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[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from Me Before You.]
Playing the quadriplegic leading man in the movie adaptation of Jojo Moyes‘ best-selling novel Me Before You came with a “minefield of challenges,” star Sam Claflin told The Hollywood Reporter of his role as Will Traynor.
Physically, Claflin said he “had to be still and use muscles I wasn’t used to using in order to manipulate my body into a certain position and sustain that for hours and hours on end. It was a very, very tough shoot but one that I would do again.” But he said the character’s “emotional journey” was even more daunting.
“Playing somebody who wants to kill himself quite literally is one of the hardest things to understand when I’ve never felt like that,” Claflin said. “I’ve spoken to people who have or are feeling like that and it scars you and I can’t help but think back to those people and hope that they’re still OK and find a reason to live.”
Indeed, as those who read Moyes‘ book know, after being paralyzed in an accident and miserable in his current state, Will is determined to end his life and ultimately goes through with assisted suicide despite finding happiness with his caretaker Lou Clark, played by Emilia Clarke. Will makes the same controversial decision in the movie.
Still, Moyes, who also scripted the movie, told THR at the film’s New York premiere last week that the story isn’t necessarily advocating Will’s course of action, just trying to stay true to the character.
“This is not a decision that we’re saying is the right decision necessarily, but it’s his decision and it’s kind of true to the character that he is. I guess the thing that we were interested in was if someone makes that kind of extreme decision, what’s the impact on the people around him and that’s really what this story’s about,” Moyes explained.
Director Thea Sharrock, who helmed her first feature with Me Before You, said Will’s choice is “the only decision that’s possible for the film to be made.”
“I think it’s the brave choice and I think it puts the subject on the table for discussion,” Sharrock told THR at the Me Before You premiere in New York. “If he hadn’t taken that decision, we wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation, and I think all credit to the studio for not ever questioning whether that should be in the movie or not.”
As for Claflin, he said he tried not to judge but simply comprehend why his character would do such a thing.
“I had to understand him and his decision,” he explained. “One of the earliest things I learned as an actor was to never judge your character, to never think anything he does is wrong. You have to understand why he makes certain decisions or why he does certain things, why he’s in a certain situation or a certain circumstance and work back from there. That was the first thing I did really: fully got into the mind of him.”
Clarke says it was easy for the actors to stay get in the heads of their characters, since Moyes scripted the film and could answer their questions.
“You go, ‘Do I read the book?’ Or do I go ‘Jojo, you know that chapter?’ We were very lucky,” she said.
Still, Clarke did read the book, before she even read the script, with her agent explaining that Moyes would be writing the screenplay. Like many fans of the tearjerker romance, Clarke found herself overcome with emotions by the story.
“I read the book and fell in love,” she said. “I was on the set of Terminator when I was filming it and just cried.”
Moyes, who says she was asked to write the screenplay, knows that it’s not common that the author of a popular book will be able to script its big-screen adaptation but felt she was able to maintain the balance of tones and subjects as well as the voice of the story.
As she was deciding what to keep and what to cut, she and Sharrock focused on Will and Lou’s romance.
“That was the most important thing, and we just worked out what could be kept around that,” she said.
Sharrock, meanwhile, hopes fans of the book will be pleased with the movie.
“There’s an extraordinary love that’s become palpable with the book, so I hope that the film delivers,” she said.
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