Terminator 4... Avatar... now Clash of the Titans. Sam, you're officially the world's most famous ex-bricklayer.
Seriously, being a brickie taught me a lot about acting. One, shut up and listen to the boss. Two, one brick at a time. Three, don't rush the job.
You're fond of a Harvey Keitel quote: "Actors are the last great explorers"...
Actors get to go to these amazing worlds. In Terminator I was a cyborg with feelings, in Avatar I lived for 15 months on a fantastical planet and in Clash of the Titans I get to fight a scorpion the size of a dump truck. It's a bizarre job but you explore yourself.
What'd did you discover about yourself on Clash?
Mainly that I need to calm down a bit and not be so angry and aggressive all the time. If I can calm down and chill out, I'll achieve more.
So being an action hero is affecting your grip on reality?
Sort of. I mean, I did an interview for Terminator while I was on-set for Clash of the Titans and came across as full of anger and attitude. But that was my character Perseus talking. He's a boisterous adolescent... until they kill his family and he becomes Charles Bronson. It taught me a big lesson. Some characters stick in your being.
So acting is a dangerous job in that sense?
Some actors can create characters and leave them at ‘Cut!', but I work the opposite way and drag them out of me. For me, it's about fixing your fabric to fit the role.
The public have you fixed as either Mel Gibson regeared or Russell Crowe redux.
Ha! I do look up to a lot of the older Australian actors. They've been great in helping me steer this path I'm on. One told me the other day: "Water is stronger than rock."
Sounds like the Tao of Rusty to me...
Hmmm, I won't tell you who said that because I don't want to embarrass the man, but I thought that was really cool. It took it to mean ‘Don't always be strong. Relax. Flow'.
That old stager Bill Hunter reckons: "You've got to live a life to play a life."
He's right. I worked a lot of odd jobs for nothing pay before... all this. I installed anti-rust roofing into homes in Cairns. I packed boxes at Baby Barn. I was even a Manny! Mate, I know more about braiding hair and My Little Pony than most men, I can tell ya.
Is it true your Dad dumped you in Queensland at 17 and said: ‘Make your own way back'?
True. He gave me a plane ticket and 400 bucks. Mind you, I got off light - he sent my sister to England with the same message! But it was great. I was 17 and bulletproof.
I hear you read your own press...
Yep. Very few actors admit to it but I do, mainly to learn how to make my work better and, without sounding a total idiot, to be a better person too. See, I got tired of seeing myself in print effing and blinding all the time. I knew if I wanted young kids looking up to me, then I better pull my head in and hold my tongue.
It's no different to a sportsmen listening to the crowd, riding the wave and letting it take them to higher plains. For me, the crowd is the people paying 16 bucks a movie and the more I listen, the better I'll be at earning their 16 bucks.
Does an actor need to keep his true self a total mystery?
Take Christian Bale - he uses acting to dissolve. I use acting to explore me. I'm straight-up honest about that. If you look at my career, my characters have been pretty similar but their truths come out of me. I'm not Perseus. I'm not Jake Sully. I'm not Macbeth. But I do have facets of those guys in me that help me to explore their world and my own. Then again, if people want to think I'm 10 foot tall with fireballs blowing out my behind or big and blue with a tail, that's fine too.
Would you like to have been Max Max in Fury Road?
I'd rather not comment. They've already cast another guy.
C'mon, don't tell me you wouldn't have jumped at it...
Wouldn't you?! Mate, I think any Aussie bloke worth his salt would've loved to have strapped himself into a V8 Interceptor and ripped up the highways.
Rumour is you're swapping Max's leathers for a vampire's cape in Alex Proyas's Dracula: Year One anyway...
Oh mate, I shouldn't say anything... but we're trying to get the film up and going, yeah. It's not the cape and cowl Dracula or even the baddy with the pointy teeth. If we get it off blocks it's me as Prince Vlad swinging a sword causing a whole lot of havoc.
Not a remake of Outback Vampires then?
[Laughs] Maybe! But it's going to be great - Aussie director, shooting at Fox Studios, Sydney as the shadowlands... I'm developing a taste for blood already!
You've gone from blockbuster after blockbuster but your next film is a rom-com. Surely your luck can't hold?
It's not luck, pal. Luck is when opportunity meets experience. I get these opportunities and I put my head down and work hard so it earns me a new opportunity. Avatar gave me the freedom to make choices. It took lot of my freedom away too - put me in the spotlight, placed me under constant scrutiny, but I try to be thick-skinned and let it roll off me. That's the job. That's the deal I've struck with the devil.