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Sam Clafin on Hunger Games, date nights and becoming a dad

What was it like playing a lovestruck virgin?

You so often see a character going from boy to man. What really excited me is the fact that this seems like it was a man turning into a boy — he becomes younger and younger. When he first takes over the estate he’s got everything under control and then his cousin Rachel comes along. She’s the first woman who ever entered his life and it takes him back to how I remember puberty.

How do you remember it?

Puberty is a really distressing time. I remember being a 14-year-old, falling in love for the first time, not knowing whether she fancies me or not and wondering whether two kisses at the end of a message means she wants to sleep with me. Do you touch her bum? Do you hold hands? Then you get too excited and you get told to tone it down. Every teen boy’s heartache.

She’s awesome: Rachel Weisz

How did Rachel Weisz contribute to all this?

Rachel kept me on my toes. She wouldn’t tell me exactly how she was going to play any scene. Sometimes I’d be halfway through my line and she’d just walk off. It helped the puppy dog in me, trying to please her as an actress and a person. It helps that she’s a beautiful and intelligent woman. I’ve never worked across someone as experienced as Rachel. I was in awe of her.

How’s life with your wife, actress Laura Haddock? Congrats on having a son!

Thank you. We’ve been a family unit for the first 13 months of his life so we’ve been really lucky. He’s a cheeky chappy, a proper little brute, a bulldog. As a man you want them to be a bit rough and ready.

Do you ever get a date night?

Pretty much every night is a date night. We’ve been fortunate. When he sleeps we can have time to ourselves. We also go and see friends and we have a lot of family. He’s the first grandson on both sides of the family. We are all going on this journey together. It’s something that only people with kids fully understand — there’s another layer of love on top of everything else. You think you love yourself more than anything else, you meet your wife [and then you think], oh, actually she’s good competition, then all of a sudden you have this baby and you love them more than anything else in the world.

Does it affect your work?

I think the great thing is it adds an extra layer of emotional depth to the way you approach work. And hopefully one day my son will watch this and be proud of me. Laura’s just done Transformers so hopefully he’s going to sit and watch his mum battling away one day. It’s a really exciting time. I’m excited about the next job, where I play a dark character — it’s good having him around to lighten the mood at bit.

Family unit: Wife Laura Haddock

What’s the next film?

The Nightingale — it’s very dark. It’s a really exciting team of people filming in Australia. The character’s environment is not something I’m familiar with.

Do Hunger Games fans still approach you?

Yeah, it’s strange because I feel like I’m a very different person to the man I was then, maybe because I’ve had a child. [It’s not like I feel] grown-up but I feel like I’ve moved on from that world. But what’s great is being reminded of the past. I loved being a part of that project and, at the same time, those fans have all grown up too.

How do you choose scripts?

I feel like I’m pretty average in terms of intelligence, so if I get lost reading a script, most people will. I love an intelligent film handled very well, like Inception. Films that are in a sci-fi world, you have to really captivate the audience and get them tuned into that world before trying to throw them loads of information. I think Inception taught us along the way.

How do you feel if you don’t get a part?

My mum taught me to hope for the best but expect the worst. That’s something I live by.

Which actors do you admire?

Pacino, De Niro — people who are still acting now.

Do you hope to be an old man still in this game one day?

I hope so — but I expect not to!

My Cousin Rachel is in cinemas now

Rachel Weisz kept me on my toes. Sometimes I’d be halfway through a scene and she’d just walk off