Sam was recently interviewed by Kate Wills from Red Magazine. In this great interview, Sam discusses his upcoming role as Will Traynor in Me Before You (in cinemas June 3rd), as well as his thoughts on fame and fatherhood! Read our transcript of the interview & see the scans below **Please credit us if you use our transcript or scans – thank you***
MEET THE MAN YOU’RE ABOUT TO FALL FOR
His Hunger Games face is teen-familiar, but this year, Sam Claflin matures on screen in the long-awaited film version of bestseller Me Before You. It’s been the making of him, he tells Kate Wills.
When Sam Claflin arrives at the hotel in south-west London for our interview & shoot, it’s a bit of a Clark Kent moment. I was expecting the perma-tanned, super-buff, trident-toting Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games (yes, I am a 31-year-old teenage girl). So when a pale, scruffy-haired, bookish-looking man shuffles in, wearing round tortoiseshell glasses and sporting a battered Mulberry satchel, I almost don’t recognise him. He orders a coffee and looks – like most new fathers – utterly exhausted. Claflin and his wife, Luther star Laura Haddock, had their first child, a son, six weeks before we meet, and today is the first time he’s left the baby bubble.He’s already beaming about fatherhood – “I’m already missing him” – and despite being “at that point of tiredness where your eyes hurt”, is unfailingly polite and charming. He chats with the photographer about Norwich FC and the last series of Catastrophe, makes a fuss of a passing Pekingese puppy and endears everyone on set with tales of nappy-changing woes (the words “uncontrollable hose pipe” feature). The Superman-style disguise could come in handy. This year, Claflin is set to make the transition from teen star to household name. He’s already got blockbusters under his belt: he landed a part in the fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean film almost straight out of drama school, then there was The Hunger Games (it grossed $2.3 billion, you might have heard of it), and Snow White And The Huntsman (last month he popped up in the sequel). He’s mastered the romcom, opposite Lily Collins in Love, Rosie, and won critical acclaim for The Riot Club. But his new role, as a suicidal paraplegic in the adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ bestseller Me Before You is a departure from anything he’s done before.
“A part like Will Traynor is a dream,” he says, his actor’s RP occasionally veering into the flat ‘a’s of the Norfolk broads, “It was the most eye-opening experience and I feel like going through the experience has changed me. I know it sounds very clichéd & naive but I am now very aware when pavements aren’t level and curbs are too high or ramps aren’t available.”
Just as Eddie Redmayne faced critisism for what detractors called “crippling up” to play Stephen Hawking, the question of whether able-bodied actors should play disabled parts has been levied at Claflin, too. “Someone on Twitter said how angry they were that I was cast instead of a disabled actor and I hear that point, I do,” he says, sounding genuinely concerned. “Of course there are parts of the novel, and our film, where Will is able-bodied and that would’ve been more difficult for someone who wasn’t able-bodied to portray. But there needs to be more opportunities for people of other colours, races or physical abilities. It’s not that white, able-bodied men are stealing everyone’s parts, it’s that the scriptwriters need to write other stories. I would if I could, but I can’t!”
Claflin lost three and a half stone of his Hunger Games bulk to play Will. For four months he followed a 500-calorie-a-day diet and worked out three times a day. “I drove myself into the ground,” he says. But the transformation was more than just physical. “There was a point just before filming where I was in a similar place to Will emotionally and mentally. By no means am I saying I know what being a paraplegic is like, but I was depressed and low on energy and in great pain for completely opposite reasons. I wasn’t in the mood to do anything, which is how Will is at the beginning of the movie.”
If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that in Me Before You Will petitions his parents to take him to Dignitas, the Swiss assisted-suicide clinic. “I wasn’t aware of assisted suicide clinics before I was cast,” admits Claflin, “I wanted to do a bit of research and delved quite deeply and darkly into that world. The Terry Pratchett documentary about it was mind-blowing.” Although he refuses to be drawn on his own views about this controversial subject – “My honest opinion, honestly, is…everyone has a different opinion” – he hints that he believes in the right to die with dignity. “Humans have freedom of thought and freedom of speech…so why are we taking that away from people?”
Claflin spent four months rehearsing with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who plays Will’s carer and love interest, Louisa. He also developed a rapport with the book’s author Jojo Moyes. “Sam is a sweetheart,” she tells me over email. “He is also the nicest-smelling man I’ve ever met. So much so that I and a couple of the female crew members would sneak up to him on set and inhale him.”
Although he’ll happily upload videos of him and Laura rap-syncing to Iggy Azalea and snaps of his cockapoo Rosie, don’t expect shots of Sam Junior any time soon. “We’re purposely shying away from posting any pictures of the baby,” he says, unwilling to even divulge his son’s name. “I don’t want to force my child into a world that he may or may not wish to go into. he might want to be a banker and change his surname for all I know.” It’s fairly uncommon these days for anyone to be married with children in their twenties, let alone movie stars, but Claflin was keen to settle down. “The day I met Laura I knew I wanted to marry her, so it didn’t feel like we were rushing it,” he says. After meeting his future wife in an audition for My Week With Marilyn, Sam called his agent and told him he’d met the girl he wanted to marry. The next day they had a chance encounter on the tube (you couldn’t make it up!), and months later, Haddock got in touch with Claflin on Facebook (“she definitely pursued me”). They married in 2013, and from the dreamy look in his eyes when he talks about her, to the “Hi, sweetie” when she calls during our shoot, they’re clearly very much in love. For Claflin, having children was “written in the stars”. “As a kid, I loved playing with dolls, did work experience in a playschool and my mum was a child-minder, so I’ve grown up around kids”. Yet nothing could prepare him for having his own. “Someone described it to my wife as ‘the best shock in the world’ – I think that’s fitting.” He says fatherhood has given him a “new-found admiration” for his parents and “anyone who’s been through it – it’s really hard!”
When we meet, Laura has been pictured on the red carpet for the first time since giving birth, and a certain website has commented on her “svelte post-baby body”. Does he feel protective of her? “I do, and I think she’s probably more paranoid about it than she needs to be. No-one should be expected to snap back into shape but I don’t think she has anything to worry about. Laura looks amazing. She is amazing.”
Claflin also knows what it is like to have his body scrutinised. “Me and Laura were on holiday and we were papped on the beach and we thought ‘Who gives a crap about us?’ But I started reading the comments underneath the photos and they were really negative like ‘You say he’s buff? Look at him, he’s fat.’ Unfortunately, in the industry we work in, it’s expected, but I don’t go walking down the street telling people they’re fat and ugly. People should be kinder. I am a normal person – I have feelings! I constantly worry about how I look because I think the standard amongst other actors is so high. Take Zac Efron for example. He’s about my age, we were both nominated for best shirtless scene and I’d vote for him! He keeps that up all the time. That’s one hell of a life choice. I couldn’t do it. I despise the gym. I’ll do it for work if I need to, but if I don’t need to then I’d rather have a pint or a burger with my mates.”
Claflin turns 30 next month, so just about remembers life pre-internet (“You’d call a mate on your landline and his mum would say ‘He’s out somewhere’ so you’d take your bike and find him”) and laments the role that social media can play in making or breaking an actor. “Being famous now is how many followers you have on Instagram and I think that’s quite sad,” he says. “So many people I know work so hard and save up a lifetime of money to go to drama school or university, and then when they get round to auditioning for a part, it goes to the daughter or son of so-and-so. I think that’s my working class roots – when you see someone from privilege walk into a job which you know someone else strived for, it’s infuriating.”
One of four boys, Claflin grew up in Norwich with his dad, a finance officer, and his mum, a classroom assistant at his school, the local comp. Sam was captain of the football team, until injury forced him to try acting. “I was a loud mouth,” he says. “I was 5ft 2in and had a shaved head, earring and gold necklace. I wore a lot of Kappa.” He credits his family for keeping him grounded. His mum sorts all his fan mail and makes him reply to every letter. “I remember the first time I saw the amount, I said, ‘Can’t you sign my signature?’ and she said, ‘Don’t be so ungrateful! People have spent days…look at the artwork on this one!'”
Soon he’ll start shooting My Cousin Rachel with Rachel Weisz, an adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier story by Notting Hill director Roger Michell. With Claflin’s floppy hair, dimples and self deprecating wit, it’s not a stretch to see him become the next Hugh Grant. But he says he’d much prefer a career like Christian Bale’s. “He physically transforms from part to part,” he says. “No-one really knows what ‘Christian Bale looks like and I like hiding behind a role and getting lost in a character. I love the process of losing weight or gaining weight or growing a craggy beard.” In fact, he cultivated an impressive pencil moustache (“that was all me!”) for his role in 1940’s set comedy Their Finest Hour And A Half, out later this year, co-starring Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy.
As our time comes to an end, Claflin casually lets slip that he’s doing a half marathon later that day. “Well, my friend was doing one,” he explains, reluctantly. “So I said I’d train with him, and now I’m doing it, too.” Dad bod or no dad bod, he is definitely still a more-than-a-bit Superman.
Me Before You is out 3rd June.
Our Scans (please credit if using)