Why Avatar Star Lost Green Lantern Role

After being cast as the lead in Avatar, Sam Worthington had a shot at playing DC Comics hero Green Lantern. But he just couldn't stop asking questions.

Green Lantern Corps in Green Lantern
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

These days, Ryan Reynolds can’t resist taking a shot at his second foray into superhero cinema, the ill-fated Green Lantern. But back in 2011, Reynolds was sincere in his love for Hal Jordan and the mythos behind DC Comics’s space cops, as demonstrated by a viral clip in which he recites the oath for a young fan. Sure, some of Reynolds’s signature snark made its way into the movie; wisecracks about purple aliens and glowing green costumes. But for the most part, Reynolds and the rest of the movie take seriously Green Lantern‘s odd premise.

That commitment to the story wasn’t the only thing that won the role for Reynolds, but a lack of commitment certainly lost the part for one of his competitors. In an interview with Variety, Avatar: The Way of Water star Sam Worthington revealed that he had been up for the part of Hal Jordan. But Worthington’s questions during the casting process made him unworthy to wield the ring.

“It didn’t make much sense to me,” recalled Worthington. “The suit comes out of his skin?” The biggest stumbling block involved the power ring itself, which allows the user to create anything they imagine, provided they have enough willpower (and don’t use it on anything colored yellow). For Worthington, the logistics of the ring didn’t make sense. “He’s got this powerful ring that can create anything. Well, what can beat the ring?” Worthington asked producers. When they answered “Nothing,” Worthington told them, “Well, something needs to beat it, or it won’t be very interesting.”

Obviously, Worthington did not get the part. But it’s hard to argue that he was wrong about the movie’s success. Despite an impressive cast that featured Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, Mark Strong as Sinestro, Taika Waititi (with a dodgy American accent) as Tom Kalmaku, and a gonzo Peter Sarsgaard as villain Hector Hammond, the movie was a bloated, uncompelling mess. Director Martin Campbell, who previously helmed James Bond standouts GoldenEye and Casino Royale could not find an interesting throughline to the film.

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Green Lantern was not the first time that Worthington had the chance to work with Campbell. In fact, he had been up for the part of James Bond himself. For Worthington, Casino Royale‘s vision of a grittier, more violent 007 seemed like his best chance to get the role. But despite meeting personally with producer Barbara Broccoli, Worthington could not pull it off. “I could play Bond as a killer, but I couldn’t get the debonair down for the life of me,” he admitted. “The suit did not fit.”

These missed opportunities aside, it’s clear that Worthington has had more than his share of blockbuster success. The actor starred in Avatar for James Cameron, the highest-grossing movie of all time. And with Avatar: The Way of Water releasing to theaters this weekend, Worthington has a new shot at making Hollywood history. If he can avoid asking questions about unobtainium, that is.