Sunday 15 July 2018

Sam Claflin reveals how he battled homesickness and seasickness for latest film Adrift

The actor battled both homesickness and seasickness to portray the man behind the real-life story, writes Anne Marie Scanlon

'Adrift' is based on the true story of a couple, played by Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, who set sail in a yacht from Tahiti to California, only to run into Hurricane Raymond
'Adrift' is based on the true story of a couple, played by Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, who set sail in a yacht from Tahiti to California, only to run into Hurricane Raymond
Sam Claflin in Adrift

I meet 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."

Sam Claflin in Adrift
Sam Claflin in Adrift

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**t, 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."

However hideous that sounds, it wasn't the worst thing Claflin experienced on the three-month 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," he continues, "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 44-ft 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 OK, the other driver was OK."

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 is also a big fan of our capital city. "I love Dublin, genuinely," he says, recalling the six weeks he spent in Ireland filming Love, Rosie (2014) based on the Cecelia Ahern novel. He adds that he's visiting soon for a "stag do" before quickly adding that "but it's not the strippers' sort! The dads and uncles are coming, it's not all about getting absolutely bladdered."

He goes on to tell 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 aging he certainly ain't. Despite the sandals.

Adrift opens in cinemas nationwide on June 29

'I can remember everything being in slow motion - but my life didn't flash in front of my eyes...'

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