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Sam Claflin On 'Love, Rosie' And Stepping Away From 'Hunger Games'

02/06/2015 10:42 EST | Updated 02/06/2015 10:59 EST

According to Sam Claflin, there's a bunch of reasons he should've met his "Love, Rosie" co-star Lily Collins long before this -- they run in the same circles, starred in competing live-action "Snow White" movies, they even have the same agent. But as fate would have it, they weren't introduced until director Christian Ditter thought the two would make the perfect leads for his big-screen adaptation of "P.S. I Love You" author Cecelia Ahern's "Where Rainbows End." (And judging from their obvious chemistry, he was right.)

In a way, it's fitting, considering "Love, Rosie" all comes down to timing and missed opportunities. Charting the star-crossed relationship of Rosie (Collins) and Alex (Claflin), the movie follows the two from their 18-year-old days of bad haircuts, Nokia phones and Beyoncé through their 20s, as the lifelong friends and clear soulmates -- this is a romantic comedy, after all -- just can't seem to get their love lives on the same page.

With "Love, Rosie" coming to theatres and VOD on February 6, HuffPost Canada spoke to Claflin about his awkward first meeting with Collins, channeling his 18-year-old self (bad fashion sense and all), and why he'd been hoping to do a movie like this in between the "Hunger Games" sequels.

HuffPost Canada: I want to ask you something that I'm sure you've been getting a lot. That teenage haircut of Alex's...

Sam Claflin: It's pretty special, right? [Laughs] We tried a few options out and that was definitely the one that made me immediately feel a lot younger. It's horrendous -- in a great way. Like, you wouldn't see anyone walking around the streets with that haircut now, but 10 years ago, that was what everyone had on their head, I'm pretty sure. I definitely had it at that age. And the twitchy hair flick, the Justin Bieber hair flick, I had that going on without even knowing that I was doing it. It sort of becomes a part of you, so it definitely helped me feel 18 again.

How much did using all that old technology help with that too? I feel like you can chart this movie's timeline just by what kind of instant messenger or cell phones your characters are using.

[Laughs] The old Nokia, playing Snake on the phone, it all came flooding back to me. It was very nostalgic. The music was very informative. The director asked me and Lily which songs we'd liked to listen to while we had to do dancing scenes, so there was a lot of old-school Beyoncé and a lot of old-school Eminem. [Laughs] And going, "Oh my God, I can't believe this was 10 years ago. It feels like only yesterday." Then you know you're getting old.

It's clear that you and Lily have great chemistry together in this. Was that instantaneous, or was it something you had to build up?

Honestly, it was Day 1, really. We met at a hotel in London; the director had set up a meeting with me, her and Christian [Ditter], the director. So we sat down in a room, we got to know each other a little bit. And then we did a few exercises, where we sort of sat nose-to-nose, and had to talk about different emotions or features on their face and explain why we thought they were there. It was a very bizarre exercise, but in a sense, going through that bizarre experience, I think we had something we'd shared and that we could talk about.

Then not long after that, she was back in London and we went for breakfast, and ended up bumping into each other at a party in Los Angeles and hung out. Considering we'd spent five years knowing all the same people, working with the same agent, doing Snow White at the same time, there should've been many reasons why we should have met before, but we never had. And then, ever since I met her once, we couldn't get rid of each other. [Laughs] But it was immediate bond. We got on immediately.

Did Christian ever have to rein you guys in on set?

Not really. There were probably a couple of moments that we were laughing a bit too much here or there. The thing is, he embraced that. He gave us a lot of freedom to improvise and to make things up as we go along. And I think I was my character, so in that sense, I wasn't getting out of character at any moment. And with Lily, all she had to do was put on an English accent and she was pretty much there as well. Or had to remember that she had a baby. But I think he embraced the laughs and he tried to, in fact, capture moments of natural behaviour and put that on-screen. So a lot of the in-between moments and moments linking scene to scene is just us being us. He really made that blossom; he made that natural kind of reality breathe. And I think that's amazing as an actor to feel that comfortable on set.

Did you find that a lot of yourself was just invariably seeping into Alex as a result of that?

I mean, it's the closest I'll ever play, I think. Or I ever could play. There was really no difference to my personality and his. I think every decision that he makes along the way is a decision that I probably would have made. Other than the fact that he's a bit more intelligent and gets into Harvard and becomes a doctor. [Laughs] I think that's really the only dissimilar personality trait. But no, it was my own accent, my own haircut. I mean, my fashion sense is maybe a touch different -- I don't know if I'd wear a denim jacket on top of cargo trousers -- but, you know ... [Laughs] He's an 18-year-old boy in the year 2000, so what can you say?

This really does seem like something of a departure for you, at least compared to your last couple projects.

I think that was why I was so desperate to do something like this. I've always loved the genre, romantic comedies. I've always loved the films that have turned out, especially English ones. I love the subtle humour in them. But there was something about this script specifically, a story with relatable characters that were a little younger than most romantic comedies. It was a different story that was being told, a very serious one with a hint of humour. And I've been kind of ... not searching for it, but hoping, waiting for something like this. And it came at the right time, I'd just finished doing "Catching Fire." I was very lucky, I guess you could say. I believe I was the director's first choice and Lily was the director's first choice, so it all worked out for the best.

Is your prep work for a movie like this different than for a big blockbuster like "Catching Fire?" Obviously you spend less screen time with your shirt off.

Yes. Which was always a positive. [Laughs] Yeah, it was very, very different. For me, I wasn't in the gym every day, all day beforehand. I didn't actually honestly do huge amounts of prep work. I was already in the shape of Finnick, so I didn't have to lose much weight or gain much weight. I just wanted to be me, really. So I relaxed into it, without working myself too hard to the bone beforehand. I wanted to enter stress-free, I wanted to have a good time. I'd always hoped that a romantic comedy would be a fun set to be on, and it really was. Not that "Hunger Games" is not, but it's a little more intense I find, purely because I'm trying to do an American accent, because I'm always worried about what I look like, because Finnick has to. I always feel there's a lot more pressure on my shoulders, where I felt this time, it was my opportunity to be me and be free.

I'm guessing there's less "sit around and wait" time too, when you're not doing all those action scenes and bigger set pieces.

Yeah, there's definitely more cogs to that clock. There's so many things to make a film like that move, and there's also so many characters. And I think it was nice to make that departure, to be able to do something that was very intimate, and was mainly a two-hander. And with a very small crew, very small locations, small sets. And a small, beautiful story. It was very, very different from the grand scale of an epic, four-movie franchise. [Laughs] I enjoyed both equally, that's the beauty of my career. For the last year and a half, I feel like I've had a nice mixture of both and can't complain.

Obviously you know a thing or two about working on projects that come with a built-in fan base, like with Cecelia Ahern's book here. Is there any more pressure or more thought that goes into joining a project like this, when you know that you're coming into something where fans can already have ideas in their head of who this character is?

There is. Of course there is, always. Because you don't want to let anyone down, especially the author of the books. At the same time, I try not to think about it. There's a reason that I've been chosen or been cast. I'm actually just about to do another novel-to-screen adaptation and again, it comes with quite a following, and I think part of me is very nervous this time around. But I think the more you think about it, the more you get in your head, the more it starts to scare you. [Laughs] And I think with "Hunger Games" especially, that pressure was through the roof. Because I'd started reading comments on the Internet and looking into it, looking into what people thought.

But it then spurs me on to work harder to achieve what goals I'd already set out to achieve. It helps me. I want to prove people wrong, I guess. But, you know, I have a quality that I can give and no one else in the world can give -- and then of course, there are other actors who can give other qualities that I can't give -- and you just have to hope that the producers and the director have made the right decision. [Laughs] And I'll do what I can to do the best I can, as always. It's a job that I enjoy and a job that I want to continue to enjoy. And all I can do is my best.

"Love, Rosie" is now playing in theatres.

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'