Finding an actor to play the lead role of Perseus — the demigod son of Zeus — in the new Clash of the Titans (out Friday) proved a difficult task for the mortals working on the film. “The studio said, ‘You don’t need Brad Pitt, but find somebody interesting,'” says producer Basil Iwanyk. “We interviewed every really thin actor in his 20s, but we kept asking, Can these guys swing a sword? Can these guys jump on a horse?” Sam Worthington had recently finished shooting Terminator Salvation and Avatar, so there wasn’t any question the rugged 33-year-old could handle a weapon while riding a flying stallion. But the actor didn’t know if he wanted the part. “I wasn’t very familiar with the original movie, so I had to make sure it was something worth rebooting,” he says. “Sometimes you can remake something when the original is fine. But when I looked at the 1981 movie, I knew straightaway we could improve on it. Especially the visual effects. Stop-motion was great in its time, but I thought we could ramp it up a bit.”
Oh, they ramped it up, all right. If nothing else, Clash of the Titans will make you believe a horse can fly — especially if you are watching the winged Pegasus in 3-D.The effects were done with CGI, but director Louis Leterrier took pains to make the greenscreen experience as realistic as possible on soundstages outside London last summer. “They would build half a scorpion on the set, or put a guy in a green-stocking suit so that I could hit him,” says Worthington. “I learned from Avatar that you need something to react to. You can’t act with just a tennis ball in front of you. Your body and mind react differently when there’s actually something there.” According to Gemma Arterton, who plays an angelic guide helping Perseus, Worthington was almost too good with invisible costars. “Sam’s done so many of these big movies,” she says, “I think it’s probably easier for him than working with real people. He’s a great guy, but we may have got on his nerves.”
For more on Clash of the Titans, plus a look at where the stars of the original 1981 film are now, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands April 2.