Sam Claflin, who will bring Finnick Odair to life, gave an interview with Elle Magazine about auditioning for Finnick, and how he transformed into “the Finnick the fans needed me to be.”
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: Let’s talk about the physical necessities to bring Finnick to life. What was your preparation like for that?
SC: Well, there was a huge initial pressure on my shoulders. Having read all the books and then doing the research and also knowing the other actors the fans hoped would get cast—my first thought when I got the role was: “Oh my god. How the hell am I going to get a six pack so quickly?!” Not to mention he’s tall, blond, tan, green eyes. And I sort of walked in with this stubbly face and very pale English skin, long brown hair, and, to be honest, out of shape. So I’m saying to myself, “this is never going to happen.” But once I was cast, the alarms went off and the trainers were brought in. There were a lot of gym workouts, a lot of stunt training and fighting, hair dying, fake tans, the whole shebang. I was a different man. I’m very happy with the results and can only hope that I achieve a semblance of that perfection that everyone is looking for.
ELLE: What did your fiancé think?
SC: She was very happy! It was like being with some sort of California surfer dude for a while.
ELLE: I was surprised to learn that you read so much of the fan reaction to your casting, because it wasn’t the most positive at first…
SC: Yeah, I think everyone was very shocked. Which I understand because it’s such an important role in the franchise.
ELLE: It just seems like a lot of actors would try to avoid that 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.
ELLE: A project like this will undoubtedly be career-changing. Have you taken a minute to think about what happens next?
SC: I remember when I did Pirates of the Caribbean and a producer saying to me, “you have no idea what’s about to hit the fan.” But even after a film like that, nothing changed. And I had no expectations about what could or would happen. I just tried to snow myself under with work. I can say the same for Catching Fire. I haven’t really reflected on it. If anything changes, I’ll just take it in stride. For now, I can still walk down the street and quite happily not get noticed.
ELLE: But, you must know that’s going to change.
SC: Well, I’m English. And I don’t have tan skin or blond hair or green eyes. I look nothing like Finnick now. In fact I’ve been rather blessed with roles in my career that really alter my actual look. I’ve never looked the same in any film I’ve done. So when I’m back to just Sam I blend in quite well with the normal people.
ELLE: OK, but if this time you are catapulted to full-on megastardom, is there a page from Jennifer Lawrence’s book you’d take on how to deal with it all?
SC: I’ve never really talked to her about it. But you watch someone like Jen or Josh [Hutcherson] or Woody [Harrelson] and observe how grounded they’ve stayed through it all—I kind of aspire to maintain what they’ve maintained. They haven’t changed who they are or what they believe in. I like to think that’s what will happen to me. Yeah, maybe walking down the street won’t be quite so easy anymore, but, you know, Jen is still very much Jennifer Lawrence. And I still very much want to be Sam Claflin.
Sam is such a sweet guy, and I think we are so lucky to have him as our Finnick! We couldn’t have asked for a better person for the role!