Early one morning in 2006, just after his 30th birthday, Sam Worthington crawled out of bed in the house he was renting in a suburb of Sydney, trudged over to the mirror, and frowned. He didn't like what he was looking at. The face, his primary tool as an actor, was the same as it had been the day before: preternaturally square-jawed, thin-lipped, squinty-eyed, his big, expressive brow scored with three muted furrow lines, the skin ruddy and pinkish like a rugby player's and darkened around the edges by an omnipresent nimbus of beard scruff. But it wasn't the face that was bothering him. It was the guy wearing it: a minor movie star, semi-famous in Australia but anonymous elsewhere, a desultory kid who'd fallen into acting on a lark—less than a lark, really—then made a successful if half-assed go of it. A few TV series, some movies, an award or two, a bit of limelight. But the guy in the mirror, Worthington realized: He hadn't earned anything—he'd been coasting. Accepting roles because the costar was hot. Rolling directly from a bar to the set for the 6:15 A.M. call. Channeling his paychecks into amassing all of this—and here he looked around the room and around the house, at all the furniture and appliances and assorted man-toys—all of this shit, he thought.
So he sold the mirror, which solved the immediate issue. And with it, he sold everything else, solving—or at least scrapping the evidence of—the larger, more existential issue. Stuck a price tag on everything he owned, invited all his friends over, hosted an auction with a bona fide gavel that he auctioned off as well. "My mates came around, saying, 'How much for the kettle?'" he recalls. "I said 'Five bucks. Starting at five. Do I hear six? Six? Sold, for five bucks!'" The microwave went. The TV went. The couch went. The knives and forks went. Everything went, except for Worthington's books, which he assumed none of his buddies wanted—Lord of the Flies, anyone?—and which, as a literary sentimentalist, he didn't mind keeping anyway.
When it was all over, Worthington had reduced himself to two sacks of books and clothes; a "shitbox" Toyota Camry, held together with duct tape and nicknamed Gloria, in which he intended to live; and two grand in cash. He didn't quite understand what he'd just done—"rebooted" his life, he'd say later; hit "control-alt-delete," he'd say—but he'd purged something, shed some kind of false skin, burned some kind of bridge, unloosed himself from the world and from whatever he'd seen staring back at him in that mirror. Sitting in that shitbox car, however, he couldn't help but catch sight of himself in the rearview mirror and wonder: What the fuck now?
It's four years later, and Sam Worthington has just spied himself in another kind of mirror. There he is, on the screen of a muted TV tuned to Entertainment Tonight that's in the green room at L.A.'s Smashbox Studios, walking the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards the night before: Sam Worthington, a grinning avatar in a black suit with narrow black tie, drifting into the peripheral vision of the corporeal, here-and-now Sam Worthington. He stops, midsentence, and squints up at the screen. "Well, that's weird," he murmurs, as if struck, for the first time, by his own ubiquity. He watches himself for a moment, not vainly but curiously, the way a dog processes an unfamiliar smell, and looks away before the TV is done showing him. He'd just been talking about the blur of the previous night—about being starstruck by meeting Mike Tyson, hobnobbing with the "big boys"—which may account for some of the weirdness of it, but there's another weirdness at play as well: the four-year journey to this point, from living in the back of a Camry in Australia to being—for this white-hot moment anyway—the biggest movie star on the planet.
Not that he looks, or acts, the part right now. He's dressed in a plain black T-shirt and nondescript blue jeans and wearing the same pair of scuffed Blundstone bricklayer's boots that he sometimes wears on red carpets. Among all the folks present at the studio—photo assistants, various Hollywood handlers, publicity molls—Worthington looks the most like someone getting paid by the hour, like he's here to unclog a drain. Toe-touching L.A. for just a few days between filming dates, he's here for a photo shoot—"for the New York Times," he says, though he really isn't sure—which he finds as excruciating as doing interviews. Talking about himself, laying himself bare for some notepad-wielding stranger, speaking his mind only to see "the stupid things I say" come boomeranging back at him in 12-point type—he hates it. "I'm still a very boisterous young man," he says, in his bristly Aussie accent. "And I swear a bit more than I should. So I'm learning to temper it, you know?"