By: Donna Freydkin
Get your tissues ready, filmgoers, for a project that left even its lead in tears.
In "Me Before You," the drama based on Jojo Moyes' bestseller, Sam Claflin plays a dashing, dapper banker who is paralyzed from the neck down after an accident, and left in the company of adorable, if inexperienced Lou (Emilia Clarke).
But rather than a paint-by-numbers rom-com, the film deals with a host of issues, including euthanasia, class differences, and how we treat and view the physically challenged. It's what appealed to Claflin, whom you know from playing Finnick Odair in the "Hunger Games" films.
Yes, he got emotional upon reading this script and that's how he knew he had to play Will. "If the script connects with me -- if I cry, if I genuinely laugh out loud -- you know when you know. I don't know exactly where I'm going to be next year, or two months from now. But what excites me is that I don't know what I want," he says.
He's got sympathy for Will, who is friendless and whose girlfriend winds up betraying him. But he also doesn't leave his character blameless. "It was Will that pushed everyone away. He didn't want his friends to suffer. (His girlfriend) tried to be there for him and he didn't want to see her. How much can you try?" muses Claflin.
His performances hinges on his emotional acuity, since his physicality was rendered moot by Will's paralysis. "A lot of people only see the wheelchair and not the person. He's still the same person. There shouldn't be a difference and that's what became clear to me," says Claflin.
Now, he's changing gears to promote the film, which has him walking red carpets. It's not where Claflin would prefer to be, given the choice.
"Only because I don't like dressing up. I'd rather be in my sneakers and a T-shirt. But at the same time, it's amazing to have such great support. There's nothing better than that feeling. But I'm still so overwhelmed by it," he says of his many, many fans.
"I find that they're really respectful. They're amazingly tuned-in with what I like and what I don't like. They turn up to every single event I'm at in England. They know my mum and dad. They warn me about certain things coming out (in the press)."
Not that Claflin lives a life that's tabloid-friendly. He's married to Laura Haddock and has a son, who's his priority above all else. The secret to raising a good kid isn't complicated. "It's love, simply. For me, as long as I love my child and shower him with an awareness of the world, he'll be OK, hopefully," says Claflin.
Take a look back at the "Hunger Games" stars below.