ELLE: Hello, Sam! Let’s get to it. You’ve said in previous interviews that when you went in for your first Catching Fire audition, you didn’t know what the role was for. How could that be?
Sam Claflin: I was sent over a script and there was no title to what I was reading. It was just two scenes with a character called “Finnick” and a mini-character breakdown. I started reading the scene and saw the name Katniss, and I’d just recently seen The Hunger Games, so I thought, “OK, is this a connection?” But I didn’t know it was a trilogy. I just thought it was a one-time film. So I typed Finnick Odair” into Google an all these book and fan pages came up and I was kind of like, “whoa.” So I just went through all of it and did as much research as I could the night before.
ELLE: And how did that first casting interview go?
SC: I thought I had a pretty good idea of who the character was, but I was pretty off. I thought he was just kind of a bad guy. And obviously he’s kind of painted in that light in the beginning, so I honed in on the fact that he was mysterious and untrustworthy as much as I could. But thank God Frances [Lawrence] was there for my recall because he directed me in a very different way than I was expecting the second time.
ELLE: How so?
SC: I think the fantastic thing that Suzanne Collins manages to achieve in these books is that every single character, no matter how big or small, goes through such an amazing journey. And as you read through them, you realize that someone like Finnick—whose image suggest he is perfection personified—is very far from that and he has a very dark past. So Frances allowed me the freedom to play with that in my scenes. Finnick is far from perfect. He has pitfalls and also this fantastic complexity. And Catching Fire is just touching the surface of where he goes.
ELLE: It just seems like a lot of actors would try to avoid that [reading fan reactions to his casting] and instead concentrate on what they can bring to the role. Do you feel it helped you to know what the fans thought?
SC: It helped push me forward and motivate me to work harder. I was reading so many stories about people being unhappy that I got the role—and don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit here Googling myself 24/7—but I think part of me was eager to learn what I needed to do in order to become the Finnick the fans needed me to be. The negative comments made that easier to know what their expectations of me were.
ELLE: Have you seen any early footage of the film?
SC: Just bits and bobs so far.
ELLE: How does it look?
SC: All I can say is that people are going to be blown away. Frances has such an amazing and vivid vision that’s created a whole new depth to a world that’s already basically been created. Add to that the cast: a recent Oscar winner fronting the car; Philip Seymour Hoffman as a new member.