James Cameron helped make big stars out of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio and he’s doing the same for Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana. Things might have turned out much differently for the two relatively unknown stars of Avatar if a big name had signed on. The LA Times reports that both Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal were originally offered the role of Jake Sully in the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar. Cameron confirmed that both actors turned down he part, but said that he “had my heart set on Sam [Worthington].” Worthington was living in his car before he landed the role in Avatar, and now his prospects are definitely looking up.
“Avatar” director James Cameron spoke to both Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal about playing the role of Jake Sully in the sci-fi epic that now stands as the biggest moneymaker in the history of Hollywood with $2.5 billion in worldwide box office.
Both stars, perhaps leery of a blue-in-the-face gig, declined, and the filmmaker instead went with his first choice — unknown Aussie actor Sam Worthington, who was living in his car before he got the job. Cameron said he offered the role to the big-name stars only to placate the studio chiefs at Fox, who wanted a bankable star to offset some of the risks of the expensive project.
“I don’t think they ever had a problem with the CG, “ Cameron said. “Honestly, did I go out and try to woo them? No. I had my heart set on Sam. Maybe they sensed my lack of 100% commitment from me. Maybe it was the subject matter. This was a big ‘Star Wars’-type movie. They’re both serious actors.”
I don’t think Avatar would have been the same without Worthington, although either Damon or Gyllenhaal would have played the hell out of that role. They’re both extraordinary actors who could have easily conveyed the nuance and depth necessary for the character. Avatar isn’t a film that required a big name to carry it, although Sigourney Weaver was incredible. (Apart from the smoking, but that wasn’t her fault!)
I’m in the states now and my local Walmart is playing a really fascinating “making of” segment with footage of Avatar being filmed. Whenever I’m in the store and it’s playing in the TV section I stop and watch it. The actors have on dark costumes and little blue dots on their face to capture the facial expressions for the CGI work. When they’re hanging out of airplanes they’re on minimal metal frames with fans blowing on them. Otherwise they’re working in a nearly empty set, which makes the resulting world, and all the very real emotions of the Navii, all the more impressive.
In other news about my imaginary husband, Matt Damon has been attached to play the late great Robert F. Kennedy in a biopic. It will be some time before it starts filming, as the script is being penned now and Damon has to read it before he signs on. In terms of his other projects, I know Damon isn’t about to do Bourne again given all the complications and his comments on the matter. The next film is likely to be a prequel played by someone else. I’m still disappointed, though, and hope that the fourth movie gets made with Damon. Bourne is the best action hero by far and no one can play him but Damon.
Thanks to Cinematical for the image below!