Adrift in troubled waters
Their chemistry in Adrift is palpable, but Sam Claflin says he and Shailene Woodley got off to a rocky start on the Fiji set of the movie.
Speaking ahead of the romantic-thriller’s debut in New Zealand cinemas on June 28, the 31-year-old British actor said he was horrified to discover that she couldn’t remember meeting him previously.
‘‘We got off on the wrong foot,’’ he laughs. ‘‘I definitely opened with, ‘it’s good to see you again’, and she opened with, ‘nice to meet you’.’’
While he could forgive her forgetfulness surrounding a brief encounter during a duelling interview junket (he for romantic drama Love, Rosie, she for fantasy flick Divergent), Claflin admits to feeling a little hurt in her failure to recall a photoshoot they did together early in their careers.
‘‘I was shooting the first Hunger Games and she had just finished The Descendants. We were sitting on sun loungers discussing how disgusting the decor was in the house we were shooting in. There was all this taxidermy – loads of animals hung on the wall – it was really garish. I remember us discussing that for about 90 minutes solidly. We had a really good conversation – it was a really good opportunity for someone to remember someone.’’
However, it was a slight the Me Before You and Their Finest star recovered from so that he could play the real life Richard Sharp who, along with his fiancee, Woodley’s Tami Oldham, embarked on an illfated 6400-kilometre voyage from Tahiti to San Diego in 1983 as Hurricane Raymond bore down on them.
‘‘Truthfully, it was really easy to pretend to be in love with her,’’ says the father-of-two, who married fellow actor Laura Haddock in 2013. ‘‘We have the same kind of ideals, beliefs, outlook. We are both spiritual people, love family, Hawaii, adventurous to a point and working hard.’’
Describing Woodley as an ‘‘incredible team leader’’ (the 26-year-old was also a producer on Adrift), Claflin says she helped establish a terrific on-set atmosphere.
‘‘She was so passionate and generous. She wanted to make sure that, no matter what department someone was in, they were being looked after.’’
For his own part, Claflin says that it was the physical demands of the role that appealed to him.
‘‘The fact that I had to learn how to sail was one of the draws for me. One of things I’ve always said is that every job I do, I want GETTY IMAGES to challenge myself in some way, shape or form in a new way that I haven’t done before. I was coming off the back of a job called The Nightingale [an Australian-shot gothic period thriller scheduled for release next year] for which I put on a tonne of weight, so for this I needed to lose a lot as quickly as possible. That itself is a huge challenge.
‘‘But, I also liked the fact that this was quite light-hearted generally, especially the romance side of it.’’
However, while Woodley lapped up the opportunity to talk to the real-life Oldham when she visited the set, Claflin found himself tongue-tied.
‘‘I think I’d make the worst journalist. I had so many questions, so many things I want to ask, but I’m overly sensitive and insecure, and kind of didn’t just want to push the wrong buttons, or ask something that was overly difficult, so I found it easier to not ask anything.
‘‘I read the source material, her book, read the script and a couple of articles that we managed to find on him.
‘‘What really made me feel at ease though was when we went for lunch I was telling this story and I noticed that she had stopped talking and had started listening and was staring at me and had tears in her eyes. Someone asked if she was OK and I had that immediate thing of, ‘what have I said, I said something wrong?’. But she said, ‘No Sam, you just remind me so much of him’.’’
Describing himself as a quick learner, Claflin says the ability to do more than one take helped him to get to grips with the sailing side of things. But was it intimidating knowing that his director, Everest’s Baltasar Kormakur, was a competitive sailor?
‘‘He specialised in one specific type of sailing, but we had to understand the entire boat, which presented more challenges and required more knowledge than even Balt knew. We were really fortunate to have a great marine and stunt team, who would throw information our way when we needed it, and any questions we had would be answered immediately. We were really supported in that sense – I never felt in danger, or out of control.’’
The crew’s professionalism also came in handy because, as Claflin puts it, ‘‘we were slaves to Mother Nature for 90 per cent of this film’’.
‘‘We just had to be ready to go at any given moment and also had to be very patient at times, because the weather could turn in a moment.’’
Ironically, the only time the weather was truly awful was after they had left Fiji to shoot some of the more demanding action sequences indoors, at a studio in Auckland in September last year.
‘‘We’d spent three months in beautiful Fiji, then we land in Auckland just when winter appeared to hit. It was just cold and lots of rain. It kind of aided us in a way because we were shooting all the storm sequences.’’
Not that the weather has put him off New Zealand. ‘‘My best friend in the world is from Auckland, so I’m familiar with the culture, people and humour. I love it, man, it’s a beautiful place.’’
Would he come back for work, or pleasure?
‘‘One hundred per cent, be it with a film or not. I genuinely want to go and experience it. I never got to go to the South Island, so there’s so much else I want to see and do. Hopefully, the opportunity comes where I can bring my family out and do it properly.’’ ● Adrift (M) opens in New Zealand cinemas on Thursday.
Claflin married Laura Haddock in 2013.