When Sam Claflin got a call from his agent saying that he had an audition for the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, his initial response was “What’s the point? It’s never going to happen, it’s impossible.” The actor was both shocked and deeply gratified when he in fact found himself flying to Los Angeles to meet director Rob Marshall and producer Jerry Bruckheimer just two days later. Claflin ultimately won the role of Philip, the missionary who falls for a mermaid, in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Philip and his counterpart, the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Beges-Frisbey), serve (in some ways) to establish the b-love-storyline that Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann provided in the first film. They also propel the plot forward, and co-create what is one of the more interesting dynamics in the film.
We had the chance to speak with Claflin about his On Stranger Tides role at the Los Angeles press day for the film. (You can see our our earlier piece on what audiences can expect from Claflin’s Prince Charming in Snow White and the Huntsmen HERE.)
In our interview with Captain Barbossa, Geoffrey Rush, the actor mentioned that every Pirates film has a cliffhanger ending. On Stranger Tides has roughly three cliffhanger endings (which we will not spoil here). We will say that the conclusion that had the audience buzzing the most at the screening we attended had to do with the Philip and Syrena storyline.
In the course of our conversation with Claflin, we asked the actor what he thought of his mysterious end, and what he hoped and believed it meant for the future of his character in the Pirates franchise.
“I cant tell you really,” Claflin responded. “It’s hard, I’m open to new ideas. I’ve got literally no idea, no one’s sort of spoken to me about it. Obviously the writers said to me, ‘what do you think happened?’ And I’ve got so many sort of potential options. What I’d love to have happen,” the actor quipped, “is that Philip becomes a mercenary, and starts killing loads of people, just to change the character up a bit. But it’s really left very open-ended, and it’s amazing that so many people have asked the same question.”
“I quite like the element of surprise,” Claflin continued, “and as much as I have my ideas, I always appreciate ideas that come from other people as well, and I love the mystery of not knowing. The exciting thing is that I didn’t really have anything to do with creating this character. The only thing I had to do with this is that I auditioned for it and got the part. Johnny actually had a huge part in creating the character of Philip, along with all the writers. I was very blessed to have an amazing journey to play in this. Fingers crossed if there is another journey that it’s as exciting and enjoyable as this one.”
As to another journey, Claflin is optioned for three more films with Disney, but he jokingly acknowledged, “that could potentially be another “Pirates” down the line if this one goes down well and another script sort of gets written with me involved, but at the same time it could be “High School Musical 7″ or whatever.”
Throughout the course of our interview, Claflin continually stressed a deep sense of gratitude to have had the opportunity to work with the actors and filmmakers behind Pirates. He and his partner in crime Astrid Berges-Frisbey (Syrena) shared what he describes as, “lots of high-fives and screaming behind closed doors.”
“Every time we went to a new set,” Claflin continued, “every time we met a new character…You kind of have to pinch yourself. It was amazing to go through that with somebody else who is in the same boat.”
We appreciate that pun on the last quote.
On working with veteran actors such as Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Ian Mcshane and Penelope Cruz, Claflin reflected that:
“Everyone approaches the text very differently. Everyone approaches the characters very differently. Seeing Geoffrey walking around (even off-set) with a crutch and a peg leg trying to get into the mode of walking was incredible. So technically all of them are so incredible to watch.”
“But Johnny gave me the advice for life to stay grounded and never forget where I came from. He’s so down to earth. For me, I have one scene that is pretty much just me and him, which is us sitting at the edge of the water and me washing myself and he’s saying, ‘What can I do to go to the land where all the goody-goody’s go?’ and I say, ‘You can convert.’ But during the time in between takes, he was sitting on the edge of a rock and someone called his name so as he stood up, right next to him there was a huge hole and he fell straight down the hole and it sunk, sunk, sunk. Now obviously everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, Johnny Depp has just fallen in, is he okay?!’ And he just got out like, as cool as a cucumber, just as you would imagine that Johnny Depp would be, and he just said, ‘I’m okay…Yeah, there’s a hole here, in case you were looking for it…I found it, it’s here.’ He’s just so gracious and generous and hilarious and so exciting to watch. Such an inspiration and hero of mine.”
In terms of his own preparation for the role, Claflin did not need to do much of the fight training that some of his co-stars engaged in, but he assured us that he was prepared to pick up a sword if it came down to it.
“My character doesn’t get too involved in the swashbuckling – him being a man of the cloth and all. But through my drama school years I did a lot of training and my first ever job I did a lot of fighting so physically I was very prepared. But you know…(the actor said puffing up his chest) that’s just cause I’m a man.”
All signs indicate that Claflin’s training, charm, humor and talent are already paying off in spades. In addition to his role in one this summer’s largest franchise offerings, he has (as mentioned) been cast against Kristen Stewart as Prince Charming in Snow White and the Huntsmen, and against the dude himself, Jeff Bridges, in The Seventh Son (though production has been delayed on that film). It looks at though we will be seeing a lot more from this grounded and witty Brit in the years to come.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opens in theaters today.
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