By Emerson Pearson.

While covering this week’s issue of Variety, “Avatar”‘s Sam Worthington confesses how he became an alcoholic during his meteoric rise to fame and how his wife helped lead him into sobriety.

Following the massive box office success of “Avatar”, Worthington fell into addiction. Worthington says he knew cities around the world “not in terms of neighbourhoods or monuments, but by favourite bars.” While waiting in the airport to board planes, he’d down bottles of Champagne to himself. His wife, Lara, told him she’d never seen anyone drink so much before the plane even took off.

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“I couldn’t see it,” Worthington says. “I thought it was normal.” He adds, “I didn’t like who I was. Drinking helped me get through the day.”

Worthington would begin drinking in the mornings, “Nine out of 10 people couldn’t tell,” Worthington says. “They could probably smell it on me, but when they looked at me, they couldn’t tell. I was still doing my job — I just don’t think I was doing it very well.”

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As his fame continued to grow, so did his struggles with addiction. Worthington would end up clashing with paparazzi, getting arrested in 2014 for punching a photographer. This negative coverage would only increase his dependency on alcohol, “I’d go haywire over someone asking me for a photograph or taking a photograph of me,” Worthington says. “If someone approached me, my anxiety would go through the roof.”

Sam Worthington
— Greg Williams/Variety

Eventually his wife Lara proposed an ultimatum that would change the trajectory of his life forever. “You can do what you want, but I don’t need to be around this,” she told him. Sam claims she said this statement with love, not disappointment or anger, and that is what pushed him back into reality instead of further falling off of the deep end.

Since cleaning himself up from alcohol, Sam has rediscovered the magic he feels for film and says Avatar 2 encapsulates everything he loves about filmmaking.


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Ellen Bullock