‘The Debt’ Stars Talk German Accents, ’70s Thrillers

Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain talk to MTV News about challenges and rewards of playing special agents in John Madden film.

Even at a glance, John Madden’s new movie “The Debt” has a lot going for it: a cool-looking espionage thriller that boasts a stellar cast, including breakout stars Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) and Jessica Chastain (“The Help” and “Tree of Life”), as well as acclaimed actors Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds.

“Debt” follows a trio of government agents who are haunted by repercussions from a top-secret mission they carried out in the 1960s. When we meet them, it’s 1997 and the agents are mature adults played by Mirren, Wilkinson and Hinds. We relive their harrowing ordeal in a series of flashbacks, wherein the same characters are played by Chastain, Marton Csokas and Worthington. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems, and the agents must again risk their lives for redemption.

When MTV News sat down with Worthington (and his co-star Chastain) recently, we asked what separates “The Debt” from other thrillers.

“It’s like an old 1970s thriller, I think,” Worthington said. “It has the feel of ‘The Boys From Brazil,’ ‘Three Days of the Condor,’ ‘The Conversation,’ stuff like that. That was John [Madden's] pitch to me from the start,” he explained. “There is a different pace on it, it was a movie that I would like to go and see. It is different.

The role also required Worthington to take on various German accents, so we wondered how the actor went about mastering them.

“I find them always hard, it’s like a costume,” Worthington admitted. “But to learn German on top of an Israeli lilt thrown on top of an Australian accent with a guy who’s not very good at accents anyway, it was doubly hard. You just put in the effort, and Jessica Chastain is great at accents — she kind of helped me through it.” Asked if his newly acquired accent stuck with him, Worthington laughed. “No, I drop accents. The character traits I keep and the emotions I keep, but the accents and the costume I don’t take home.”

Chastain revealed that she also put in a lot of work, perhaps more than she ever has for a character. “I always do preparation but it was very strange,” Chastain told us, “the preparation for this was more exhausting than filming the movie. About three and a half months before filming started, I started learning Krav Maga. I took a beginner’s course Berlitz in German, I started learning the accent. I started watching a lot of Helen Mirren. I read about the Holocaust and the medical experiments, which was devastating to read about the atrocities that happened then,” she recalled. “It really was like going back to school for me.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Debt.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.