Sam Worthington almost lost everything to alcohol, including his wife and his career. Having now been sober for eight years, Worthington can reflect on the darker times with humility as his new movie Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters after years of production.
The new movie has been in the works for so long (13 years) that Worthington is quite literally a new person now. The actor, 46, said that back in 2009 when the first Avatar came out, he would regularly down four or five glasses of Champagne for all sorts of occasions — even just boarding an airline flight.
His wife Lara, whom he wed in 2014, told him she’d never seen anyone drink so much before the plane took off. “I couldn’t see it,” the Aussie actor said. “I thought it was normal.”
Worthington said drinking helped him get through his day, every day. And oftentimes, his first sip came in the morning. But he was successful and handsome, and very good at hiding the problem.
“Nine out of ten people couldn’t tell,” he said. “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.”
Sam Worthington doesn’t want to be a “generic leading man”
In 2014, the same year he wed Lara, Worthington got in hot water for punching a photographer. He also didn’t like interacting with fans or being famous, so he drank and drank.
“I’d go haywire over someone asking me for a photograph or taking a photograph of me,” Worthington said. “If someone approached me, my anxiety would go through the roof.”
In Australia, drinking is more than just commonplace; it’s practically required.
“In Australia, it’s ingrained in the society,” Worthington said. “We don’t necessarily talk about AA and things like that. You don’t recognize it’s an illness, and you don’t understand that some people are just wired differently.”
He went on to describe himself as an “emotional” drunk who got more erratic as he got more belligerent. Eventually, his wife threatened to leave him if he didn’t clean up his act. The ultimatum made all the difference: the couple are now parents to Rocket, 7 ½, Racer, 6, and their younger brother, River.
Sobering up has also changed his perspective of Hollywood, acting, and his art in general.
“If I can’t bring anything to it, I’m not going to go and be involved in it,” he says. “I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to just be the action figure standing in the front. And that’s OK. It takes a lot to understand what you do want from this industry.”