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Avatar and Clash of the Titans star Sam Worthington helped kick start Man on a Ledge into production when he expressed early interest in the script. Producer Mark Vahradian discusses his early meetings with the actor from the highest grossing movie of all time: āWe didnāt really know what to expect from Sam.
We knew he was a pretty serious guy, ācause he sat down with us a bunch of times to talk out the script. And, I love the fact that he was that involved in a very gracious way and really a good collaborator.ā
Worthingtonās take on the script was that it was both quick to grasp and yet deceptively complicated. āThe movieās about a man on a ledge, cause thatās what the title is called, but what are all the different obstacles that this guy faces? It isnāt just will he or wonāt he jump, or will he or wonāt he fall. Itās will he or wonāt be prove his innocence. And is he innocent? The journey of this man, thatās going to be compelling and exciting for an audience, you know?ā
Worthington partially admits to being intrigued by the role also because of his fear of heights, and the majority of the scenes on the ledge were set to be shot on the real ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel, over 200 feet above 45th Street in midtown Manhattan. Director Asger Leth elaborates on that attraction: āHe likes to push boundaries, and so do I, which is why weāre a good fit.
Heās got a fear of heights and I think, you know, actually one of the attractions for him to do this movie. Itās typical of him. Hereās something that is difficult for me, Sam, so Iām going to do it and push myself.ā
When asked how he prepared for the role, Worthington says, āI donāt think you can. I think you just have to get out the window and do it. If you get out of a window at a hotel theyāre going to tell you to get back in.ā Stunt men can tell you what itās going to be like, he explains, but, he adds, āitās like falling in love. Until you do it yourself, itās too hard to imagine.ā
Worthingtonās acrophobia was a concern for production as well, Vahradian admits. āWe literally sat around and said, āis he going to go out there? Is he going to step out on that ledge, and is he going to be comfortable, and is he going to be able to talk? Is he going to be able to act? And perform?ā And you know, he did it.
You could see it in his eyes and that was the other part that was, you know, valuable actually shooting there. You could see that he knew he was up 200 feet in the air, and we especially wanted to get that on the first moments that he stepped out there, ācause heād never done it before and you get that look in his eye. And that was for us, priceless.ā
In addition to the actorās skittishness about being that far above the street, it was important to convey that same fear and reaction on the ledge of the stage, where he would be only eight feet above the ground. But again, there was no need for concern. Leth explains, āI had no idea if we could really transport that feeling into the ledge set, but I felt that if we had any chance at all, it would be to go to the ledge first. To get a real sense of the height and a real sense of the danger.ā
Again the production had no need for concern. Leth continues, āonce we got there this extreme neurological memory you know, muscle memory, mind memory, itās like– it just– it was flabbergasting to me how it actually translated back into the stage. As if we were still out there on the 21st floor, 21 stories up. I couldnāt believe it actually.ā
Ultimately, explains Vahradian, Worthington brought everything to the character that could have been hoped for, and then some. āHe has a lot of confidence, maybe too much confidence sometimes. I mean it was our job to dial him back a little. But, that combination of both being able to act and keep us interested on the ledge and do the action stuff, it was gold for us, it was really incredible.ā
Adds producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, āThereās a thing I never saw before in Sam, which is heās got a sense of humor. It seems that when you look at his body of work heās asked to be the strong guy, the silent guy, and the man internally holding in his emotions. This character is a guy whose emotions are on his sleeve to a certain extent.
Heās admitted to being suicidal. Heās got a sort of gallows humor about it. So heās a very endearing character. Because Sam is so strong, having that kind of vulnerability doesnāt strike you as weak. It strikes you as being vulnerable.ā di Bonaventura continues, āSometimes after the fact you realize how smart you were when you pick somebody. And thatās one of the ones we were like okay, that was actually an added benefit that his baggage as an actor plays into our strengths.ā
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