true?

No that’s not true! He talks it up! It’s a great story – and I will perpetuate it.

Avatar is out December 17.

Read our Avatar movie review