Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey
Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey at the World Premiere at Disneyland © 2011 Disney Enterprises

British actor Sam Claflin graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in 2009, and went to star in the miniseries Any Human Heart for Channel Four in England. In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides he portrays Philip, a young missionary aboard Blackbeard’s ship which, along with the assistance of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), is searching for the Fountain of Youth.

Astrid Berges-Frisbey makes her US film debut in the movie playing Syrena, a mermaid who is captured by Blackbeard’s crew – because to access the Fountain of Youth, they had to have a mermaid’s tear.

At the press day for the movie, both Sam and Astrid spoke of their excitement to be a part of this iconic franchise.

Can you tell us a little about your characters?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Poster, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Sam Claflin
Poster, Mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) © 2010 Walt Disney

Sam Claflin: I play a missionary named Philip Swift who stands up for what he believes in and tries to right Blackbeards’s wrongs. In the course of the story, Philip goes through a surprising journey, especially when he meets Syrena.

He’s never really had any contact with women, so that’s quite a turn of events, to say the least.

Astrid Berges-Frisbey: Syrena is different from the other mermaids because, in the story, she connects to the human characters, which changes her. Philip changes Syrena, and Syrena changes Philip because, from the first moment, they see in the other something similar to themselves.

Syrena is different to the other mermaids as Philip is different to the other humans.

He’s a really good person, and Syrena responds to him differently than to other sailors and pirates, who are at war with the mermaids.

What kind of research did you do for the role?

Astrid: From the time of Homer’s The Odyssey, everywhere in the world, there are myths about mermaids seducing with their charm and then killing sailors. Then these myths began to change in the 19th century when Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid, which was a more romantic view.

That’s now become more common, especially with the Disney animated film of that story and other films like Splash. I think that Syrena is a link between the frightening older stories and the more romantic, recent versions of mermaids.

Didn’t you have to stay out of the sun in Hawaii, as mermaids are pale?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Sam Claflin and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey
Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) and Mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) © 2010 Walt Disney

Astrid: (she laughs) I had to live like a vampire, staying indoors during the day and only able to come out at night.

What was it like for you floating in a small wooden boat floating with the other actors on a lake surrounded by mermaids?

Sam: We were surrounded by beautiful mermaids, so that wasn’t a bad thing by any means, but it definitely wasn’t the most comfortable of boats, and there were six of us in that tiny boat for four consecutive nights. It was kind of like island fever, but on a boat. But we started feeling like real pirates, singing songs, mucking about and having chats between takes. We made our own entertainment, and it was nice to get to know each other and the mermaids.

What was it like walking into this incredible iconic franchise?

Astrid: Unreal. When I went to the first audition, I didn’t even speak English so it was quite unreal and I think I learned so much. I felt so lucky and it was an extraordinary experience to work with (director) Rob Marshall, with (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer, with everyone [in the film] and it was amazing for me to [play] this very interesting character because the moments in the movie are very different.

The mermaid I play is different from the others because she meets Philip and I think that relationship symbolized something really great and powerful, like two cultures meeting, and [they are] trying to trust each other. It was a great pleasure.

Was it a great pleasure for you Sam?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Sam Claflin
Enigmatic mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and Young missionary Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) are mysteriously drawn to each other despite the fact that they should be natural enemies © 2010 Walt Disney

Sam: Even now my heart’s beating. Right from the get go really, I never imagined that this was even possible. The moment my agent called me to say, ‘You have an audition today for Pirates of the Caribbean,’ I was like, ‘Oh, what’s the point? It’s never going to happen, it’s impossible.’

Then two days later I was flying myself out to LA to meet Rob and Jerry, and even getting dressed in Rob’s office. (Producer) John Deluca got me dressed for the audition, and from the get go I’ve been so nervous the whole way through and so anxious to see what people think about it and my first sort of step on the ladder.

It’s nerve wracking but, at the same time, there’s a very fine line between nerves and excitement, so I think it’s a bit of both. Or huge amounts of both actually. It’s a true honor to be working with the ensemble that we have. We really became like a family unit, especially when we were in LA and in Hawaii.  We were all away from home, and it was nice to have everybody be so welcoming. I actually felt like I belonged there as opposed to living a dream.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.