“Me Before You” may look like a simple romantic drama — a British Nicholas Sparks knockoff about the love between a young working class woman (Emilia Clarke) and a man paralyzed from the neck down (Sam Claflin). But it can get pretty heavy. Claflin feels that way, too. The British actor, best known as Finnick Odair in the “Hunger Games” films, had to rein himself in both physically and emotionally, playing a character whose accident has left him bitter and maybe suicidal, plus at least initially resistant to the young woman who’s become his caretaker. Claflin talks to us about the difficulties of making a romance equal parts dark and sweet.
Seeing as this deals with someone considering euthanasia, you have to go to a pretty dark headspace. Do you tend to be a morbid person?
[Laughs] I’d say no. Though I love people that are. I think it’s always interesting when people are morbid and are happy to express themselves in morbid ways. But I wouldn’t say I’m morbid.
He doesn’t start off in a very happy space. He’s let his hair and beard grow, he wears frumpy clothes. But before he cleans up he still almost looks like Lord Byron.
He’s still stylish. I loved being able to hide under all the baggy clothes and long hair and the beard. The only problem was if one of the hairs went on a little trip across my face it was impossible for me to [swats]. That’s the harsh reality of filming something like this. I struggled mostly with little moments like that, those little things I had to stop myself doing instinctually. I was constantly reminding myself, ‘Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move.’ It became very difficult not to use my body. When she was crying I wanted to reach my hand out to comfort her. It was very, very difficult to maintain.