THERE’S STILL SO MUCH TO LEARN

Bri­tish ac­tor Sam Claflin opens up to Eva Mackevic about the im­por­tance of fam­ily, fear of the un­known and his re­la­tion­ship with fame

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Entertainment -

Sam flashes a big, warm smile across the room when I ar­rive at Lon­don’s The Lang­ham ­Ho­tel, jump­ing up from the sofa to greet me like we’re old friends. I thank him for tak­ing the time to meet me, to which he po­litely re­sponds, “Thank you for… be­ing here?” He gig­gles at his own awk­ward re­sponse. “Or… want­ing to do this!”

This young, charis­matic ac­tor drew the at­ten­tion of cin­ema­go­ers across the world when he was cast in Pi­rates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 2011. He sub­se­quently ap­peared in a slew of block­busters, such as The Hunger Games and Snow White and the Hunts­man, fol­lowed by his break­through role as the quad­ri­plegic young man, Will Traynor, in Me Be­fore You.

“Peo­ple as­sume that I live my life try­ing to be beau­ti­ful all the time, whereas ac­tu­ally I live a very

or­di­nary life,” he tells me, on his aver­sion to the word ‘fame’. “‘Star­dom’ is a word I never use to de­scribe my life or my ex­pe­ri­ence of work. I feel very for­tu­nate in my ca­reer that I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to work with some in­cred­i­ble peo­ple, but I also have the op­por­tu­nity to live quite a pri­vate life. I gen­uinely be­lieve that if you want to live a pri­vate life, you can.”

He cer­tainly prac­tises what he preaches. Wear­ing a sim­ple jumper, jeans and train­ers, he looks noth­ing like the tanned, oiled-up, Ado­nis-like Fin­nick from The Hunger Games. In fact, he’s kind of goofy and fid­gety, burst­ing with boy­ish joy.

SAM’S PATH TO SUCCESS may sound like many as­pir­ing ac­tors’ fan­tasy sce­nario: a boy-next- door from Nor­wich who never planned on be­ing an ac­tor, put t ing al l his ded­i­cat ion into be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­ball player in­stead. Sev­eral years, a bro­ken an­kle and a chance en­counter with the the­atre later, he found him­self on the set of Pi­rates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, min­gling with the likes of Johnny Depp and Pene­lope Cruz.

“Be­cause it was my f irst t ime on a film set, I was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – a deer in the head­lights. Some­one asked me if I got the most out of my ex­pe­ri­ence with Pi­rates and I was like, ‘Prob­a­bly not.’ Now I wish I could do that again be­cause I have so much more con­fi­dence and so much more self­aware­ness that I’d be able to hold my own. I felt like I was a lost puppy. ”

Yet Pi­rates opened many doors for Sam, who went on to star in The Hunger Games film se­ries and the box- off ice hit Me Be­fore You. Six years down the track and his film choices are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­plex and in­clude the dark Daphne du Mau­rier adap­ta­tion My Cousin Rachel and the First World War drama Jour­ney’s End – in which he tack­les the no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult role of Cap­tain Stan­hope, pre­vi­ously played by a young Sir Lau­rence Olivier in a West End the­atre.

“When I started my ca­reer it was like, OK, I’m just do­ing block­buster af­ter block­buster, year af­ter year. And I loved ev­ery sin­gle sec­ond of it. But from there I kind of branched out and started ex­plor­ing deeper char­ac­ters and more com­plex sit­u­a­tions, so [my roles have] be­come more var­ied as I’ve got older.”

Stan­hope is a disi l lu­sioned of f icer, slowly de­scend­ing into mad­ness and crip­pling al­co­holism in the dark trenches of the war. Claflin’s per­for­mance of the volatile char­ac­ter, throb­bing with anger at the help­less­ness of his sit­u­a­tion, is a com­plete trans­for­ma­tion from the happy-go-lucky chap sit­ting in front of me.

“Stan­hope is the char­ac­ter that ev­ery­one wants to play. What’s in­ter­est­ing about him is that he’s still

a young lad, but at the same time he’s lived and ex­pe­ri­enced so much he’s like a 60-year-old man, you know?

“I think there are some sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween my­self and Stan­hope. For ex­am­ple, his anger comes from fear and when I get scared, I tend to take it out on peo­ple – the peo­ple I love and who are clos­est to me. I think ev­ery­one does to an ex­tent.”

At 31, Sam is a de­voted fam­ily man. He met his wife and fel­low ac­tress Laura Had­dock when they both un­suc­cess­ful ly au­dit ioned for roles in My Week with Mar­i­lyn. They mar­ried in 2013 and now have a two-year-old son, Pip, and sev­en­month-old daugh­ter.

“Any­thing re­gard­ing my lit­tle boy scares me. I mean, lit­er­ally, if he fell off a chair…” He pauses for a moment, try­ing to con­vey the dread. “I have these pangs of fear that shoot through me – some­thing that I’ve never re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. It’s be­cause it’s an­other hu­man be­ing other than my­self that’s so young, naïve and vul­ner­a­ble – there’s noth­ing like it.”

He reaches down to the wooden sofa leg and knocks on it sev­eral times. “I will touch wood right now, that I’ve never lost any­one close to me – no friends, no fam­ily – so I don’t know what loss is like. I think I’m so afraid of that hap­pen­ing for the first time, which it in­evitably will at some point. It’s that… fear of the un­known.”

When I ask Sam what it’s like to be a fa­ther, his face lights up. “[My son is] nearly two, so yes, I feel very ex­pe­ri­enced,” he bursts out laugh­ing.

“There’s still so much to learn. It’s so dif­fi­cult do­ing what we do. I’ve ba­si­cally spent most of this year away from him as I’ve been work­ing on the other side of the world. But when I’m in be­tween jobs, I’m a full-time dad, and there all day, ev­ery day. When nei­ther me nor my wife are work­ing, we go on ad­ven­tures. It’s easy with him be­cause he likes ex­plor­ing. He’s very ad­ven­tur­ous and bois­ter­ous – a proper lit­tle boy.”

I won­der if he’d like his chil­dren to be­come ac­tors. Sam turns out to be quite re­laxed about it. “I’m not op­posed to it. But I wouldn’t ad­vise it either. The one thing that’s al­ways been im­por­tant to my wife and I is that we won’t plas­ter their faces on In­sta­gram, be­cause if they want to be­come her­mits, they have that op­por­tu­nity without us choos­ing for them.”

I DON’T THINK THE PRESS FOL­LOW ME LIKE THEY WOULD SOME­ONE ELSE – I FIND IT NICE AND PRI­VATE, MY LIFE

FOR SAM HIM­SELF, anonymity is a val­ued state. “I don’t think the press fol­low me like they would some­one else. I find it nice and pri­vate, my life. And liv­ing in Lon­don as op­posed to LA, where on ev­ery street cor­ner there’s some­one chas­ing some­one, I just find it very pos­si­ble to live a calm and nor­mal life.”

Even more so in his home­town Nor­wich, where his mum, a class­room as­sis­tant, is more fa­mous than he is!

“I’ll be home with her and these lit­tle girls at the school that she works at will go, ‘We hear your son’s home,’ and I’ll be stand­ing right next to her and they don’t have a clue who I am.

“Nor­wich is such a beau­ti­ful place to grow up in, it’s one of my favourite places to go back to now. No one ever treats me dif­fer­ently, which is amaz­ing.

“I go home and it’s still the same thing. My mum and dad haven’t changed one iota. They’re com­ing to the pre­miere [of Jour­ney’s End] this evening and my dad will still wear his Nor­wich City tie and the same suit, like he does ev­ery time,” he laughs.

“I’m very for­tu­nate to have such ground­ing sup­port. Ev­ery­one’s just al­lowed me to be me, and they knock me back down to earth if I ever get too big for my boots. I’m lucky.”

Jour­ney’s End opens in Aus­tralia on Novem­ber 1 and in New Zealand on October 25.

Star­ring along­side Jen­nifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games; Sam in his big break in Pi­rates (left)

As Stan­hope in Jour­ney’s End... “He’s the char­ac­ter ev­ery­one wants to play”; (right) with his wife, Laura Had­dock

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