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Sam Claflin Gives Us A Candid Look At His Chilling Character In Every Breath You Take - Exclusive Interview

Sam Claflin made his first big splash in Hollywood with his American film debut in the 2011 high seas blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and his career has been on the rise ever since. Starring opposite Johnny Depp (Capt. Jack Sparrow), Penélope Cruz (Angelica), and Geoffrey Rush (Barbosa), Claflin made an indelible impression in the film as Phillip Swift, a courageous missionary who aligns with the mysterious mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) to take on the notorious Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

After On Stranger Tides, Claflin went on to star in 2012's action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel, The Huntsman: Winter's War, in 2016; in between, he landed the plum role of Finnick Odair in the dystopian thriller The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Following the release of Winter's War, Claflin reprised the character of Odair for two-part Hunger Games saga finale, Mockingjay.

More recently, Claflin has taken on a couple of Netflix projects, first in the TV series format in the recurring role of real-life British political extremist Oswald Mosley in the crime drama Peaky Blinders in 2019; and in 2020 in the mystery adventure Enola Holmes, where he played the older brother of famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and their younger sister Enola (Millie Bobby Brown).

In Every Breath You Take, Casey Affleck stars as Phillip, a psychiatrist whose life is thrown into turmoil when a patient dies by suicide. After seeing his patient's brother James (Claflin) distraught at the scene, Phillip — against his better judgment — lets his guard down and invites him into his family's home. But with the psychiatrist, his wife Grace (Michelle Monaghan), and his teen daughter Lisa (India Eisley) vulnerable because of their own family tragedy, James easily manipulates his way into their lives and his sinister intentions begin to materialize.

In an exclusive interview, Claflin talked about how he got in the headspace of his character and more. Every Breath You Take opens in select theaters and on video on demand on Friday, April 2.

He'll be watching you

I'm sure when you tell people, "Hey, I'm in a new movie called Every Breath You Take," they start singing the Police song to you.

Yeah, I have to say it was one of the things I kept breaking into on set. You can't help yourself.

The song definitely sticks in your mind, too, doesn't it? That's part of it, though. It's an unnerving song if you listen to the lyrics, but now, it's the title of an unnerving movie.

It definitely has you on the edge of your seat. I think that was one of the things that really drew me to the story, I think, in all honesty. I think very rarely you read a thriller and are still shocked and surprised to the very, very last page. I think with each new twist and turn along the way, I think it is just, yeah, I was on the edge of my seat and I think that's usually the show of a good story.

I think that what's interesting here. You have this character, James, who has the power to manipulate people and insert himself into this family's life. As a performer, how do you even wrap your head around something like that? Now granted, we all are obsessive to a degree about certain things, right? But this is obsession to the nth degree. It was really unnerving to me to watch this film, because you made it feel very real.

Well, I remember talking to Vaughan [Stein], the director, quite early on and we were trying to work out accent-wise, and how realistic is it that someone can do an English accent or portray a character. Then, what we quickly realized is that me as an actor, my job is to sink into roles that are removed from who I am...

He was like, "Well, you do this for a living, and you do it for 12 hours a day." What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that it was easily relatable because I am an actor who pretends to be other people for a living. It was believable that there is another human being out there that could pretend to be someone else and make it believable. I think we just played every moment as if he really believed that he was living those moments.

So when James was with the daughter, he genuinely believed that she was the love of his life. When he was with the wife, he believed that she was the love of his life. Then when he was with Phillip, there was the sense of tease or play that had me feeling a little shady and feeling a little on edge. But at the same time, we were constantly playing with this barometer of like, "How much has he pre-planned this whole thing? What's the goal? What's his goal?" It was, well, to destroy his life. It wasn't to necessarily kill him or kill his wife or his daughter. There were parts of the plan that unraveled as he was going and parts of it that were pre-planned. I think that was the enjoyment. That was the enjoyable part, working out how much was real and how much was made up on the spot.

Sam Claflin's character has a psychosis that defies convention

That's a great distinction that you make too about trying to destroy his life as opposed to actually physically harming him. You still feel James is a monstrous character, but not outwardly. It's more monstrous in this unpredictable sense to me. It's the whole thing about not knowing what's coming next. To me, that's the best kind of monster to play, because you even make moving a couch with Casey Affleck's character, Phillip, scary in one scene. That to me says a lot about the uneasiness that you were able to realize as this character.

With that particular scene, it is the first and only time in his plan, up to that point, [where he did something that he] hadn't planned. When Phillip walks in the door that day, it's like James is surprised. He's caught off guard for the first time. Everything else he's planned so meticulously, and so to the point that he's such a perfectionist and so obsessive that he knows every little detail, and every move that they're going to make.

Then all of a sudden, Phillip turns up at his door and he's caught off guard. He's caught by surprise. There is an element of his insecurity and his anxiety in that moment... That is the reason for that unsettling feeling during that scene, I think. You're not meant to know exactly how it's going to play out because James himself doesn't know how it's going to play out. I think that again, playing with those constant parts of that character or that human existence is what is enjoyable and what makes for an exciting thriller.

There's also a scene in the film when Veronica Ferris' character, Vanessa, says "Phillip, if he's clinically psychotic, he wouldn't be messing around. He'd go straight for the jugular." That's to me what makes James so intriguing because he defies convention. Worse yet, he's handsome, he's charismatic, which makes it easy to see why James can cast this trance over Grace [Michelle Monaghan] and Lucy [India Eisley]. Was it difficult to find case studies about people like this that don't exactly fit the mold, I guess, when it comes to their psychosis?

Ted Bundy was the epitome of someone who charmed his way and had the looks that immediately make someone likable. Like a TV show host, you start trusting someone without realizing you're talking. You start unraveling without [knowing them]. There is a sense of safety almost when someone has a good smile or kind eyes or a soft, gentle features, wherever it is. There's immediately a trance, as you say, that unfolds.

I think that again is one of the reasons it was enjoyable to play with how sinister he can make certain moments and how much the characters would realize that he's being sinister and how much of it is just glazed over and forgiven... I think there've been huge numbers of psychopaths in the years that have probably been so successful because of the way that they look or appear or come across. It's often the quiet ones that you have to watch out for, right?

Sam Claflin hopes to reteam with Henry Cavill for another Enola Holmes movie

It's only right that you and Henry Cavill were brothers — Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes — in the wonderful movie Enola Holmes. Congratulations on that film. You guys look like you could actually be brothers. Have you formed some sort of brotherly bond? You definitely resemble each other.

Strangely, it wasn't the first time I'd heard about the fact that we looked alike. I think that there's been a few times where we've not crossed parts in real life but lived parallel. We have auditioned for similar roles years and years and years ago. I think there was always a comparison that was drawn. He's definitely got the looks, though. Let's be honest. The guy's a genetic beast. I'm in love with Henry Cavill.

But no, he's a very charismatic, very charming man. To be acting alongside him was a joy. I hope we have the opportunity of exploring that series further and having Millie Bobby Brown as a younger sister. I was the ugly duckling in the family, let's be honest. But no, it was a really, really enjoyable experience. I honestly had a lot more fun than I initially thought. It was one of those that crept up on me, took me by surprise. I had so much fun. I can only hope that we get the chance to do it again.