Monday, 19 June 2017

Hooked on Laura Haddock: How The Inbetweeners actress become an all-action Hollywood heroine

Hooked on Laura Haddock: How The Inbetweeners actress become an all-action Hollywood heroine

It may be a long way from Harpenden to Hollywood, but The Inbetweeners Movie star LAURA HADDOCK has crossed the pond and netted herself a string of blockbuster roles. She tells Kerry Potter how she manages the transformation from hands-on mum (with a certain heart-throb husband) to kick-ass action heroine
For British actress Laura Haddock, one of the benefits of making it in Hollywood is that no one there asks her impertinent questions about her surname. ‘I don’t think Americans eat haddock because no one’s ever brought it up,’ she smiles. 
‘It’s not a particularly glamorous surname, is it? But then neither is [Sandra] Bullock. In America they struggle with my first name. They mishear Laura – at Starbucks I’ll always get Nora written on the cup. But I quite like my alter ego – I could be Nora Cod, couldn’t I?’
Laura got her acting break when she starred in The Inbetweeners Movie. DRESS, Emilia Wickstead
Laura got her acting break when she starred in The Inbetweeners Movie. DRESS, Emilia Wickstead
The 31-year-old, who stars in the new Transformers: The Last Knight, alongside Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins, is also known as Mrs Sam Claflin (‘only on my Space NK loyalty card,’ she deadpans).
She married the 30-year-old Me Before You and The Hunger Games actor in 2013 and gave birth to their son Pip 18 months ago. Mother and toddler have just returned from visiting Sam in Tasmania on the set of The Nightingale, a 19th-century period drama. ‘He’s rocking a mutton-chop sideburn right now for that role. It’s not the most attractive look,’ she says. ‘Tasmania has beautiful landscapes so we were taking photos – and they’re all Pip, Sam…and Sam’s sideburns.’
We’re drinking coffee and scoffing biscuits in a Soho hotel restaurant and Laura is easy, irreverent company. She wrinkles her nose when I mention her beauty – modelling was ‘never on my radar’ – but her looks are impossible to ignore. She is cartoonishly gorgeous: big blue eyes, huge lips, ski-slope cheekbones, million-dollar smile. Later on, I will watch every head turn as she walks through the lobby.
She alludes to the fact that sometimes her looks get in the way of her landing the roles she wants, a hangover perhaps from her breakout movie appearance as Alison in The Inbetweeners Movie. ‘I sometimes say to producers and directors, “You might have a certain perception of me, but let me show you that I can be someone you don’t think I am.”’
In the future Laura would love to work with her actor husband Sam Claflin. DRESS, Miu Miu
In the future Laura would love to work with her actor husband Sam Claflin. DRESS, Miu Miu
I notice the word breathe tattooed in cursive lettering on her right wrist: ‘I had it done five years ago because I needed to remind myself to stay grounded and take a deep breath,’ she says.
Laura is 50 per cent poised, glossy starlet and 50 per cent wry Brit girl-next-door. She speaks fluent Hollywood, enthusing politely about her co-stars, pausing and changing tack when she’s about to reveal too much and always saying the right thing. 
Did you have to panic-watch the previous four Transformers movies when you got this part, I ask? ‘No, I’d watched them already, of course,’ she smiles beatifically, without missing a beat.
The more we chat, the more she relaxes (she starts to mention Sam by name rather than ‘my husband’), and a more mischievous side emerges. For every exclamation about Jennifer Lawrence – Sam’s The Hunger Games co-star – being ‘really fun’ and the ‘lovely’ Cameron Diaz (Laura was once routinely compared to her, now she’s a friend of a friend), you get an anecdote like this: ‘My baby was sick on Kurt Russell when we were filming Guardians of the Galaxy together. 
Kurt came over and said, “Hey buddy, you must be Pip.” He went to take him out of my arms and Pip threw up on him. Whoopsie!’ she grins. And here’s her typical breakfast: ‘Scrambled eggs, avocado and rye bread.’ Of course it is. ‘Then I get a box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and eat them out of the box with my hand.’
When Pip was five months old, Laura signed up for Transformers: The Last Knight to play Vivian Wembley – a buttoned-up Oxford professor (she wears glasses and pencil skirts) charged with saving the world from robots with her sparring partner Mark Wahlberg’s macho, all-American hero Cade Yeager.
Laura and Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: The Last Knight
Laura and Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: The Last Knight
‘Mark is wonderful, he tells great stories and he’s very hardworking. He said to me at the beginning, “You have to not take [the film] too seriously. Be playful and have fun. Because if you don’t have fun, people won’t invest in this world.”’
As for Vivian: ‘She’s very confident about her education, but put her in a situation where she might have to flirt or be remotely sexual and she feels uncomfortable.’ Does that resonate with you? ‘I wouldn’t say I’m entirely comfortable with being sexy,’ she giggles. ‘When a director says, “Can you do that again but make it sexier?” I think, “Riiiiight – you might need to let me know what you think is sexy.” But in other ways Vivian and I are quite different – she’s happy on her own whereas I like to be sociable.’
The film involved a seven-month multi-location shoot, much of which Laura spent doing hair-raising stunts while things exploded around her. Back to work with a (literal) bang after maternity leave, then? ‘I had a positive experience on Transformers
Laura in Transformers: The Last Knight: 'We turned my trailer into Pip’s pad, filling it with toys and playmats'
Laura in Transformers: The Last Knight: 'We turned my trailer into Pip’s pad, filling it with toys and playmats'
'They made it possible for me to have Pip on set and I was really supported as a mum,’ she says. ‘[Director] Michael Bay said that, in his eyes, the fact that I’d just had a baby only made me stronger. A man saying that to me was amazing. I felt empowered by having Pip and knew it was something I could do, albeit with help from my mum who travelled with us. We turned my trailer into Pip’s pad, filling it with toys and playmats.’
To prepare for the role and its physical demands, Laura embarked on a two-month programme of weights, barre work, pilates and riding under the supervision of a personal trainer.
‘I didn’t try to rush it. My body was different after giving birth – my hips were a different shape and I had to be careful about my stomach muscles.’ How much pressure did she feel to ping back into shape? 
‘All women who’ve just had a baby feel exposed and vulnerable, whether you’re walking down a street or being photographed on a red carpet. You feel and look different. But, for me, that was combined with “I don’t care because I’ve got my baby and it’s fantastic,”’ she says. ‘Then, later on, you start to think, “Actually, I’d quite like to feel confident again in those jeans.” And I did think about the fact that [in the film] I’d be wearing figure-hugging Victoria Beckham dresses and skirts, so, yes, there was an awareness.’
All women feel vulnerable after giving birth: whether you're walking down a street or on the red carpet 

Of course, the path of working motherhood never runs smoothly and there was one point during filming when Laura had to leave Pip at home in Chiswick, West London, with Sam, who’d dashed back from filming overseas to take over childcare duties. 
‘It was four nights away and Pip was only six months old. I felt like my heart was being ripped out and I sat on the Tarmac and cried. I remember saying to my husband, “This cannot happen again,” and for the rest of the shoot I never spent a night away from him. But I guess you have to test [the waters], to see what you can cope with.’ She and Pip won’t see Sam now for a month until he returns from Tasmania: ‘It’s a different way of living but we have to make it work. We’re very lucky – sometimes we have a month off and it’s just the three of us together.’
Laura was 28 and Sam 27 when they married, relatively young by celebrity standards. But having a stable home life is vital, she says, as a counterpoint to the unpredictability of their industry. ‘We probably were the first among our pals to marry. I’m a combination of being a homemaker and a nomad. I love knowing that we’ve got a safe, happy home that we’ve built together. But we also both love going off on jobs and being independent.’
What do they do when they’re reunited back home? ‘Put on comfortable clothes, eat, turn on the telly, talk about logistics. Two self-employed people in a relationship bringing up kids? It’s always going to be about logistics and schedules. So romantic!’ They don’t pass the time pondering Sam’s status as a Hollywood heart-throb, then? ‘It would be hilarious if we sat around talking about that. I think I’d have to punch myself in the face.’
Laura is sanguine about Sam’s legions of female admirers. ‘He’ll always do a photo or have a chat. That’s who he is and they are the reason why he’s working.’ And, despite the fact that both of them are serious Hollywood players, she bats away talk of power couples. ‘We would never see ourselves as a brand. Ever!’
Laura in Da Vinci's Demons in 2013
Laura in Da Vinci's Demons in 2013
Laura set her heart on acting aged six, after watching Hayley Mills in Pollyanna, the 1960 movie adaptation of Eleanor H Porter’s novel about an orphan so insanely upbeat she inspired an adjective. 
‘She is so cheery and enthusiastic and I was similar growing up. I was a “let’s find the next adventure” kind of kid and always putting on plays for my family.’ Laura left her Hertfordshire hometown of Harpenden at 17 to study drama for three years at London’s Arts Educational Schools. 
Afterwards, it took a while to find her feet. ‘Oh my gosh, the industry is hard and it’s really saturated in London. You have to learn so much about trusting people and their opinions of you. It could be heartbreaking but even if months went by without an audition, I still totally believed that acting was what I needed to do with my life.’
When Laura was 22, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. ‘It was tough but they caught it early and my mum is very strong. At that time I was auditioning, learning lines, working in a shop and spending the rest of my time with Mum. We’re a very close family and that made us closer.’ 
She talks fondly about family Christmases with her mother (a reflexologist), her accountant dad and her younger brother and sister. ‘I love being the first one up at 5am on Christmas morning, running around and waking everyone up, even though I’ve got a kid of my own now.’
Laura set her heart on acting aged six, after watching Hayley Mills in Pollyanna. DRESS, TOP and RING, all Dior
Laura set her heart on acting aged six, after watching Hayley Mills in Pollyanna. DRESS, TOP and RING, all Dior
She plugged away doing bits and pieces of TV drama and comedy before landing The Inbetweeners Movie in 2010. The Greek island-set spin-off from the anarchic E4 comedy starred Simon Bird (geeky Will), Joe Thomas (clever, vain Si), James Buckley (sex-obsessed Jay) and Blake Harrison (nice-but-dim Neil). Laura played Alison, the leader of a gang of girls whom the lads try to impress while on holiday. 
It was a surprise hit, enjoying the biggest opening weekend of any UK comedy before going on to gross more than £50 million, as well as being a career game-changer for Laura. ‘We all thought it would be a cult film that The Inbetweeners fans would watch, but none of us realised quite how many fans there were,’ she says.
The celebrated nightclub dancing scene – when the boys try to woo the girls by throwing some shapes – stands the test of time as a great British comedy moment. ‘I do not know how they managed to cut that because we were laughing so much, it took around 50 takes,’ she says.
Next, Laura wanted to do something completely different so lobbied hard for a role in Upstairs Downstairs, BBC One’s reboot of the 1970s Edwardian-era drama. ‘It was a big contrast to The Inbetweeners
When I was auditioning, I said to them, “You might not be able to see it but I know I can play this part.” I went away and cut off my long blonde hair and dyed it brown.’ She played Beryl Ballard, a spirited maid. ‘It was one of my favourite jobs. I loved the era, the writing was beautiful and it was a joy to work with Keeley Hawes and Claire Foy.’
Laura with husband Sam Claflin last year
Laura with husband Sam Claflin last year
Since then she’s done stints on BBC One’s superlative crime drama Luther; American historical fantasy TV drama Da Vinci’s Demons; ITV police drama The Level and both Guardians of the Galaxy films. Next, she’ll jet off on a world press tour for Transformers: The Last Knight, which involves a whole new level of logistics. 


Treasured possessions My Tiffany wedding ring and my nan’s sewing machine.
Listening to The Christine and the Queens album is awesome.
Describe yourself in three words Enthusiastic, busy, loving.
Beauty essential Shiseido Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask.
Favourite films I like quirky, dark-humoured indie films. Garden State has great music; I love Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
Party trick  I can touch my nose with my tongue.
TV pick Big Little Lies. It has brilliant writing and storylines with talented, powerful women.
Dream dinner guests Hayley Mills because of my childhood love of Pollyanna, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Robin Williams. I loved his movies growing up.
Fashion picks Paige for my favourite jeans, Cos and Emilia Wickstead for pretty dresses.
Perfect Saturday night Watching Netflix with my hubby or out with our friends, eating loads and drinking cocktails.
‘My brain never stops whirring. I’ve bought a calendar where each member of the family has a different section – including our dog Rosie, because she has to go to the grandparents in Norfolk [where the Claflins live], or Hertfordshire if we’re both out of the country.’
In future, she would love to work with Sam, and she’s currently penning a TV screenplay with her writer/actor friend Eve Hedderwick Turner. ‘It’s based on a group of women, including Sylvia Plath, who interned for Mademoiselle magazine in New York in the 1950s; they rebel against what society expects of them,’ she says. ‘I want to write women’s voices.
There’s nothing better than reading a script and feeling like the words are coming out of your own mouth. It’s a struggle to find those parts.’ She works late into the night before waking at dawn to make to-do lists on her iPhone until Pip wakes at 6.30am. ‘There’s a lot to do and I end up thinking, “How many hours’ sleep do
I actually need?”’ she smiles. ‘I love what I do and I want to continue doing it as much as I can.’ The last time I see her she’s deftly manoeuvring her car out of the hotel’s tiny entrance into the hellish London traffic, while a small crowd gathers to gawp. A lesser woman might have crumpled under the pressure, but, even on four hours’ sleep, Nora Cod is a kick-ass action heroine.
  • Transformers: The Last Knight will be in cinemas from Thursday

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