There are actors who have been hot-housed for stage and screen since they were knee-high to a grasshopper.
And then there’s Sam Worthington.
The star of the newly-released faith-based drama The Shack, Sam comes across as a down-to-earth Aussie bloke you might run into at the pub or the local cafe.
As a teenager he won a scholarship to the John Curtin School of Performing Arts in Western Australia, but when he left school, he didn’t know what he wanted to do. His wise father sent him to the east coast of Australia and told him to work his way home. Thus began Sam’s career as a bricklayer, about as far from Hollywood glamour as you can get.
The path towards acting began when he accompanied a friend to a National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) audition to provide moral support. In one of those strange quirks of fate, while his friend didn’t pass the NIDA audition Sam did, even though he hadn’t intended to try out.
It was NIDA where he found his feet and reignited his passion for acting, graduating in 1998 at the age of 22. His first professional role was in the Belvoir Street Theatre production of Judas Kiss, for which he received critical acclaim. Various film and television roles followed, but it wasn’t until 2004 that Sam’s big break came as the star in the Australian film Somersault, which won him the AFI Award for Best Male Actor.
Sam was on his way, and a few years later Hollywood director James Cameron cast him in Avatar. Since then, film and television work internationally and in Australia has kept him busy.
But it’s his latest film, The Shack, that has encouraged Sam to talk about Christian faith.
The actor says his faith in God was sparked when, at a particularly turbulent time in his life, one of his friends loaned him a Bible, with advice to read it and calm down.
“I came to religion very late, in my 20s, and it was never something that was thrust on me as a young kid. It’s something that I discovered, and my choice,” Sam told The Christian Post.
By his late 20s, Sam had a solid movie career, but success didn’t sit comfortably with him, so he sold everything and lived in his car for a while. And this was when he realised he wanted more out of life.
“I reached out to God and found someone who listened for the first time, and he wasn’t judgmental. I may not have got the answers back, but I had a comforting ear,” he told cbn.com
In The Shack, Sam plays Mack, someone who faces a crisis of faith and goes searching for answers.
Sam says there is a lot of himself in Mack.
“The journey that Mack goes through is something I could associate with. Now I’m starting to understand my relationship with God and how strong faith can be amongst people,” he told The Christian Post.
One of the themes in The Shack is revisiting painful experiences and surrendering them to God.
“Everybody carries those kinds of burdens, and a relationship with God and faith helps you relieve that burden and learn how to let go of them and move forward,” Sam explained.
Married to media personality Lara Bingle, they have two young sons. As they get older he says he wants to talk to his sons about faith and allow them to open up to it.
“I think so many people are afraid of using the word ‘God’. We shouldn’t shy away from it. When I pray, what I get back is this comfort, this love, that says I’m okay and I’m not alone,” Sam explained.
In an industry that thrives on creating fantasies, Sam Worthington is an undoubted star, but also a Christian who is secure in his faith with his two feet firmly planted on the ground.