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HomeNewsAvatar 2: Sam Worthington opens up about his drinking, and Lara’s ultimatum

Avatar 2: Sam Worthington opens up about his drinking, and Lara’s ultimatum

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Avatar star Sam Worthington has opened up about his struggles with alcohol and the threat his wife Lara made if he didn’t turn things around.

In a probing interview with Variety to promote Avatar: The Way of Water, Worthington said drinking made him behave erratically and nearly ended his marriage and risked his career.

He said at low points, he would down four or five drinks on a flight, but before the plane even took off. He recounted that Lara told him she never saw anyone drink as much as he did.

“I couldn’t see it. I thought it was normal,” he told Variety. “I didn’t like who I was. Drinking helped me get through the day.

“Nine out of 10 people couldn’t tell. They could probably smell it on me, but when they looked at me, they couldn’t tell. I was still doing my job – I just don’t think I was doing it very well.”

He said he struggled with the increased attention after the runaway success of the original Avatar movie, and would remember places in various cities not by the neighbourhoods or landmarks, but by his favourite bars.

Of his drinking, he contextualised it in part by pointing to Australian culture.

“In Australia, it’s ingrained in society,” he explained. “We don’t necessarily talk about [Alcoholics Anonymous] and things like that. You don’t recognise it’s an illness, and you don’t understand that some people are just wired differently.

“I was an emotional drunk. I got more emotional and erratic the longer I drank. I don’t think I was mean, exactly, but I could be belligerent, petulant.”

Worthington said eventually Lara gave him an ultimatum. He said she told him, “You can do what you want, but I don’t need to be around this.” The threat of losing her was enough to get him to stop.

He has been sober for eight years, and the family now live in New York City.

Worthington is on the promotional trail for the Avatar sequel, a movie which took 13 years and cost $US350 million to make.

The premieres, junkets and red carpets used to be his least favourite part of the job, but the Variety profile pointed out that Worthington seems to be more at ease on the circuit than previously.

Worthington explained that when he was first catapulted into stardom, anytime anyone would approach him for a photo or autography would make him anxious, and it would send him off – and some of those encounters would drive him to drink more heavily.

His co-star Zoe Saldana, who plays Neytiri, the wife of his character Jake Sully, said of Worthington’s experiences after the first film, which grossed $US2.91 billion, “Nothing could have prepared us for the reception [to the movie].

“Shooting Avatar was very personal and comfortable. The aftermath of releasing it was completely the opposite. It wasn’t an easy environment for Sam. I adore him but Sam is better at work or on set than he is in real, public environments.”

Worthington also spoke about his career trajectory after Avatar came out and his name became a desirable commodity inside Hollywood studios.

He took on action blockbuster roles in the likes of Terminator: Salvation and Clash of the Titans.

But he didn’t find them creatively fulfilling. “You can’t create a character if there’s nothing there. On the Clash movies, that was the problem. You were getting new pages every day and it’s too complicated.

“The movies I did right after Avatar were great big spectacles, but I should’ve been looking for movies that pried a little bit more into the human condition. I was boring myself with what I was doing. And if I’m boring myself, then I’m sure as hell going to be boring an audience.”

In addition to Avatar: The Way of Water, he’s also signed on to a potential three further Avatar sequels. Filming has already wrapped for Avatar 3, and started on Avatar 4, but the viability of them would depend on the box office returns on Avatar: The Way of Water.

Worthington has also been in smaller projects that have challenged him artistically, such as Under the Banner of Heaven alongside Andrew Garfield.

The Aussie star said he was learning to use his emotions in front of the camera, rather than letting them get in the way on set.

“In my 30s, I was young and arrogant. The older you get, the calmer you get.

“When I was young, I’d yell and be hot-headed and be adamant about my ideas. If you yield a bit and compromise and communicate, you find something that’s better than anything you’d come up with.”

Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas now

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