Sam Claflin is one of the few actors who seems as genuinely charming offscreen as he is on-screen in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (opening everywhere May 20). In the fourth "Pirates" adventure, the 24-year-old Brit plays Philip Swift, a brave young missionary who falls for and tries to protect a beautiful mermaid while Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and company search for the Fountain of Youth.
So is Claflin closer to missionary or mischievous in real life? "There are elements of both in me," he says. "During my high school years, I was always the kid trying to break up the fights. I enjoy drinking—I don't mean to sound like an alcoholic—but I enjoy an exciting life. That's not to say that Philip doesn't lead one, but there are probably things that he won't do that I would."
After stealing a few "me hearties" in "On Stranger Tides," look for Claflin to turn up the charm again as Kristen Stewart's Prince Charming in "Snow White and the Huntsman." We got the backstory on the strapping swashbuckler and what makes him one to watch.
Is Johnny Depp as fun off camera as it looks like he's having when in character as Jack Sparrow?
Yeah. He loves playing that part so much and brings so much energy and positive vibes to the set that it bumps up everybody's positivity. If not for Johnny, the films wouldn't have as much character and they wouldn't be as much fun to watch as they have been. Knowing that he has so much fun really rubs off on everybody else. He truly is one of the most hilarious men I've ever met, and very knowledgeable, generous and giving. He ticks off all the boxes.
Do you think about what happens to your character at the end of "On Stranger Tides?"
I do! It's very open-ended. To pinpoint a very specific ending for myself could lead to me being very disappointed if there is a fifth film that I was involved in. The best way to be is open-minded. Another movie could go anywhere, and the mystery of it all kind of excites me… and makes me a little nervous.
What was your first acting gig?
I was in drama school at the time and lucky enough to graduate early, and I did a TV miniseries called "The Pillars of the Earth."
Do people recognize you on the street?
No [laughs]. I think I have been recognized once, but it has nothing to do with "Pirates of the Caribbean." It had to do with a job I did once where I had to get naked. This guy came up to me in a bar and said, "Was it your bum I saw?" I think that's the only time I've ever been recognized by some stranger. As for "Pirates," I have no expectations and take it day by day. My life hasn't changed an ounce—I still catch the subway in London when I'm there and no one has a clue who I am. I'm very blessed and lucky to have the opportunity to be in that situation, I think.
What would you be doing if you weren't acting?
I always wanted to be a teacher. I had two weeks work experience when I was 15 and worked with four- and five-year-old kids and had a blast. Like the "Pirates" experience, it felt like I was just having fun and playing all day. Exuding all that energy with kids was something that I really enjoyed and if I could change one person's life, it would mean so much, I'm sure.
Other than a sexy mermaid, who is your dream love interest on-screen?
Can I say Penelope Cruz? She's such an incredible actress, and she's so beautiful as a person. I realized that during filming and getting to know her, and it made me wish I were Johnny Depp. That's not the only element I wish I was Johnny Depp, but that's definitely one of them.
Mac or PC?
"Harry Potter" or "Twilight?"
It's hard for me to say because I haven't seen all the "Harry Potter" movies, but for my generation I will say "Twilight."
Rock or rap?
"Star Wars" or "Star Trek?"
Zac Efron or Zach Galifianikis?
Definitely Zach Galifianikis. He's genius!
Beer or wine?
Beer. [laughs] I live in London.
New York or L.A.?
I would say New York. It has more similarities to London.
Twitter or Facebook?
Facebook at the moment. My brother set up a fan page after my first job, which is taking a few hits. I have a page where I hook up with my old friends, so I use Facebook quite a bit.
What can you tell us about your role in "Snow White and the Hunstman," which stars Kristen Stewart as the leading lady?
I play the role of Prince Charming. I met the director [Rupert Sanders] and he's a genius. He showed me some of the artwork and talked me through some of his visions about how he sees the story. We are on the same wavelength about my character, where he could go and what I could bring to the table.
I'm very excited to be a part of it, especially playing opposite Kristen Stewart, who I'm a huge fan of. It's hard to think about it at the moment because I'm so overwhelmed by the press surrounding "Pirates." I'm having a blast and it still doesn't feel like this is work. You could get used to hearing compliments all day.