*Moviegoers won’t be at a lost when they plunk down their hard earned ducats to see “The Debt,” that stars Helen Mirren as Rachel Singer and Sam Worthington as David Peretz. They play Mossad agents sent to kidnap a Nazi war criminal but things go awry and years later Singer has to kill their target. This will not be the first time badass 66-year-old Mirren played an assassin. She teamed up with Cuba Gooding Jr. in 2005 as a hit woman and Gooding’s lover.
Ecstatic about her current project, she did not mince words when asked to explain it.
“This is not an easy film to define,” she did allow. “It’s a thriller. It’s a mystery. It’s a Hitchcock [type], fingernail-biting story. It’s old-fashioned, in that it has no special effects. It’s not in 3-D. It doesn’t take place in Venice or the mountains of the Himalayans. It’s just an amazing story. It’s filmed by, I believe, a masterful filmmaker [director John Madden]. And it’s a story that’s absorbing and realistic. You feel, as extraordinary as it is, this actually might have happened. It’s my kind of movie I have to say.”
You played a retired spy in “Red,” with Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis. Do you see any similarities in the characters?
“Every part is different, at least in my experience,” Mirren says. “Maybe I’m lucky in that way. I don’t get to play the same role over and over in different movies. The roles that I get to play are quite varied, which is great. But I think the challenge of this one is that there’s very little dialogue with my character—and some of it is in Russian. Just to express the inner story of the character without having a lot of words, that was a challenge of the role.”
The icing on the cake for Mirren working on “The Debt,” was that she got to work with some of her favorite people.
“I was with old friends on this movie,” she admits. “I worked with Tom Wilkinson [who plays the older Stephan Gold] before. It feels like I’ve known him forever. We’ve sort of grown up with parallel careers in theater and film. Likewise, Ciarán [Hinds, who plays the older David Peretz] is a really old friend of mine. So I was really amongst friends, which was great. Also, I worked with director John Madden before. John had directed one of my “Prime Suspect” episodes. So I always wanted to work with him again because he directed one of the best “Prime Suspect” episodes. He is fantastic. And I felt very comfortable with him as a director. And then of course, he went on to make ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and [garner] an Oscar nomination. So it was a great thrill for me to be able to work with him again.”
Not looking like himself with a beard and the long hair, Worthington was asked if the look was for “Clash of the Titans 2,” and he says, “No, I’ve done that. I’m doing a movie called ‘Drift,’ a 70s surfing movie.” Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the conversation turns to his latest spine chilling action thriller, “The Debt.” Asked how he would describe “The Debt,” Worthington went into how the time periods played out. “`The Debt’ s a movie in two parts,” he explained.
“One is in 1966, when three young Mossad agents are trying to take down a Nazi war criminal. The problem is that the plan goes south, and the way they react to that situation has a ripple effect 30 years down the track. Tom Wilkinson, Helen Mirren and Ciarán Hinds play the older versions of us, and you see the after-effects and what they need to do to make life right.”
And working with Madden?
“I like John because he’s such an easy director. He’s an actor’s director. He’s got ease about him. There’s a gentleness to him, there’s a sensitivity to character. He gets excited by what he’s watching. You can tell when he’s behind the monitor that he gets enthusiastic. The way he delivers the direction is calming and it really pushes you in the right direction without you feeling pressure to perform or to hit the right note. He lets you explore. And that’s a great director—one that trusts you.”
Regarding the hand to hand combat you did in this film, did any of the training you did in previous film find its way into this?
SAM WORTHINGTON: Krav Maga is totally different. If you notice I get my ass beat which I like. I liked that. I liked the fact that I wasn’t the aggressor, but Krav Maga is an aggressive form of defense. If there’s a guy coming at you, you might cop a few hits to take your opponent down. It’s all about attack which I found quite interesting, especially with the Mossad mindset of, ‘We might lose five men, but if we get the man down we’ve done our job,’ and that sacrifice is enough. That’s the same with Krav Maga. If there’s a guy with a knife and you get stabbed twice and you still take him down, it doesn’t matter. That’s how it works. It’s just all about attack and getting the job done. I think what helped me to get into the mindset of David was that we have to get the mission done at all costs, no matter what.
A lot of things go wrong in this film. Was that part of the attraction?
SW: I liked the speed of it. That’s what I liked first. Even when you read the script there was a speed and energy to it. And then John [Madden] told me that he wanted to shoot our section kind of in order, and so when we went into the house we were happy families and then it started to unravel. So by the time that we got out of that set, we were like rats in a cage and wanted to get out. That interested me, the fact that he wanted it to be like an old, 1970’s thriller. So, it’s an amalgamation of all that.
Do you bring the same energy to independents as you do to blockbusters?
SW: Yeah, and to decide what I want to bring, to come in and go, ‘Look, I’ve just done this thing and we mapped it out this way. How do we get that same kind of reality and gravity and grit on a green screen stage with fantasy creatures? What are we actually really trying to say?’ So, ‘The Debt’, what is it really trying to say? What is ‘Texas Killing Fields’ really trying to say? What do we really want audiences to walk away from ‘Clash 2’ with in their heart rather than, ‘Whoa. That’s a great spectacle.’ If you look at something like ‘Avatar,’ it balances perfect. He knows what he wants to say and he gives you a spectacle. That’s just very rare. It’s a hard thing, but that’s what I like about blockbusters, to try and get that.
Speaking of ‘The Killing Fields,’ isn’t it based on a true story?
SW: It’s probably about ninety percent true. The story itself is a fictionalized version, obviously. The two characters that me and Jeffrey Dean Morgan play are real. They’re actually real cops, real detectives. They were the reason that I wanted to do the movie, because I never knew about this highway, this stretch of road where so many women have been dumped. It’s not just a dumping ground for one serial killer. It’s a dumping ground for f*cking anybody. There was a story that one of them told me, that they found a woman who’d had stuff done to her and they thought that it was a serial killer, but it was actually a boyfriend who had done it. He’d killed his girlfriend and made it look like a serial killer because he’d know about that, to try to get away with it, and these fields are littered with dead bodies that they haven’t found yet. Just the pictures of the women alone that have gone missing in that area, I thought that I wanted to be a part of something like that. So, if the movie doesn’t tell their story then at least I can when I sell the movie.
Did you meet the cop you played?
SW: I hung out with the cop, yeah.
How much older is he than you?
SW: Around the time that he started he would’ve been my age. He’s retired now. He’s about sixty. He’s built, f*cking six eight, massive. I’m obviously six two according to my bio [laughs] or with stilts on, but his attitude is the attitude that I had in the ‘Killing Fields’. He’s completely different to, say, David. David is a shy, sensitive young man who’s trying to hold everything together. ‘Killing Fields’ is a let loose, redneck racist.
Have you begun shooting Avatar 2 and 3 yet?
SW: No. I’ve talked to Jim [James Cameron] and he told me what his plans for the story are. It’s huge. It’s just monumental, but he’s not going to start until he raises the bar for himself. He’s in no rush. I know he’s getting himself back into the world and the mindset of the characters. That’s how he works. He’s very detailed and very weighty, but the story arc is huge. I needed a break halfway. I was exhausted. It’s f*cking insane, but it’s amazing. It’s going to be amazing.