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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: “We didn’t really know what to expect from Sam.
We knew he was a pretty serious guy, ‘cause 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.”
Worthington’s take on the script was that it was both quick to grasp and yet deceptively complicated. “The movie’s about a man on a ledge, cause that’s what the title is called, but what are all the different obstacles that this guy faces? It isn’t just will he or won’t he jump, or will he or won’t he fall. It’s will he or won’t be prove his innocence. And is he innocent? The journey of this man, that’s going to be compelling and exciting for an audience, you know?”
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: “He likes to push boundaries, and so do I, which is why we’re a good fit.
He’s got a fear of heights and I think, you know, actually one of the attractions for him to do this movie. It’s typical of him. Here’s something that is difficult for me, Sam, so I’m going to do it and push myself.”
When asked how he prepared for the role, Worthington says, “I don’t 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 they’re going to tell you to get back in.” Stunt men can tell you what it’s going to be like, he explains, but, he adds, “it’s like falling in love. Until you do it yourself, it’s too hard to imagine.”
Worthington’s acrophobia was a concern for production as well, Vahradian admits. “We literally sat around and said, ‘is 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?’ 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, ‘cause he’d never done it before and you get that look in his eye. And that was for us, priceless.”
In addition to the actor’s 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, “I 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.”
Again the production had no need for concern. Leth continues, “once we got there this extreme neurological memory you know, muscle memory, mind memory, it’s 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 couldn’t believe it actually.”
Ultimately, explains Vahradian, Worthington brought everything to the character that could have been hoped for, and then some. “He 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.”
Adds producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, “There’s a thing I never saw before in Sam, which is he’s got a sense of humor. It seems that when you look at his body of work he’s 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.
He’s admitted to being suicidal. He’s got a sort of gallows humor about it. So he’s a very endearing character. Because Sam is so strong, having that kind of vulnerability doesn’t strike you as weak. It strikes you as being vulnerable.” di Bonaventura continues, “Sometimes after the fact you realize how smart you were when you pick somebody. And that’s one of the ones we were like okay, that was actually an added benefit that his baggage as an actor plays into our strengths.”
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