“It was Rob Marshall called me actually,” Sam Claflin explains, “I was sort of in the middle of make up for another job, and it was my first day on this other job, so I was kind of focused on that and I got the phone call from Rob.”
The British actor, who makes his feature film debut as missionary Philip in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, is talking to us about the moment he found out he’d landed the part.
“I was quite literally, gobsmacked. It took quite a while to roll the tongue back into my mouth. It was hugely overwhelming, hugely, shockingly surprising, but he gave me kind of a lot of comfort and sort of made me kind of ‘recalm’ myself. He said, ‘okay we’re in this together, you know. This is my first Pirates film as well. We’re in the same boat.'”
Only a few months later, he, Marshall and the rest of the crew were stepping onto set in the jungles of Hawaii for the first day of shooting.
“It was hugely amazing, surrounded by palm trees and coconuts, and all these other people dressed as pirates, and there were zombies involved, and seeing everybody in costume, and everybody focused, and you know completely direct in what they knew they wanted to be doing, and what they wanted to achieve.”
Alongside Claflin on that first day was another new member of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” cast, French actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey, For both performers, the opportunity to be a part of a franchise they both love, was somewhat surreal, as Berges-Frisbey recalls.
“I remember one day, when I was in Hawaii for maybe a week, and I saw Jeffrey and, and Johnny, and Kevin McNally too. And I think I’ve never seen two or three actors having all this fun before, it’s unbelievable how much they like, they love, their respective parts. And how much they like to act in it, for a young actress as me, it’s like a dream.”
The process was made even more dream-like because of the techniques involved in creating Berges-Frisbey’s costume. “I will have a tail, for sure, but it’s going to be amazing because, it will be really fantastic, because part of this is CGI, so most of the time, I’m wearing dots, and special costumes, and, they use new technology with me so I have a new, special costume.” For the actress this was a completely novel experience, although one she took in her stride. “You can’t really imagine before you’ve done something like that, because it’s the same form of acting but everything’s changed.”
For Claflin, too, the project was a combination of familiar, and novel techniques, “in previous jobs, with a smaller budget, I kind of always ask the cameraman, ‘do you want me to turn my head at this point, would that help you.’ Rob’s very like, ‘don’t worry about that, that’s their job, they’ll find you. You do what you do best, and I’m here to help you do what you do best,'” he explains, “I think as soon as you realize that everybody on set, the whole 200 plus crew, you know all have to do their jobs to make you look the best you can. So I think they want you to feel as easy as possible and you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s job.”
While both Claflin and Berges-Frisbey found the work enjoyable, the realities of modern Hollywood filmmaking mean spending months at a time away from home. “Believe it or not, my first job was a six month stint as well, so I kind of was prepared that there’d be a lot of waiting around, and being abroad and away from home a lot, and me kind of having to fend for myself,” Claflin recalls, “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a kitchen in any of my rooms I’ve stayed in on this job, so it’s hard to kind of cook for myself, and really make it homely. But at the same time, I was used to being away from home quite a long time, and I set up Skype, so I was able to talk to family and friends via that, and try and stay in touch with the real world as much as I could.”
For Berges-Frisbey, this meant spending time away from her six year-old sister. When she was originally cast, Berges-Frisbey explained to her that she was going to play a mermaid. The girl’s response was simply, ‘wow.’ This reaction helped make Berges-Frisbey aware of the impact of the films, as she explains, “I realized, seeing my little sister, how dreamy it is for the children.” Consequently, when it came to showing her sister images from the set, she was very careful not to shatter the illusion, “I never show her pictures of when the CGI things are on me. So I let her know it’s more kind of magic than it really is, because she’s six, so I can enjoy it. So [she asks] ‘how is it possible?’ It’s just wonderful.”
This impact is something that both Claflin and Berges-Frisbey will become well aware of in the next few months, as their images adorn action figures, T-shirts and lunchboxes. Claflin is prepared to take it in his stride, though, “the moment you sort of give yourself high expectations of something like that, the moment it didn’t happen, you could be disappointed,” he tells us, “so far I’ve been very successful and very lucky with work, and nothing in my life has changed, other than the occasional interview here and there, but nobody stops me in the streets, nobody knows me or where I’m from or knows anything about my family. So I, I think I’m ready to take it day by day and see what happens, and until that arises, I don’t think that I want to ever want to plan ahead and hope for the best.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opens in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D theaters on Friday, May 20.