Sam Claflin was sure he’d whiffed his audition. He was in Los Angeles on a promotional tour for Snow White and the Huntsman when his agent sent him in to read for Finnick Odair—District 4’s charismatic golden boy whose motives remain unclear to Katniss as they head back into the Games. “Finnick is this tanned, green-eyed, sex god,” laughs the 26-year-old Brit over sodas at his Waikiki hotel on a day off from shooting. “I’m thinking I’m brunette, I have loads of stubble, at the time I was by no means in shape. This guy walked in just after my audition who looked like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise. Yeah, I’m not going to get this.”
But the filmmakers were after more than just some young stud. “Sometimes you get someone with the swagger but not the soulfulness or the other way around,” explains Jacobson. “Sam had both. He is such a sweet, sweet fellow.” He has a sweet fiancée as well, the British actress Laura Haddock who walked by the restaurant during our interview, excitedly holding up towels and waving at him as she made her way to the beach.
Claflin brings dimples and green eyes naturally to the role of Finnick. But to otherwise ready himself, he spent months eating nothing but chicken and asparagus. “It’s depressing,” he sighs. “I just want a burger and beer.” He dyed his hair blonde and endured the indignities of spray tanning. “Look at the tanlines on my fingers!” he says as he shows off his peeling brown knuckles. “I’m very English. I’m white. I mean I’m so pale. With spray tans they start peeling and start getting really dirty looking. It’s kind of lucky for the arena because I’m dirty a lot of the time but it’s not great with my shirt off at the moment.”
All this physical prepping so that he wouldn’t let Finnick’s fans down during the infamous sugar cube scene when the character teases Katniss while wearing a strategically placed bit of net. Just how much net he’ll have on remains to be seen. “They did have to tone it down from what it is in the book because they can’t make it too graphic if you know what I’m saying,” he pauses with a sheepish smile. “Because it was just a knot covering his, basically, you know what I’m saying! I was definitely prepared to do anything. But the costumer said ‘Well we can’t have you in nothing’ so I’m kind of covered up.” Still the scene left Claflin feeling rather exposed. “It was the scariest moment of my life,” he says with a laugh. “I’m on Twitter and so many people have been like ‘Don’t mess this up, or we will kill you.’”
Before the shoot wrapped on December 22, Claflin already knew what he wanted to bring home with him: The arena wet suit for his mother (“I kept my armor from my first role playing a knight and my mum bought a mannequin for it, so part of me wants to get the wet suit so she can have mannequins all over the house…”) and Finnick’s trident for above his own mantle. “Though I don’t know what my fiancée will think about the décor in our house.”