Interview with Sam Worthington of 'The Shack'
Sam Worthington (Avatar, Wrath of the Titans, Clash of the Titans) pictured left, stars in the best-selling book turned movie, The Shack, released this weekend on in theaters everywhere. Worthington plays the lead role of MACKENZIE “MACK” ALLEN PHILLIPS, a character who enjoys a blissful life with his wife and their three children, until the unthinkable happens and his youngest daughter MISSY is abducted from their vacation campsite. Evidence indicates Missy has been murdered, but her body is never recovered. The tragedy sends Mack spiraling into “the great sadness” that isolates him from family and friends, causing him to question his innermost fundamental beliefs. Teetering on the edge of self-destruction, he receives a mysterious letter, apparently from God, urging him back to the scene of the crime—an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.
Catching up with Worthington, here's a transcription of a Q & A LogosPost.com was able to obtain with the film's star:
Q : What is the story about?
SW : The story essentially is about a man whose daughter is taken away from him, his daughter is murdered. And that propels him to a deep depression. And a deep resentment towards faith in life, faith in himself, and there's this ripple effect, faith in his family. And then gets the opportunity to meet God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. And question why this happened, and go through the kind of penance, for want of a better word to find a release, to find a way through. It's a story about forgiveness, he has to forgive the person that did this, which in itself is something that is unimaginable. And in return face the demons of his own past.
Q : Why do you think a film like this is important today?
SW : Here is a movie where you'll hopefully sit back and go, it was very beautiful and it was epic. But to be honest, I can actually do these things in my own life. I can actually start to forgive people I don't like and I can actually find an ease and a breath and a calm in my own life to go forward. And I don't know why we don’t see that all- a lot more, it's that to me is is great film making. You know, if it sticks with you longer than it takes for you to cross the lobby.
Q : What attracted you to do this film?
SW : I read the script and then I met the producer, and the producer had done movies like The Blind Side and Life of Pi, and he said to me, I know that you're probably not the most religious guy but neither is the character. And going on this journey, he gets to question faith and gets to to ask God and challenge God questions that I've been dealing with myself. You know, what are we doing here, what's the point, why do you let bad stuff happen. And I thought to be given that chance to explore that in a dramatic form, could be a great opportunity.
Q : What is it like working with this cast?
SW : It's great, Octavia Spencer has such poise and grace, you know, she just gives everything to you, she she's amazing, you know, Radha Mitchell who plays my wife, I've known for many years, done some films with her. So she was, you know, she's the type of person you can just bounce off. Tim McGraw same thing, you can just bounce off these guys. I just found it quite a a an experience where it kind of humbles you because there's no egos and it was just nice. It was just- I really liked it.
Q : Can you tell us a little bit about the film?
SW : The Shack is a metaphor about the place where we hold all our pain and grief and anger and frustrations. And the movie is about a man who loses his daughter and because of that he's built his own Shack and he gets a letter from a person claiming to be god. And he goes to a actual shack in the middle of a forest and comes across God and- and spends the weekend with him asking him all the questions that he feels can help relieve his burden.
Q : Could you tell us about your character and the role you play?
SW : Mack’s a devoted family man, who has had his dilemmas with God when he was growing up. He just felt that god has kind of forgotten about him, he had a very violent upbringing. And when he's a parent, he loses his daughter, and it sends him into a deep depression, a great sadness it's called in the book and in the movie. And so he's got all these unanswered questions that he wants from God and he gets the opportunity to spend time with God and go through all of that, and figure out what kind of a person he can be going forward.
Q : Tell us about your character Mack and his struggles.
SW : When Mack loses his daughter, his daughter gets kidnapped and killed and they can't find the body, it's so horrific. And it sends him into a deep spiral, a great sadness as it's called in the movie. And he has no way or no want to get out. Uh, he just resents and attacks everything. But through this experience that he's given, he learns that, to let that go and to find a way through. At the end, the burden has been lifted.
Q : Who does he meet out at the shack? How do things unfold there?
SW : At The Shack he meets God, Jesus, and Suraya, who is the spirit of this holy trinity. And they are all one or one being of God but they're different facets of what God is and what God can represent and how we see God or how we feel God. And I think it's, you know, this is where the movie kind of twists a bit in the sense of A it's highly unusual [LAUGHS] and B it sends Mack on this journey of an emotional inner quest.
Q : How would you describe your faith?
SW : I came to my faith really late, religion was something that wasn’t put upon me as a kid. And through my twenties and my thirties, I was opened up, went to churches when around the world. I talked to people who were devoutly religious, people who weren’t religious, and it's just a journey that I'm on, a journey of discovery, you know, what you can get from the Bible and, you know, in terms of tools to help you become a better person and- and what this relationship with God is. And what it means when it connects us as a whole, and I think that's, I'm still on that discovery and I think that I always will be.
Q : Do you feel God in your life?
SW : I find I reach out to him the older I'm getting and especially when I have my kids, because, you know, you think you know what, you're doing is apparent but you've got no idea. And so there's you've got more questions and more doubts and you reach out and pray a lot more. And get back the comfort that okay you're on the right track, you're doing okay, it's, it's someone is there to listen and, you know, so I find I, I pray a lot more the older I'm getting.
Q : What do you hope people come away with from this film?
SW : I think even though the movie is quite painful and quite emotional, I think it's a hopeful film. No matter how dark the days get, you can come out the other side and- and- and with great tools behind you and the support and love of God I think is a, you know, that's a, that's a great message. So I hope that's what audiences take away with them.
Q : And Tim?
SW : Tim, for someone that is a mega star, is the most down the earth guy I've ever met. As an actor his talent is that he's, it's ease. There's an ease to it, so it makes you easy, it doesn't make you try to force things. It makes you just simply converse with him and he's- as I said, he's an affable man and I loved every minute of it.
Q : What was the key message of the film?
SW : I think there's several messages, one of them is forgiveness. This is a man that struggles with such pain, you know, with what's happening to his life and his family. And he has to learn how to forgive the people that have done that to him, he has to learn how to forgive god and reconnect with his faith, and eventually he has to learn how to forgive himself, in order to get through and- and lead a more positive life.
Q : How do you feel the film relates to today's struggles?
SW : We're all looking for a little hope, you know, the world is tumultuous. And, um, we're all looking for something and we sometimes all feel a bit all alone, even though there's billions of people on the planet. And we're all a bit disconnected and I think that, you know, believing in God and believing in the love that he has and- can all be united by something can, you know, help us on our way.
Q : What is it like working with Octavia?
SW : As I said, Octavia has such poise, such warmth, she's extremely prepared. Which is great because then you can just you feel safe, she's great.
Q : What does the movie say to someone going through great sadness?
SW : The movie says that you're not alone. You know, you can always take a moment to reach out to God. And no matter what you've done or what you're going through, God will love you. Unconditionally. And you can use that to guide yourself through these, this dark time. And it- it may not happen all at once, you may not feel, uh, release, the burden taken off you at once but you're on your way.
Q : How did working on the movie impact your faith?
SW : I think a lot of the the questions that Mack had I had at that time in my life. You know, you explored them enough and you're doing so many countless takes of exploring them. I may not have the answers to why does God let these things happen, but the book, the script, the experience has given me foresight to know there's something bigger than all of that and bigger than me in it. Um, and to embrace that.
Q : What are some favorite things Papa says to you in the movie?
SW : I like the relationship between Mack and Papa because it's combative but it's still loving, it's volatile but it's, it's deeply heartfelt, the relationship that they have. Learns to look at God as his friend and with Octavia that was how we made those scenes work, you couldn't put her on a pedestal. It's this beautiful friendship where you're discovering something deeper about each other. Mack doesn't look at the the Trinity as something untouchable. This is an opportunity to get answers and- and get a connection that he's been longing- you have to look at it as a normal relationship.
Q : How is your own life like Mack’s journey?
SW : I think we're all asking these questions, I think we all have had challenges or tragedy hit us, and we all rail against the world or rail against faith or rail against God. And- and want to understand why. And sometimes God I think if you're praying to him about these things, he may not respond, he might just listen. And I think sometimes that's all we need is, you know, that kind of comfort, that it's okay to be angry, it's okay to be frustrated and have these questions. But, you know, he is there- his love is all encompassing. And that's all we sometimes need is that kind of belief and that faith, you know. I have a young son and when he's railing against the world in his little frustrations, all he needs is the comfort of me to to calm him down and put him on his away and I may not have all the answers for him and I may not even understand him, because he doesn't speak yet. But I can help him on his way.
Q : What are some messages The Shack gives the world?
SW : We're not alone. Often we're looking for the answers and we need them right now. And we need things solved right now and pain released right now. And and I think that what The Shack is saying is, you know, it which is what the Bible says and what God says is that God may not have all the answers. But he can give us some sense of direction and can- the Bible can give us the tools to get through it. And there's a great line in the movie where he says to his daughter, I, I don't really know what I'm doing but with your help I can do it a bit at a time.
And when he's having to forgive, he- you can't forgive someone that's hurt you a hundred percent straight away, it's going to take healing time. And that’s okay and I think that's a great message that it's okay. It's okay to to take your time it- you'll get through it. It it might hurt but you are on the right path.