Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) stars in The Quiet Ones, the latest horror flick from Hammer films. In the film he plays Brian, a quiet and shy Oxford student who is chosen by a professor (Jared Harris) to document the study of science and the paranormal. We recently sat down with the actor during their press tour to talk about what it was like to be a temporary director, how he gets his inspiration, working with alongside Jared Harris and Olivia Cook, some of his favorite horror films, and more. Hit the jump to check it out.
John Pouge was telling us how you got to be a part time director by having your character hold the actual camera, so have you been bitten by the directing bug?
ClafIin: definitely opened my eyes about the craft about how the film is made. I definitely saw a lot, and learned a lot that I didn’t know before. It definitely made me realize that eventually I would get into directing. I don’t think I could handle the responsibility at the moment, and I also don’t think I could ever direct myself in a movie. I like being on that side of the camera, but I also like completely stepping away from it. An exterior if that makes sense, or an external point of view. Yeah, it was hugely informative, and what was great was John allowed me to kind of be by his side and actually collaborate, throw ideas in, and suggest different solutions to different problems. It was a very collaborative experience across the board for everybody.
Where did you get your inspiration for your character?
Claflin: I didn’t really believe in gaining inspiration from people or things that already exist. I like to do original work, and I like to create original characters. I don’t think there is a Brian McNeal before; I mean I spent some time researching the camera equipment – me and John discussed where Brian is – he is a bit of a loner, he spends a lot of time in an editing suite on his own, late at night, he’s not much of a talker, he kind of keeps to himself, he’s at Oxford University, but he is not studying. So he feels out of place. And I kind of wanted to paint him with a very average, across the board, something I guess I like I am you know? My grades at school were very average, my family life was very average, but in a very good way. It was very positive and happy, you know, but like we never had excess holidays, or excess money to throw around to do exciting things. We just existed in a good way, and I think Brian was very similar to that, and I think that was what drew me to him. But I never kind of grabbed from any previous characters personally.
Can you talk about how you bonded with Olivia, and how the cast gelled throughout filming?
Claflin: Olivia and I met during the audition process. I think I just been offered the part, and I knew I was going to be a part of it, Jared [Harris] was already on board, and we were just audition [for the role of] Harper. John asked me to come in and read with a few girls. Some of them had a bit more scare to them, some had a bit more vulernablity, some kind of just good at a bit of everything but not great, etc etc, as you can imagine. And then Olivia walked in, and I remember me and her having to share small talk on a couch before, and obviously she was very nervous, so I just kept asking her questions and she kept saying “yep”, “yep.” You know, one word answers. Of course she was nervous, and the thing is when she got in the room, she kinda became a light. She stepped into the shoes of Jane Harper. She nailed every specific moment of Jane Harper. So to watch her kind of grow, and get to know her properly, when she wasn’t nervous was amazing. I mean I never seen a transformation quite like it. She’s obviously a very, very beautiful girl, but then having her come in and quite literally play ugly is a difficult thing. I mean a lot of women, especially in the industry today would refuse, “unless I had my hair like this” or “my make up like that,” whereas she was totally game for everything. It was her first film experience, and she just got her hands dirty, and she wasn’t afraid of anything. So it was amazing to watch her grow. I can safely say she’s someone to look out for. But as she mentioned, we got on like a house on fire. Part of me was quite intimidated by Jared, just because he’s got so much experience under his belt, and he’s Jared Harris. I’ve been a big fan of his. It’s always the same way with me, I’m like “God, he’s going to be really scary,” because he’s often played bad guys as well, and is he like this in real life, he’s just the biggest child out of all of us in a very good way. We all chipped in. It was a very collaborative experience. It was a team effort. We all plugged together and made it the best experience possible.
What’s it like to step into that time machine and play in an era before your time?
Claflin: That was what I found really interesting, going back in time. Because a lot of the research I did was not so much into the experiments but more to do with the camera equipment, and how would that work, and can I make that a part of myself as opposed to something that looks like I put something on my shoulder. So I spent a fair few weeks before we started filming getting used to the filming, and I went to London film school and work with a signedback (sp), which is a kind of editing suite, cut film, and I found it hugely, hugely interesting, very difficult, very challenging, very time consuming as well, and you kind of realize that obviously today with the click of a button you can delete something, where as back then you had to roll it round, find the exact slide, chop it down, mark it, it’s such a complicated process. But that side of it was something I really, really embraced and enjoyed. I love challenging myself. And what’s interesting is that this isn’t like fashion of the 70s isn’t all we’re used to. Because Brian is sort of an introvert, he doesn’t really hangout, you can’t imagine him buying the expensively new in fashion, but all of them are kind of intellectuals, and how often do intellectuals spend time shopping, “no, no my head is in a book.” The interesting thing is that it is set in the 70s, and we don’t have the technology of today, which adds to the isolated drama of the piece, you know I love that era, I love the music, its great.
The horror genre has been around for a long time, I’m curious, are you a fan of it?
Claflin: I am a big fan, but to be honest not overly familiar with the classic horror movies. For me I am very much into the today, the here and now, the Paranormal activities, the Blair Witch Project I think was the first horror movie that I remember that really is still stuck with me, and I haven’t seen it for years, but I remember watching it as a kid and being so scared, so scared, partly because I thought it was real story. It was the first sort of POV, told through the characters’ eyes film I have ever seen, especially the first horror movie version like that. It was a great sort of change in the market, most films do really well, are really successful, and really scare me, are told in that method. Which is why this appealed to me. I think having it back in the 70s was very new and unique.
I enjoyed Brian’s clap, was that something you just did or was there a specific way to do it?
Claflin: It was something – obviously you have to clap your hands, and make sure everything is in sync. It was just sort of the way I did it, it was organically happened. That was my character trait. Apparently, it’s something happened that the only the other day I was filming something, and they didn’t have a clapper board, and so you have someone clap.
Jared was saying that house you were filming at, and the adjoining office space was kind of creepy. How would you characterize it?
Claflin: Exactly that. The best way of describing it is if you have seen Jurassic Park 2, when they kind of return to the island that’s been abandoned, there’s that kind of communication center that’s – leaves, trees inside, and it was kind of overgrown and moldy, it was like that. It was the best way of describing it. It was really derelict, run down, but a really interesting place. It was in the middle of nowhere, “like who built this?” I mean someone decided to put an office building in the middle of a field, away from all transport links, I mean it is kind of the perfect – part of me was wondering why aren’t we using this whole office building as well. The whole thing is very creepy. Obviously we were shooting during the day, and there were about 100 people, the production crew, everyone was running around, so it was never like you felt completely isolated in that sense. But by all means it would make the perfect setting for any horror movie.
So how did you get rid of the raptors?
Claflin: I just hid in an oven.
Olivia was telling us a story about a goblin, one thing when it comes to these kinds of movies, people talk, they share random stories, did you get to hear anything good?
Claflin: No, but that was something that was my favorite though, because it was something we fabricated. I think she pushed Jared to – I think it was of those, did something happen on set, and she said “Jared, why don’t you tell the story about the goblin,” and Jared was like “what, oh, uhh, yeah there was a goblin,” I’d love to know what Olivia said about the goblin, because I am really quite intrigued.
She told it like it really happened.
Claflin: She’s very, very mischievous that girl. But it something – when someone asked me, I said you can tell the story about the rabbit and the berries. She is a very good liar. She basically fabricated this story about this rabbit, that it had eaten so much berries that it looked like he had blood all over its mouth, and it kept appearing, and reappearing. Yeah she’s great. I love this, this is great. I want to hear another one. It’s so good. That little madam.
So she actually mentioned she scared you very easily, was that part true then?
Claflin: John told me to go out the room, and he had a little chat with her, which occasionally he’d do which – to get her to reacting sort of naturally, organically. So he told her to do whatever she could to scare me. So she let out this Gollum-like scream, to which – I’m so used to people going – it was the scene in which was our first meeting, and I kind of quiz her, and I sort of look at her wrists, and she’s stop looking at my wrists, and then as she leaves she sort of does this demonic “thank you.” So obviously was so used to the girls going [demonic] “thank you,” like trying to do the butchest, beastiest, voice possible, so instead of doing it, she just screamed in my face. So I was like “what the fuck was that,” but as you can tell she was very great to work with, that little prankster.
Having talked to press over the past year or two, have you picked up on that skill set like Olivia of telling stories, making stuff up to keep yourself entertained.
Claflin: What was so interesting was telling them about it, and that was when I first heard about the goblin thing. Cause she and Jared had already been doing it, and “aw I’m late to the party.” There was also a moment where I was laughing hysterically, and she manages to keep a straight face about the story about the rabbit and the berries, and I was going “whew, whew,” So I’m not a very good liar, I don’t think I could keep it up. However I did hear about a story about Woody [Harrelson] and Liam [Hemsworth] on the Catching Fire press junket, where they kept trying to get each other to answer the question. So someone would ask a different question like “what do you think about the political drive in Hunger Games” and one of them would go “oh you were saying something interesting about that the other day,” and the other would go “no, no, no, you tell it,” “no, no, I insist man,” and it just got to the point where the two of them never got to answer the question. So there are obviously tricks of the trade, one with the word you throw in. But yeah, I don’t have enough friends. Wait, that sounded so wrong. I find it – you know, it’s not the same when you are on your own, but obviously Olivia makes it work.
So did you actually sing musicals while on set?
Claflin: Yes, “when you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way.” Yeah, you couldn’t help yourself. I think there is so much nervous energy on a set like a horror movie like that because you are so worked up all the time, so out of breath all the time, it’s sort of nervous laughter. I find especially with English audiences in horror movies that when something is really tense, and something is about to happen, and you can feel it, people just start laughing, like they start uncomfortably going “oh my god, I’m so not scared,” it is sort of our defensive barrier. But I think we try to keep the set alive and light, and cheery, and everything else is depressing in a great way.
What did you guys do to have fun while off set to kind of unwind?
Claflin: What’s difficult was that we were all shooting in London, and we all lived in London, so we all went back to our respective houses, you know what I mean. Especially during the rehersal process, we spent a lot of time going out, having a few drinks, having a few too many drinks, you know how it is. But there was this one great moment where I can’t remember whether it was Jared or Rory [Fleck-Byrne] who was trying to hypnotize the other. One of them was laying down in an abandoned room, in that horrible house, and one of them was going “no close your eyes, imagine that you are…” I videoed this, but unfortunately the sound didn’t work, so the entire – it was the funniest things ever, and I kind of went along with it. But there was plenty of fun to be had. You had to be there.
How long was the actual shoot?
Claflin: I think it was about five weeks. I think it was a short shoot. The thing is we shot it nearly two years ago, so it’s one of those “where was I two years ago.” It was a short shoot, it was very intense in that sense. It sort of flew by.
Have you gotten a chance to watch it with an audience and take pride in their reaction?
Claflin: I actually watched it at the London premiere, again that was when I became really aware – I rarely watch horror movies in cinema, I like watching them at home. There is something about watching them in the comfort of your own home that is sort of uneasy, you know what I mean. There is something about watching it on your own, surrounded by other people, some people overreact I find. Watching it in London was really interesting, there was a moment at the end of the film, as she’s burning, and something, you don’t know what it is, a woman in front of me who quite literally screamed “SHIT!” So it was nice having the people around me kind of jumping constantly, constantly, and I know that was my reaction the first time a year ago. I sat in a cinema, in Los Angeles, at Lionsgate, on my own, and I knew when the scares were going to happen, I knew the script, I knew about the filming process, and I’m like “any minute now, any minute now,” but I jumped, and I think that was a good sign for a scary movie.
We had a similar reaction, because we a big guy at our screening, 5’10” maybe 6’, and he was going “I don’t know if I could sit through this”
Claflin: I did a radio interview once, and someone had recorded his girlfriend or wife, her reaction to the trailer, just the trailer, and she goes “oh look he’s ginger just like you.” The first moment she goes “oh she’s ginger, you’re ginger, and oh my god, oh my god,” she has to vocalize, some people have to vocalize, where some people – I’m one of those people where I don’t make any sounds, I jump, and that’s about it. I’m no one of those people who hide behind their hands, I sort of embrace the scare. But I love me a good scary movie.
Clalfin: Currently, filming wise, I’m doing Mockingjay Parts I and II of The Hunger Games, and that is sort of going into mid-way through the year, so the light is at the end of the tunnel. It’s still very much going ahead, but it’s always great fun. After that, filming wise, I’m sort of playing around with a few ideas, luckily there’s a few options, and I’m kind of making sure I make the right move. But I have a romantic comedy called Love, Rosie coming out at the end of the year with Lily Collins, and also – the best way to describe it is it is a very dark comedy, but I don’t think it’s a comedy, it’s more of a full on drama, called Posh. It’s based on a play on the west end of London. It follows ten very over privileged kids in university, and their lifestyle, which is very dark, and it’s very funny, but it’s not funny. I find it funny because I find myself so far attached from that over privileged world, the underbelly of how English politics works, it’s based on these are the kids that will eventually rule our country. It is based on a true, true club that exists called the Bullingdon Club, where our Prime Minister, the mayor of London, and the second-in-command of the whole of England, and it’s the moment, it’s a scary thought, but it’s a very different movement, it’s a very dark character that I play, and I want to explore it, but it’s a lot of sort of rising English actors, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Sam Ried, the list is endless,, Lone Scherfig directed it. The back end of the year will be busy with Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Posh, and Love, Rosie.
The Quiet Ones is out in theaters today.