It’s hard to forget your childhood when it’s captured on film. Even more so when that film is Richard Curtis classic Love Actually.
“It’s on every Christmas at least three times,” Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who you’ll remember as Liam Neeson’s lovesick son Sam in the 2003 film, told Yahoo in 2014.
“I haven’t seen the film in its entirety for a long time. I don’t need to. I went to see it at premieres and screenings. The first time it came on TV I watched it, I got the DVD and watched it. It was exciting for me!”
The now-32-year-old actor is undoubtedly proud of his cinematic debut, even if – despite a slew of successful roles since including a stint in Game Of Thrones and several Maze Runner films – it’s still the thing he was most recognised for.
“Even if they go, ‘oh my God Game Of Thrones, it’ll be Love Actually straight away,” he admitted. “Game Of Thrones is huge in the States, but so is Love Actually.”
But it’s hard not to see the 13-year-old who played the drums and pined for the cute girl at school in the star-studded festive comedy.
“I’ve got a bit of a baby face,” he told us, pointing out that all that’s really changed is that he’s stretched out a bit and his voice has got deeper.
Luckily, in the intervening years, the Londoner — the son of two actors — has managed to avoid the pitfalls of many child stars who get caught up in drink, drugs and bad behaviour.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid that fame or money, or free drugs would mess me up,” he said. “I remember school friends or associates going off and having a warm bottle of vodka by the park and that was never me.”
Instead, Sangster’s tastes were more refined.
“I remember being a kid and my granddad would come down from Scotland with a bottle of Scotch and he and my father would sit and have one or two Scotches an evening, in a lovely glass and I remember being fascinated with that, thinking that’s cool. I wanted to do that. I would say, ‘no I’m not sitting on a park bench drinking a warm bottle of vodka, I’m having a nice single malt.’
He laughs and worries about sounding pretentious. “That’s how I became ‘Posh Kid’ at school, even though I’m not,” he sighed. “I’m from Elephant and Castle.”
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“It’s never appealed to me to go out and get absolutely p****d. I really like drink,” he continues. “I make my cocktails at home and I really enjoy Old Fashioneds and whisky sours and Manhattans…But I like the whole process of it and the way that is sociable. Making them for other people and then sitting round listening to music and then slowly you end up slightly drunk. As opposed to just going and getting wasted.”
Then there’s Game Of Thrones. His character Jojen Reed – a seer who helps Bran Stark see the future – joined the show in season three and is still alive and kicking in the books.
Not so in the show. Jojen was killed good and proper in the television series and Sangster didn’t even know about it until he was on the plane to Belfast to start filming the fourth season.
“I’d finally got round to reading the last episode because there’s quite a lot to get through – ten episodes, an hour long,” he remembers.
“Towards the very end, it said Jojen gets stabbed repeatedly. And I was like, ‘what?!’ Oh, but I’ll be alright, nobody’s told me I’m dying. It says my sister comes over and slits my throat and I’m like, ‘WHAT?! What are you talking about?’ And then it says someone throws a molotov cocktail and Jojen bursts into flames and I was like, ‘okay, I’m DEAD, dead, dead. Not coming back from that.’ No-one called me, I just read it on my way over to film it.”
While he may not be revisiting Westeros any time soon, he will be sitting down with his eggnog to watch Hugh Grant boogie through the halls of Downing Street the next time Love Actually pops up on telly.
“I’ll sit down and catch a couple of scenes and reminisce a bit,” he says. “ As the years go by, you can look at it a bit more as a film. At the beginning, that’s impossible. You can’t help but reminisce about what was happening on that day, what you did, what you had for lunch. I look and I see a little kid.”
In 2017 Brodie-Sangster reprised his Love Actually role for a charity short called Red Nose Day Actually. Set 13 years after the events of the film, it saw Sam reuniting with his stepfather Daniel (Liam Neeson) after years of living in New York.
It's revealed that Sam is with Joanna, his crush in the movie played by Olivia Olsen, who asks Daniel for his stepson's hand in marriage. And it was a reunion on screen and off.
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“It was very magical,” Curtis told The Daily Beast in 2017. “Thomas was definitely a very little boy when we made it and now he’s a proper man, so I think that one was particularly touching because Liam hadn’t seen him since the premiere."
The cast recently reunited as part of a one-hour special, titled The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later, which was broadcast on US network ABC.
Brodie-Sangster is now enjoying great success in the world of TV, earning a Primetime Emmy nomination for his role in Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, and earning plaudits as Malcolm McLaren in Danny Boyle's Pistol. He is currently dating his Pistol co-star Talulah Riley, stepping out together at several events throughout 2022.
(Editor's note: This interview was first published in 2014)
Love Actually is streaming on Prime Video, or on ITVX with adverts.