‘Be­ing apart from my wife and child was worse than sea­sick­ness ... I’d break down reg­u­larly’

Ac­tor Sam Claflin bat­tled both home­sick­ness and sea­sick­ness to por­tray the man be­hind a ter­ri­fy­ing real-life story,

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERVIEW - writes Anne Marie Scan­lon

Imeet Sam Claflin in a ridicu­lously swanky two-storey suite in one of Lon­don’s fancier ho­tels. “Wel­come to my hum­ble abode,” the ac­tor greets me, grin­ning. Claflin lives in Lon­don, but not here; the ex­trav­a­gant sur­round­ings are strictly for busi­ness pur­poses, and, al­though we’re meet­ing to talk about his new film, Adrift, we spend a few min­utes tak­ing in the bling and won­der­ing who, ex­actly, might want a Baby Grand in their lodg­ings.

At 31, Claflin ap­pears to have it all — a stel­lar ca­reer hav­ing worked con­sis­tently since he left drama school, a happy fam­ily life with Laura Had­dock (his wife of five years) and their two small chil­dren. He is also ridicu­lously hand­some in per­son, de­spite hav­ing had a “rough night” with his five-month-old teething daugh­ter.

While Claflin cer­tainly doesn’t look out of place in the pricey sur­round­ings, as be­fits some­one who starred in three Hunger Games movies and a Pi­rates of the Caribbean episode, he still thinks of him­self as an or­di­nary boy from Nor­wich who went to a “rough school” — “it wasn’t a Wed­nes­day if some­one didn’t turn up drunk.”

There’s no such thing as a ‘Cool Dad’... I’ve bought a pair of san­dals

Grow­ing up in Nor­folk, Claflin “didn’t know that act­ing was a pro­fes­sion. It was never on my list of dream jobs”.

Yet for all of his in­ter­na­tional suc­cess in the act­ing in­dus­try, Claflin, the third of four boys, is still very proud of his home town. “It’s a beau­ti­ful city… and I love go­ing home to visit my mum and dad,” but, he con­fesses, that from as early as he can re­mem­ber, he wanted to live in Lon­don. And to play foot­ball. A teacher steered him to­wards act­ing and, af­ter leav­ing school, he man­aged to get a place at the pres­ti­gious Lon­don Acad­emy of Dra­matic Arts (LAMDA).

Adrift is based on a true story by Amer­i­can Tami Old­ham played by Shai­lene Wood­ley, (Big Lit­tle Lies, Di­ver­gent). Claflin plays Tami’s English fi­ance Richard Sharp. The movie un­folds as a dual nar­ra­tive with one strand fol­low­ing the beginnings of the cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship and the lead up to them sail­ing a lux­ury yacht, the Hazana, from Tahiti to Cal­i­for­nia. The film is set in 1983 and the young cou­ple’s voy­age is in­ter­rupted by Hur­ri­cane Ray­mond. The sec­ond nar­ra­tive fol­lows the events af­ter the hur­ri­cane.

Adrift is es­sen­tially a two-han­der and both ac­tors put in strong per­for­mances. Much of the film­ing took place in the mid­dle of the Pa­cific Ocean near Fiji which looks stun­ning on film.

“We’d all meet about 5am and watch the sun­rise, shoot for 12 hours, the sun would set and then we’d all go back (to land). It was pretty amaz­ing,” Claflin re­veals.

The ac­tor had to learn how to sail in or­der to play Richard and tells me he en­joyed it im­mensely. How­ever, on the first day of film­ing at sea, Claflin ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere sea­sick­ness. “I was so bad that first day that it re­ally pan­icked me, think­ing “oh s***, is this go­ing to be me ev­ery day?”

Claflin wasn’t the only one. “The whole unit, when we set out that first day, was so happy. Ev­ery­one was ‘oh I can’t be­lieve this is a day at work — we’re on a yacht in Fiji,’ and then ev­ery­one was so sick. I was able to throw up and keep go­ing, but a lot of the crew, es­pe­cially the crew below the decks, were sick for 10 hours,” he says.

How­ever hideous that sounds, it wasn’t the worst thing Claflin ex­pe­ri­enced on the three­month shoot. “The tough­est chal­lenge I had to over­come on Adrift was be­ing sep­a­rated from my wife and child. We didn’t know that was go­ing to be the case when I agreed to do the job. Orig­i­nally my wife and my lit­tle boy were due to come out to Fiji, but as my wife was preg­nant with our sec­ond and be­cause of Zika virus (which was rare in Fiji but not un­known), we just didn’t want to take risks.”

“We tried to Face­Time and I’d break down reg­u­larly. Once when some­one said to my son ‘Daddy’s here’ he ran to the door (look­ing for me),” Claflin adds, get­ting vis­i­bly up­set at the me­mory.

Has Claflin ever ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing in his own life sim­i­lar to be­ing on a 44ft yacht in the mid­dle of a hur­ri­cane? He says not but tells me about a car ac­ci­dent he had in LA a few years ago. “No one was hurt,” he states im­me­di­ately and down­plays what sounds like a frankly pet­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I did the full 360. I can re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing be­ing in slow mo­tion and I re­mem­ber my car com­ing into on­com­ing traf­fic and then hit­ting a power box and that go­ing alight. De­spite ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing re­ally quickly, ev­ery­thing hap­pened re­ally slowly,” he says.

“I’m sure peo­ple who have been in ac­ci­dents know (that feel­ing). My life didn’t flash in front of my eyes, I was okay, the other driver was okay.”

Claflin tells me that he ini­tially tried calling 999 for the po­lice and laugh­ingly says: “I don’t un­der­stand why emer­gency ser­vices have to be dif­fer­ent in dif­fer­ent coun­tries,” but then adds qui­etly, “it was ter­ri­fy­ing; that’s the clos­est I’ve ever been to fear­ing for my life.”

I won­der if he shares his char­ac­ter’s thirst for ad­ven­ture and thrill-seek­ing? “No,” he replies im­me­di­ately. “I’m a fa­ther of two, I’m the one who says ‘no you can’t do that, no we shouldn’t be do­ing this’.”

The star goes on to clar­ify that he’s open to ‘ad­ven­ture’ in his ca­reer but “at the same time, be­cause of the wild un­pre­dictable na­ture of what I do, I have to not be so ad­ven­tur­ous in the rest of my life. That’s the harsh re­al­ity of be­ing a fa­ther and an ac­tor, it’s quite a dif­fi­cult thing to jug­gle.

“I find it dif­fi­cult enough to keep my kids in a rou­tine when my life is all over the place. It’s great that my wife is very un­der­stand­ing as she’s in the in­dus­try and she has those days too. We’re blessed that we have two beau­ti­ful kids and we have the life we have be­cause we work for it.”

I read some­where that he wanted to be a ‘Cool Dad’? He guf­faws. “There’s no such thing as a Cool Dad. I bought a pair of san­dals yes­ter­day and my wife said ‘Se­ri­ously! Se­ri­ously?’” He then goes on to try to con­vince me of the prac­ti­cal­ity of san­dals over flip-flops.

The movie star tells me that he rarely drinks beer any­more “it makes me bloated”, he says, roar­ing laugh­ing at him­self. “I’m get­ting old!”

With two chil­dren un­der the age of three and a re­lent­less sched­ule of film­ing around the world, I’m not sur­prised he feels old at times, but age­ing he cer­tainly ain’t. De­spite the san­dals.

Adrift is at cine­mas provincewide

BUSY SCHED­ULE: Sam Claflin and wife Laura Had­dock and (below) with Shai­lene Wood­ley in Adrift

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