Sam Worthington Found Learning the Alien Language in ‘Avatar’ Easier Than Doing an American Accent
For actor Sam Worthington, starring in James Cameron’s Avatar was a life-changing experience. The film not only boosted his profile, but he had the chance to work with a prolific director with a respected filmography. But Worthington had to go above and beyond to meet Cameron’s lofty expectations. This included learning an entirely new language that Cameron invented specifically for Avatar.
For Worthington, however, the task wasn’t that difficult. Especially since he had an easier time learning Na’vi than he did learning an American accent.
Sam Worthington has always had trouble doing American accents
Worthington was sometimes criticized for his American accent used in films. Major outlets like MTV even knocked Worthington’s attempt at doing them, listing him as one of several foreign actors with the worst American accents. However, the star himself has admitted he has a rough time with the language.
“I get in trouble a lot with my accents. I read the blogs,” Worthington once admitted according to the youtube channel Showbiz Junkies. “Look, I try my best. To me, an accent is like a costume. It’s like another bit of the puzzle that goes together with all the details that you put into your work.”
But Worthington asserted that he planned to constantly improve and that he was up to the task.
“So, it’s gonna’ be a challenge for me, but I’m willing to undertake it and try my best,” the Terminator Salvation star assured.
The actor then explained some of the techniques he’d use to improve his American accent.
“They give you a very good coach, and I’m meant to go to class. And sometimes I skip,” Worthington revealed.
However, there was one language that Worthington found to be easier to pick up than an American accent. And it was completely made up.
For Sam Worthington, learning Na’vi was easier than learning American
The Terminator director sought the help of Paul Frommer, an expert linguist, and professor at the University of Southern California, to invent the Na’vi language.
“He wanted a complete language, with a totally consistent sound system, morphology, syntax,” Frommer told NPR.
Also according to Frommer, Cameron “wanted it to sound good – he wanted it to be pleasant, he wanted it to be appealing to the audience.”
Frommer continued to share some of the challenges that came with constructing a new language for the cast.
“Jim Cameron and Sam Worthington came up to me and said, ‘We’ve decided that the character Jake is going to be recounting an incident he had where he was bitten in his big blue butt — so how do you say ‘big blue butt?” Frommer recalled. “… I had ‘big’ and I had ‘blue,’ but I didn’t have ‘butt.’ “
But as reported by Star Life Way, learning to speak Na’vi was less challenging for Worthington than learning other real-life accents.
“The Na’vi language, I’ll tell you, was easier for me than an American accent,” Worthington said. “I spent at least two hours a day practicing the American accent and learning the Na’vi language, analyzing the language, breaking it phonetically so that it didn’t sound like I was speaking through gauze. It was like learning two languages.”
However, Frommer noted in the same interview that no one really perfected speaking Na’vi like he did.
“At this point, I’m the only one who knows the grammer,” Frommer shared. “Maybe that’ll change as time goes on…who knows?”
Why Sam Worthington wanted to take a break from acting
Worthington eventually wanted to take a break from Hollywood after a while in the business. This was mostly because of burnout he’d gotten from the entertainment industry.
“I haven’t taken a break in four years. It’s been a nomadic existence,” Worthington told Men’s Health (via Independent). “Now it’s time for me to enjoy the fruits of my labor for a little bit – but I don’t think I’ll be gone for long.”
Worthington later asserted that the highest-grossing film didn’t make him the overnight success that many thought it did.
“It wasn’t as if I woke up one day and was doing movies,” Worthington said, claiming it took a lot of hard work for him to secure his place in Hollywood.
During his admission that he’d be taking a break from acting, Worthington also cited the effort it took to do Avatar.
“It didn’t matter if I’d been drinking all night; I’d still be there at 6 a.m. But that doesn’t work now, and it certainly didn’t work on Avatar,” Worthington added.