Interview with Sam Claflin: From Costessey High School to Hollywood stardom
- Credit: PA
He's the former Costessey High School student who is making waves in Hollywood. And with three films released this autumn, Sam Claflin is having the time of his life, as he explains to KEELEY BOLGER.
Sam Claflin is sat in a really rather plush hotel, the chosen location for a round of interviews promoting his latest film, The Riot Club.
Just another day at the office for a movie star, but Sam can't help pausing for a moment to take it all in.
'Five years ago, the thought of this was just so far away,' says the wide-eyed 28-year-old, who's just polished off a plate of scrambled eggs on toast. 'Hollywood felt like a distant dream, something so far out of reach, that you didn't even think it possible.'
Now, of course, Hollywood is well within his grasp, having recently enjoyed starring roles in The Hunger Games and 2012's Snow White And The Huntsman.
He describes his life and career as being 'blessed'.
He isn't, however, so unassuming that he can't differentiate between success borne out of hard graft - like his - and success achieved because of one's heritage, like that of his Riot Club character, Alistair Ryle.
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Based on Laura Wade's hit play Posh, the film (now on general release) tells the story of an exclusive Oxford University undergraduate dining society, on the hunt for two new members. Though Wade has always denied that the story is based on the real-life Bullingdon Club (members of the controversial club, often from very well-to-do backgrounds, were once notorious for trashing Oxford restaurants, leaving the owner a cheque to cover the damage), there are certainly similarities.
In the fictional film, tasked by President James (played by Freddie Fox), the club finds suitable candidates in likeable Miles (Max Irons) and angry 'loner' Alistair, chosen largely on the basis that he's the younger brother of a legendary ex-Rioter.
Soon, Miles and Alistair find themselves pitched against each other in a bid to win the approval of the other club members. When events get out of hand, both students are forced to face up to the consequences.
Growing up in Norwich, the third of four brothers to classroom assistant mum, Sue, and accountant dad, Mark, Sam's background is far removed from the pomp and privilege that he plays on screen.
'I'm not posh in any way, shape or form,' explains the die-hard Norwich City FC fan, who worked in Sainsbury's for three years, and then as a caretaker, while training to be an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Before then he was a member of the Theatre Royal's ever-popular arts course, and he returned the compliment in the summer by popping up for guest appearances in its production of The Wind In The Willows.
Sam's Norfolk background is far removed from the privilege of his latest film character.
'I'm so far detached from that world that if people ever met me, they'd realise that I'm not Alistair Ryle, or even one of the people who could potentially be from that club.'
He's pleased to have had the chance to play a character so different from himself, as well as his other roles, although he admits that Finnick in The Hunger Games 'has aspects of him that are slightly dark').
Still, after Alistair, 'who never smiles', it was a relief to film the romcom Love, Rosie, which is out later this month.
He plays the likeable lead Alex, who wonders if his relationship with his childhood best friend Rosie, played by Lily Collins, could become anything more.
'Funnily enough, my publicist had seen Love, Rosie the day after she'd seen The Riot Club, and she said, 'Never before had I hated you so much one day and then loved you so much the next',' says the actor, laughing.
The coming months are a rich time for Sam, who's also had parts in United, Any Human Heart and in the fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie with Johnny Depp. There's also the latest instalment of The Hunger Games coming up on November 20. He may have a good few years' experience under his belt now, but he still takes his parents to premieres, and is happy to dispense advice to his younger brother, Joe, who is also forging an acting career, so far gaining small parts in EastEnders, Holby City and Game Of Thrones.
'Joe's very different to how I am as an actor and a person, but I'm so, so proud of him,' he says of his 'incredibly, incredibly talented' sibling. 'I made it clear to him that not everyone has the early start that I had, that acting is a waiting game sometimes. I think he found it tougher initially, but he's doing well now.'
It could be easy to gloat about his success, but Sam's pleased his family treat him the same as they did pre-fame.
'My mum isn't just proud of me and my younger brother, she's proud of my two older brothers and what they're doing,' he explains. 'My mum and dad aren't in the industry, so it's not like we're favoured. We've got great support.'
He also has a well of support in the form of his wife, The Inbetweeners Movie actress Laura Haddock, who he married last year.
'The great thing about having a wife in the industry is being able to talk about work,' he says. 'Some people say, 'Oh, I hate talking about work at the end of the day', but I can totally talk to her and bore her for hours, bend her ear and ask for her opinion and advice, and vice versa. It works amazingly well.'
Where possible, they try to co-ordinate their schedules so they're not apart for too long.
'The longest we've gone without seeing each other is four or five weeks, and we sort of said, 'That's enough, that's the cut-off point',' says Sam, who lives in London with Laura and their dog, Rosie.
'But the truth of the matter is, we're both focused on work. I'm not saying I don't miss her, but we're both very, very career-minded. Also, spending time apart means when we do see each other, it's amazing.'
With his career going from strength to strength, could he be tempted to move across the pond any time soon?
'I think until it became a necessity [to move to America], I'm very happy here. My family is in England, my friends are all here...
'I've been so, so blessed and so, so lucky,' he adds. 'It does feel like a never-ending dream.'
• The Riot Club is now on release. Love, Rosie is released on Wednesday, October 22.