Actor Sam Claflin found new movie emotionally challenging
Playing a quadriplegic in Me Before You was emotionally challenging for British actor Sam Claflin
A relative unknown when he was cast in his feature film debut Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), Sam Claflin's dashing turn as missionary Philip Swift brought him worldwide attention and legions of female fans.
He soon followed that up with Snow White And The Huntsman (as the heroine's Prince, naturally) and The Hunger Games movie series (as sexy District 4 "tribute"-turned-resistance fighter Finnick Odair).
Needless to say, even more women went wild for the 29-year-old Englishman.
But it is his latest project, the heartrending romance Me Before You, based on Jojo Moyes' best-selling novel, that continues his hot streak and will cement his heart-throb status once and for all.
Me Before You opens here tomorrow and is touted as the next The Notebook. In it, Claflin plays wealthy but unhappy quadriplegic Will Traynor, who unexpectedly falls in love with his new happy-go-lucky caregiver, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), even as he is in the midst of contemplating assisted suicide.
Our interview is at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City, and Claflin - who married British actress Laura Haddock in 2013 and with whom he has a six-month-old son - is sporting both the obligatory movie star stubble and wry, good-natured sense of humour like most of his British peers.
How did you prepare to play Will?
I watched documentary after documentary and I did research on the different levels of quadriplegia and paralysis. We went to spinal cord specialist hospitals and met with occupational therapists and medical professionals.
And what became clear to me was that everyone has a very different journey and everyone suffers from very different injuries, and nobody has the same amount of movement or restrictions and limitations as anyone else. So we had the opportunity to explore Will's personal movement and how little there was. A medical adviser was on set guiding me through exact movements and exact positions.
How did playing this character affect you?
This movie changed me. I think specifically, it made me not take things for granted. During the research process, I would go home and I would lie next to Laura sobbing... (as) it really, really moved me.
DEMANDING ROLE: Claflin with on-screen love interest Emilia Clarke at the movie's premiere in New York City. PHOTO: AFP
After meeting a few people who are in a very similar position to Will, what became obvious to me (as I was) climbing into bed at night (was) the fact that I can do that within a matter of seconds, and the fact that I am doing that next to my beautiful wife and my little baby...
All these things made me realise that I am not suffering and there are a lot of people in worse positions than me. So any time that I kind of feel sad or tired, I think how lucky and blessed I am to have what I have.
Tell us about the weight loss training.
I lost about 18kg in about three months, which is pretty intense, but I had an incredible team of trainers and nutritionists. There was a two-week period where I was eating 500 calories a day and still was expected to train three times a day and also rehearse.
I started becoming very weak, frail and grumpy. I sort of went to very dark places. I remember Emilia saying she once came to the rehearsal room in the morning and I was shivering, curled up in a ball on a sofa, and she was like, 'Are you alright?' I went, 'Yeah, I am fine. I just don't want to be here'.
But the first thing (director) Thea (Sharrock) said was, 'Channel what little energy there is and use it for Will'. And that's exactly what I did.
What was it like working with Emilia Clarke?
She brings out the best in me. When she smiles, I want to smile. And I think she's got such an infectious personality. But when she was crying on set, I was concerned and I wanted to cry, and I think I would go so far as to fall in love with her. (Laughs)
You have quite the real-life love story with your wife though.
I met her for a measly 10 seconds or so and she was very, very beautiful, and I could tell she was very kind and genuine and warm as a person. But I didn't think I had a chance and I didn't think she felt the same. I just thought there and then - that is what my ideal woman is.
You just became a dad. What's fatherhood like?
That is a love you can't describe to anyone that hasn't got a kid, really... It's the most amazing thing in the world and it's another layer of love and depth that you can't describe.
Your original childhood ambition was to be a pro footballer for Norwich City, right?
I watch as much sports as humanly possible. I spent 16 years of my childhood playing football and living football, and it was due to an (ankle) injury that I gave up that dream.
"But what I realised is being an actor, I get to live out all my childhood dreams. I've played a knight, pirate, footballer... and these are all the things that, as a kid, I wanted to be. (Laughs)