Is ‘Avatar’ Star Sam Worthington The New Leonardo DiCaprio?

James Cameron made both into billion-dollar movie stars, but can Worthington follow 'Titanic' heavyweight Leo?

At first glance, the pair would seem to be miles apart. Leonardo DiCaprio is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, a three-time Oscar nominee in the prime of his career, a fiercely private all-American actor whose name can get any script the green light. Sam Worthington is an endearingly outspoken British/Australian veteran roughly the same age, positioned as “the next big thing” for some time and only now breaking through with a series of high-profile flicks.

To some, however, history may be repeating itself. A little more than a decade after DiCaprio became a household name with “Titanic,” a billion dollars’ worth of moviegoers have now seen Worthington’s face in “Avatar.” With that in mind, here are three reasons why King of the World James Cameron might be once again playing kingmaker — and three others why Sam will never reach Leo’s heights:

What They Have in Common

The Breakthrough: When you star in one of the most popular movies of all time, it tends to make you a household name — hell, 12 years after “Titanic,” Billy Zane is still getting work. After Leo flipped upside-down on that boat, a world full of women found themselves suddenly in love with him. Similarly, Worthington’s name is now on the lips of millions — and even if he pulls a Zane and makes nothing worthwhile for the next decade, he’ll always be a star.

The Eye-Candy Factor: Even if Leo had been cursed with the acting chops and range of Rip Taylor, he would’ve gone far with those DiCaprio leading-man looks and the highest-grossing movie of all time on his résumé. Similarly, women like that Worthington fellow. Spend a few minutes online and you’ll find tons of sites devoted to his manly bod, sexy smirk and ever-present five o’clock shadow. In the eyes of many, he is every bit as desirable now as a batch of Unobtanium.

The Desirability: A smart actor finds himself great directors to work under. For proof, look no further than DiCaprio, who has spent his post-”Titanic” years working alongside names like Spielberg, Scorsese and Scott. Although his Hollywood career is only just beginning, Worthington has already attracted the attention of Cameron; Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk”), who is directing him in March’s “Clash of the Titans” remake; and McG (the “Charlie’s Angels” films) who directed him in “Terminator Salvation” this past summer. True, those two filmmakers are no Scorsese and Spielberg, but Worthington seems to be climbing the ladder.

What They Don’t Have in Common

The Backstory: When he broke through with “Titanic,” Leo was a 23-year-old former child actor whose decade in Hollywood already had him well into the public eye. Sure, his work on the silly sitcom “Growing Pains” may have been working against him, but what few remember is that films like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “Romeo + Juliet” had positioned him much like Joseph Gordon-Levitt is today. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Worthington seems more like a Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson type, both of whom broke through on these shores in their early 30s and have at times been pigeonholed as action-film stars. Does Worthington have a “Braveheart” or “The Insider” to establish him as something more? Only time will tell.

The Script Sense: With the exception of “The Beach” and maybe “Body of Lies,” DiCaprio hasn’t made many missteps in his 12 years atop Hollywood’s A-list, and each film couldn’t be more different: “Catch Me If You Can,” “Blood Diamond,” “The Aviator,” etc. But, while DiCaprio may be the best selector of scripts currently in the business, Worthington still has much to prove. His Hollywood output thus far has been quite weak, including clunkers like “The Great Raid,” “Rogue” and the “Terminator” dud that may have killed the franchise. Now that he’s in a position to say “yes” rather than “yes please,” it will be interesting to see whether newly minted star Worthington signs on to everything (à la Gerard Butler) or everything good (like Leo).

The Chameleon-esque Factor: As good-looking as DiCaprio might be, watch a film like “Gilbert Grape” or “Aviator” and you’ll see a supremely talented thespian who can immerse himself in a wide array of personalities. Can Worthington do the same? The jury is still out at this point — but in many ways the most entertaining thing about the “Avatar” actor might be watching where he goes from here.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Avatar.”

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