Sam Claflin and Verónica Echegui talk to ET about their new bilingual rom-com, now streaming on Prime Video.
Book of Love is a refreshing bilingual rom-com that explores romance, heartbreak, culture and a little bit of mischievousness -- which is exactly what attracted Sam Claflin and Verónica Echegui to the film.
Claflin stars as uptight English writer Henry Copper who, much to his surprise, discovers that his dull and failed novel has become a huge hit in Mexico. Without knowing a lick of Spanish, he travels to the Latin American country to promote the book, only to find out that his Spanish translator, Maria, portrayed by Echegui, has rewritten his work as an erotic novel.
"It was just a really uplifting story, very beautiful characters, and even the way that it was described in the script, it just gave so much life to Mexico and the sort of characters within it and the world that these characters lived in," Claflin tells ET about what attracted him to the project. "As someone who hasn't grown up with much knowledge and much vision of Mexico and the Mexican culture, it was sort of my window into that world. And I have to say that the filming process and speaking to the director [Analeine Cal y Mayor] and knowing how she was going to be approaching the work, I knew it would be quite fun and a joyful experience. So that was exactly what I needed."
For Echegui, the Spanish actress loved the script and thought it was "very funny." She also connected to the story because of her Mexican heritage. "I had a meeting with Analeine and I told her that my grandma was Mexican and I really love and enjoy doing accents, different accents," she says. "I [also] kind of wanted something a bit cheeky."
The story has many elements about love and discovering oneself. María tells Henry that his book is a flop because he's never been in love and doesn't know how to write about that experience. For Claflin, his first love taught him many things.
"I think it teaches you a lot about yourself, what you want, what you don't want," he expresses. "You become more understanding of what love is the older you get and the more times you've been in love and falling out of love, or whatever it is."
"And then that doesn't necessarily have to be with the person, that can be with, like, a hobby," he says. "My first love was soccer, you know, and I think that that taught me everything I need to know. But there was a very, very mutual breakup between me and soccer when I got there. And I think the realization I sort of came to, a very, very clear understanding quite quickly, that maybe that wasn't what I was meant for, and I just went a different way."
He shares that these "happy accidents," as he calls them, "obstacles that you have to overcome, they're the things that really teach us about ourselves, and I think that that is what love does, whether it's with the person or whether it's with a thing or an animal. I think it teaches you about you."
Echegui's first love came at the age of 15 and with heartbreak. "My first love taught me that I needed to love myself first," she shares. "It was so obvious that I lost my mind because of him, not because of him, but you know. I was 15 years old and I cried an ocean, like a sea of tears because he didn't love me. But it wasn't that he didn't love me. I think it's because I didn't take care of myself. I just threw myself into the relationship and just wanted to be loved. That position, in which you try to please the other one and you don't respect yourself, it was like a big lesson for me."
The actress says that while it was young love, "you can only have one or two and that's it."
The Enola Holmes actor also adds that as one gets older and wiser, "you become clearer as to what it is you want and what it is you don't want in yourself. What is good for you?"
"I definitely feel like I'm approaching life now with a clearer mind," he relays. "I've always had a tendency to try and please people, I think, and I'm now in a place where I know it's time to please myself."
There's also the topic of gender inequality and how oftentimes men are provided with more opportunities than women. While Henry gets all the credit for his erotic novel in Spanish, María really is the mastermind behind his success.
As an actress, the You're Killing Me Susana star has experienced this when it comes to the options for roles she can play.
"In my experience, it's been happening since I was a kid. The idea being, a woman was very sexualized. As an actress, the kind of characters that I was supposed to play when I started were very limited and it was always a story about a girl who's in love with a guy or the girlfriend of the main character," she reflects. "I think this is global, and in the last year it's changing and now we're starting to [see] differences. I'm starting to read more interesting characters, but it has taken a while. I can't even imagine how it was for our grandmothers to live that kind of life with no freedom."
Echegui adds that women have a range of stories to tell and experiences to share. "We can give a lot of deepness to stories," she says. "That's also why I started telling stories as director. I love being directed. I love being an actress. I'm not going to stop doing that. But I also love telling stories and be the one who decides and makes decisions on the female character and the approach to the stories."
Book of Love, meanwhile, does an amazing and heartwarming job at bringing two cultures together, with a strong female at the forefront and a learning experience for the male lead.
Beyond "hola," Claflin had no knowledge of the Spanish language. "I felt very much like the character as we go through this storyline. He's completely out of his depth and confused and lost. But then he kind of finds his feet and he finds his people," the British actor shares. "And I just felt so at home. [Mexico is] definitely a place I want to go and explore properly."
The film was shot in Chiapas, Mexico, in March and April 2021. Coming back to the set amid the pandemic, Claflin was worried the set would feel "very stagnant and everyone would feel very cold and kind of disconnected." "But the Mexican culture, from what I gather and understand, is very, very full on and family and welcoming," he marvels, adding that while he felt "completely lost in translation in a wonderful way," his "eyes were opened and the whole experience for me was so incredible. I felt so welcomed and so at home and so at ease and so comfortable."
The two also enjoyed working together as love interests with Echegui saying that she misses Claflin.
"Sam, he was wonderful. He was great. I miss him. I feel like he's such a funny guy. I don't think people know how funny he is, really," she smiles. "Sometimes when we were filming, it was hard for me not to break into laughter. He's very clowny and adorable, and he's also very down to earth. It struck me how down to earth he is and warm. And I just think we had the time of our lives. And I really enjoyed working with him."
Claflin echos his co-stars sentiments, adding, "She made the experience for me. I think you can't shoot something like this, like one of these intimate rom-coms without having that connection, without having that chemistry. She was just so giving and so gracious. And again, similarly welcoming and supportive. There was so much trust there for me that I just loved every second."
"Honestly, I think maybe it's because it was the first job in so long, but I genuinely, genuinely got very, very emotional," he recalls. "A month or two afterwards I'm going, I really miss everyone. I miss that feeling, of kind of, living in that way."
Echegui hopes viewers enjoy Book of Love. "It tells us that we are all the same and we can all get together and the problems are the same. The personal issues are the same in England, in Mexico [and] any other place," she describes, adding, "I think it's very sweet. I also feel this film has a good heart."
"I want people to fall in love as well," she says. "I want people to fall in love with this couple, get inspired, and I want people to travel to Mexico, to Chiapas, and appreciate the spirit of Mexico because I think that is something that should be portrayed in thousands and thousands of films."
Book of Love is now streaming on Prime Video.