When Sam Claflin's agent told him that he had an audition for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," this just-two-years-out-of-the-London-Academy-of-Music-and-Dramatic-Arts performer was not what you'd call optimistic.
"I told him 'Oh, what's the point? This is never going to happen. It's impossible,' " Claflin laughed. "But at his insistence, I went to that audition and then flew off to South Africa to shoot another job."But clearly someone at Walt Disney Pictures and/or Jerry Bruckheimer Films must have liked what they saw in Sam. For the next thing he knew, Claflin was back in London shooting a screen test with Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, the young woman who plays Syrena the mermaid in "On Stranger Tides."
Young missionary Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) and enigmatic mermaid Syrena (AstridBerges-Frisbey) are mysteriously drawn to each other despite the fact that theyshould be natural enemies. Photo by Peter Mountain. Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And that screen test must have gone well. Given that - two days later - Sam was on a plane to Los Angeles. Where he was then supposed to meet "Pirates 4" director Rob Marshall as well as Jerry Bruckheimer.
"Things were moving so fast at that point that I didn't even have time to go to the hotel and change my clothes before this audition. I actually went straight from the airport to the 'Pirates' production office and then wound up changing my clothes in Rob's office before the audition," Claflin recalled.
But as they say, the third time's the charm. After this audition, Sam was told that he had won the role of Phillip the young missionary. A character that Johnny Depp himself helped create in order to serve as sort of the moral compass for "On Stranger Tides."
Sam Claflin chats with Kermit the Frog, star of Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Muppets,”coming to theaters this Thanksgiving, on the red carpet at the World Premiere ofWalt DisneyPictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “Pirates of the Caribbean: OnStranger Tides”at Disneyland. Photo by Greg Williams. Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"I didn't initially know about that until after we had started filming. It was very shocking, very surprising," Claflin continued. "That's a nice one to tell the grandkids one day. That Johnny Depp created the character that I played in 'On Stranger Tides'."
But it wasn't just Johnny's talent as a writer & a performer that impressed Sam. It was Depp's depth as a person, how generous he was with his time when it came to the "Pirates" fans at this film's location shoots that truly impressed Sam.
"When we were in Hawaii, on the way to set, there were loads of fans in the shipyard. And they had queued up the night before. And every single day, when we were going to set, Johnny would stop his car and sign autographs and pose for photos," Claflin said. "What's great about Johnny is that he knows that he's lucky to be here. Which is why he's always so gracious to his fans. He knows that he wouldn't be here without them."
Johnny Depp signs autographs for fans in Moscow last week at theRussian premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Photo by Kristina Nikishina. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
But to hear Claflin talk, there were lots of kind & generous people on the "Pirates 4" set. Take - for example - "On Stranger Tides" director Rob Marshall.
"Rob really, really supported me through all this, took me aside and gave me advice on how to approach him, how to approach other actors," Sam remembered. "Which then gave me the confidence to think that ... Well, I did belong on the set of this big budget Hollywood movie. Which then made it okay for me to say things like 'I'm not quite happy with this scene. Could I please try it once more?' "
And now that "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is in the can and virtually days away from being released worldwide ... Well, when Sam and I spoke earlier this month at the "Pirates 4" media junket (which was held at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills), I asked this 24-year-old actor what it was like to see his face plastered on billboards and bus signs.
Actor Sam Claflin onstage at the world premiere of "PiratesOf The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" at Disneyland. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / WireImage. CopyrightDisney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"It's a little bizarre. I still can't quite fathom it. My parents are proud, though," Claflin smiled. "I have my Mum and Dad and my two best friends from school out here with me now. So they're all sharing this experience with me. Every night before we go to bed, my two friends -- who are sharing a room with me -- we just can't believe that this is happening. I can't believe that we're in Los Angeles. About two years ago, we were all in drama school together and now we're in Los Angeles. And, you know, I'm not paying for this room."
Which bring us to the obvious question. If asked, would Sam take part in the already-announced "Pirates 5" ?
"I'd love to. I had so much fun being a part of this one. So fingers crossed that I get to go to Hawaii again," Claflin stated.
Sam Claflin. Photo by Peter Mountain. CopyrightDisney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Which isn't to say that every day on the "On Stranger Tides" set was a joy for Sam. To hear him tell the story, Claflin's last day on the "Pirates 4" set was not only sad but somewhat surreal. "You have to understand that my very last day on this movie was when Rob finally got around shooting my character's introductory scenes for 'On Stranger Tides.' So I was tied up, high up this mast when Rob Marshall says ' And Sam's wrapped,' " Sam explained. "And everyone's clapping. And I'm way, way up there, tied up, saying "Thank you. But can someone please get me down?"
But if Claflin does get asked to come back and do "Pirates 5," does he still want to be Phillip-the-moral-compass? No way.
(L-R) Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Sam Claflin. Photo by Peter Mountain.Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
"Being a man of the cloth in this movie, I never really got to do any sword fighting. I was always the one trying to stop the others from fighting," Sam said. "But when I watched all of the other guys fighting, it took me back to when I was 4-years-old. Playing with my friends on the playground or whatever ... Which is why I've already told the writers if I'm going to be in the next one, make me a killer. A mercenary."But can a character really go from being a missionary to a mercenary in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series? Claflin seems to think so.
"The beauty of these 'Pirates' films is that when they do the sequels, they don't immediately spell out why things are the way they are. For example, seeing Geoffrey Rush's character in this new one and his pegleg. You don't find out 'til 3/4ths of the way through 'On Stranger Tides' how Barbossa got his pegleg," Sam continued. "So wouldn't it be beautiful if Phillip came back as a mercenary in 'Pirates 5' ?Because you'd have to explain how he'd become this killer. I don't think that's going to happen. But fingers crossed."
Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey at the WorldPremiere of Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: OnStranger Tides" at Disneyland. Photo by EricCharbonneau / WireImage. Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
But - as for "Pirates 4" - Claflin genuinely enjoyed playing the part of Phillip as originally written. Which was as the love interest for Syrena, the mermaid character that Astrid Bergès-Frisbey plays in "On Stranger Tides."
"What's great about what the writers have done with Phillip and Syrena is that they're both obviously alien to this pirate world. Neither of them have ever been involved in an adventure like this before," Sam concluded. "So to have this mermaid and a religious man who never should have been put together ... Seeing that sort of other-worldly relationship is really special. I'm blessed that Astrid and I had a journey like that to play in 'Pirates 4.' And hats off to the writers and Rob Marshall and Johnny Depp for making that happen."
If you'd to see just what sort of relationship Sam Claflin is talking about, be sure and see "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Which opens in theaters on May 20th.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved