Claflin, who has also starred in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and the recent television series White Heat – admits to his delight at taking on such a big role – causing him to be in complete awe of those on set, working alongside some of his cinematic idols. The 25-year-old also has very kind words to say of first-time filmmaker Rupert Sanders, whom he would very much like to work with again.
Firstly, tell us how you first came to be in this movie?
Well it was definitely very unexpected for me having just finished Pirates, I thought that was a kind of one hit wonder for me, I never thought it would happen again, but very soon after we finished filming actually my agent sent me the script to which I had my reservations first, as I think any boy reading it would. I mean, you can’t help but think, “Oh my god. A fairytale… Seriously?” and I assumed it would be some kind of musical with pretty flowers constantly, but the next day after reading it I met with Rupert and he sort of talked me through the concept art and all of the imagery he had conjured up in his head, and talking it through was when I was sold on the project personally, followed by a few meetings with the producers and eventually an audition with Rupert back in London – and thank god he decided that I was the right person for it.
Were there any reservations about taking the role because of Rupert’s lack of experience?
People have taken risks on me, taken a chance and I had done research enough to know that he was obviously very talented in the commercial area of this industry, but like I said, that first initial meeting I had with him, and the creative things that he was talking me through, I was sold. I knew I could trust him and that I’d be able to talk to him face to face. He was very approachable and I suppose we were very much on the same wave length from the get-go and for me especially it was very special.
Were you a fan of the Snow White fairy tale when growing up? If so, what do you make of Rupert’s quite dark interpretation of it?
I didn’t read or watch too many Disney films as a kid, or their interpretations of these classic fairy tales. I was kind of busy climbing trees and running around the roads of Norwich. For me the one book that does stick in the mind from when I was a kid was this book my parents bought of twisted tales, and despite being for kids they were all disgusting and gruesome and at the end of Cinderella, for example, the prince chops off her head when he finds out she is common, so those sort of images are very much in line with somewhere deep in my brain, so the moment I had the opportunity to approach the darker version of these fairy tales I was very much jumping on board really.
And how was it sharing this experience with some of the most famous actors in Hollywood? Not only the likes of Charlize, Kristen and Chris but the Dwarfs as well?
I’ve grown up watching these guys on the big-screen and on television and these guys inspired me to become an actor in the first place, especially the Dwarfs. I can safely say I was one of the only people who did audition for the part, I mean those guys are so talented and so far in their careers that I’m sure any director would be jumping to have the opportunity to work with them. I definitely felt, even with the audition, that I was constantly trying to prove myself and step up the plate to meet their standards and their level of acting. It was intimidating in some ways but at the same time everyone was very inviting and very welcoming to me so I never felt out of place and I’m very blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who are very professional and very focused but at the same are able to have a bit of fun with it. There was also a chemistry between those guys, I think a lot of them have either worked together before or are at least familiar with each other. The guys are incredible and scene stealer’s pretty much, the show-stoppers of this film. I think they’re fantastic.
Despite coming across as a big Hollywood blockbuster, it’s all set in Britain – was that a relief for you?
I think that, maybe other than the Dwarfs who are English as well, I’m very lucky to be able to go to work, do my thing, and then go home and live a very normal life – see my friends, and sleep in my own bed and not live out of a suitcase. Also the weather situation I was very familiar with and very used to, I know there were a few complaints amongst the other members of the cast saying “It’s freezing!” But because I’ve grown up with it I was okay. In fact I think it was the hottest winter we had for decades or something, so for it was actually like summer. I really really loved being in London and being surrounded by the English countryside and really exploring what is is we have to offer as a country.
This isn’t the first big blockbuster you have been in following Pirates of the Caribbean – are there any notable differences between the two?
Only character really. I think that in Pirates although being very physical there wasn’t much actual fighting and rolling around in the mud necessarily, but I was able to get my teeth into something even further this time and delve deeper into a character and for me the whole experience was different in a sense that I approached it in a very different way. I think that Pirates being my very first feature film, I was very, very intimidated and I was kind of – as much as everybody was very approachable, very kind and generous – I was still held back somewhat I think, but having been offered the part of Prince William I grew in confidence and I knew right from the start with Rupert that I was on the same wave-length and I could approach him and he was very open and I suppose there were a few more similarities than there were differences.
Having worked with a host of directors now, how does Rupert compare to some of the people you’ve worked with, and how bright a future do you think he has? Because it’s an amazing accomplishment for a first-time film-maker.
The guy is a genius. I can safely say, hands down, that that man is going to go places and all I can do is hope that I have the opportunity to work with him again down the line. For an actor he is incredible, he gives you the freedom. It was a very collaborative experience, the whole process, as all of us were chipping in with ideas, we would all meet up and talk it through, trying different ways. He was very, very hands-on although as the same time he never once lost his cool, and I’m not saying that every director does, but I have been in an experience when directors have walked off the set in a huff, and it is tough, especially with something of this scale you expect it to happen, but throughout Rupert managed to maintain his cool and that immediately made everyone else feel at ease, there was never any tension or arguments and everything seemed to run very smoothly and for a first time director on a job of this scale, that just proves that he is going to go places.
Is it quite fun for you as an actor to get into a period piece and have a costume and fight with a bow and arrow?
You know, growing up I always wanted to be a knight of the round table and I was obsessed with castles and I don’t think I ever went anywhere without two little soldiers in my hands, battling away. So swords, and armour and horses and all that… Well not necessarily obsessed with horses, but that kind of medieval sort of feel to anything I was obsessed with growing up. So to have the opportunity to get paid for this and a) be working full stop, and b) doing a job that I had dreamt of doing, it was just a dream come true, quite literally. I’m pretty sure I ran around a few school playgrounds pretending to be Robin Hood so to have the opportunity to have a bow and arrow in my hand and shooting stuntmen, I got so carried away at times I just couldn’t help but have fun really, it was never really hard work.
These past couple of years must have been a bit of a whirlwind for you, your career has been elevated really as you’ve been in a host of things – how have you been dealing with it? Have you taken to success well?
It’s a bit of a whirlwind really, I don’t really feel like I’ve done what I’ve done. I feel very much the same person that I did two and a half years ago when I was at drama school. From the very beginning of this I know I have been very lucky and I’ve maintained my level of cool and not got too excited or screamed too much. Of course inside I am dancing constantly but at the same time my friends are very grounded and keep me very grounded. I spent a lot of time with them and my parents. Really I’ve just got a great support network that contains my levels of grounding-ness and I know that I am very lucky to be here. You know, I don’t get stopped in the street and no-one knows who I am, I live a life that is no different to yours or anyone else’s really.
So finally, what have you got planned now? Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yeah there is a project that I’ve just signed up to called The Quiet Ones which is a Hammer Horror and I think the last film they brought out was The Woman in Black and this is sort of in that genre, very different to anything I’ve done before or got my teeth stuck into. It’s based on an experiment a professor does where he believes he has found a cure to the negative energy in people, whether that is depression or anger management issues, he believes he can extract that an transport it into this supernatural being and obviously things go wrong… It’s very exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.