'Sanctum' Star Rhys Wakefield: James Cameron Actually An 'Amazing Mentor'
By Matthew Shepatin Posted Feb 4th 2011 12:45PM
"Heh. I don't know," he tells PopEater. "It's kind of hard to tell what will happen. Who knows? I really just feel like a kid from the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, and somehow I ended up here in LA. I'm looking at the Hollywood sign right now, actually -- I'm at the Four Seasons -– and it's such a weird thing. So I don't know what to say to that. Whatever. We'll see what happens."
Read our full interview, touching on all the bases -- Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, James Cameron -- after the jump.
Rhys comes across like a young man with a good head on his shoulders. Can we set up a defensive perimeter around him as part of a Charlie Sheen prevention system? It's bad enough he's been in close proximity to fellow Aussie Mel Gibson of late, at a Hollywood house party.
"I didn't meet him," Rhys clarifies. "I just saw him at the party. But it's an interesting thing. I saw Sylvester Stallone the other night out somewhere. He was getting paparazzi'd everywhere, and security guards were all over the place, and he was swatting cameras away, and they were holding back fans and people who all wanted to have a piece of him. It's weird. But I think it's just keeping that balance between your private self and your public self."
Adorable, right? It's like he's never heard of TMZ before. Here's the rest of our chat:
I guess you're no longer in Kansas, mate. Or should I say Oz?
[Laughs] Yeah, at this party Friday night, I was literally bumping into John Travolta. Anne Hathaway was there, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman. All these amazing people.
Any Oscar nominees?
I actually met, or briefly met, Helena Bonham Carter in the elevator one day, which was quite a head spin. I was with a friend, and we tried to play it really cool and then afterward we were just too excited. It was pretty funny.
Some British and Australian actors seem to react particularly strongly to the American media's intrusion into their personal lives -- Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, so on. Do you fit into that intensely private mold?
I get terrified by the idea of the red carpet -- and I do like my privacy. But I just think it's a funny balance. You have to be grateful for the people in your world who are fans.
I see you have a fan site called Charming Rhys. Have you been on it?
Actually, no. I've heard about it. Bizarre. I heard there was pictures of my family on the website, which is really strange. I mean, I see it in one sense. It's flattering that someone is taking the time out of their own lives to do something like that.
See the 'Sanctum' trailer:
You got your start on the popular Australian show 'Home and Away.' That's also where Heath Ledger got his start. Was he somebody you looked up to? Do you have a personal connection?
I have a lot of mutual friends with Heath. I always admired his career, even before I got into acting. He paved the way for young Australian actors, I think. For me, anyway, 'cause he was part of my whole moviegoing generation. I saw every movie of his and could watch him grow on screen as an actor and as a person. I think he's a brilliant actor -- is and was. It's a tragedy.
Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the upcoming Marvel Comics adaptations of 'Thor' and 'The Avengers,' worked with you on 'Home and Away.' Did you guys make a secret pact back then to take over Hollywood?
[Laughs] It's a very, very strange thing. I bumped into Chris last year at the GQ Awards, and we were having a good laugh about how far we were from the green room at 'Home and Away.' I mean, it's all very surreal. We joked about how when I was first coming out to LA and Hollywood and he was trying to help me just find a place to live. You never expect what's going to happen.
What is it about Hemsworth that you think would make him a good Thor?
It's actually pretty funny -- back at 'Home and Away,' we gave him the nickname The Hammer. Hemsworth is such a big dude. This massive bloke, this Aussie macho man. So I think it's perfect he's Thor.
Might you one day yourself put on the cape and tights?
As a kid I was obsessed with the idea of being a superhero. In my naïve mind, it seemed obvious that the closest thing to being one was playing one. That was my logic as a kid, so I started taking acting classes. It feels like I've been pretending and playing ever since.
How ready were you for the extreme physical training you went through preparing for your 'Sanctum' role as a cave diver?
The preparation leading up to the shoot was quite an ordeal. Very intensive. I was required to learn scuba-diving, rock-climbing, ropes-training and a bunch of other crazy things. I was doing two hours of swim training a day, doing breath-holds to enhance my lung capacity, and on top of that I was hitting the gym five times a week just to bulk up for the role.
Where did you train?
In parts of Sydney and the Gold Coast, where we shot the film.
The co-writer on the film, John Garvin, also supervised your underwater training. How did that go?
Well, John Garvin, who is this big diving enthusiast, actually wrote one of the key handbooks on re-breathers, which is this technology that cave divers use in order to stay under water for a long time. It recycles the air exhaled by the diver through a loop. I mean, this apparatus allows a diver to stay under for 24 to 48 hours without coming up. Garvin did an amazing job teaching me how to use this quite advanced technology in a very short amount of time.
For the most part, the cast did much of their own stunts. What precautions did the producers take to make sure that nobody, you know, drowned?
We all had safety drivers. There's a lot of trust that goes into working with the safety diver. Especially, there's a portion of the film where I'm holding my breath and I have no mouth piece or regulator. I don't even have a mask or goggles on. I'm basically swimming blind in the dark with no air. You just have so much trust in the safety diver. The second they yell cut you reach out and expect to have your air source in your hand and mouth within seconds.
Did you ever have that moment of panic?
I did have one moment of panic actually where for some reason my ear started to ache. You know when you equalize or pressurize your ears and you pop them? I think I did it too hard and something popped, and my ear was aching and getting worse and worse. I kind of panicked a bit, and I didn't have any regulator or mask on. So I started swimming around and then there was rocks everywhere and so my safety diver guided me out, and I just took a little a breather after that. And then went down and did it again.
How often did James Cameron visit the set in Australia?
Just once. Before we started shooting at night, he came down to check things out. The set was incredible. They sunk these huge rock faces into this massive water tank that was eight to 10 meters deep. It was like a real cave. His eyes just lit up -- the exploration, the sense of adventure. It's all riveting to him. I heard he spent more time around the 'Titanic' than the captain of ship did. So that's an amazing thing.
Did you get to know Cameron personally?
I've been back and forth to LA since the shoot and hung out with him, and I got to see the film for the first time with him. That was quite an experience. But he's a great guy. Obviously, so intelligent, so meticulous. It's really interesting just picking his brain. Just chatting with him. He's like a boy. He has the imagination of a kid. But with the resources and intelligence to make it all a reality.
Did he give you any advice about navigating the wild-and-woolly Hollywood scene?
He did. He gave me some career advice. He told me where he saw my career heading. He gave me a lot of advice about media and publicity and certain ways to get out of situations.
Can you share some words of wisdom that Cameron gave you?
Oh, you know, there's been many pieces of advice. The great thing he said to me was, any favor that I ever need in Hollywood, any introduction, any call, he told me to give him a call, let him know and he'll make it happen.
That's a nice weapon to have.
He's been just an amazing mentor. Always so positive.
I've got my headline. Rhys Wakefield: 'James Cameron Isn't A Megalomaniacal Jerkface.'
He's actually a very kind and generous person.
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