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Catching Fire Casting: Why Sam Claflin Is the Perfect Finnick Odair

Kristen Stewart, Sam Claflin Kevin Winter/Getty Images

What can you tell me about Sam Claflin, the actor who's now officially playing Finnick in my fave book series ever?
—Vespa R., via the inbox

You speak of Catching Fire, the second in The Hunger Games trilogy, and of Sam Claflin, a kid I've had the pleasure of meeting in person. Yep, like fellow Hunger hunk Josh Hutcherson, he's also got a Kristen Stewart connection, thanks to his costarring role in Snow White in the Huntsman. No, I do not know what he thinks of the whole Rupert Sanders-cheating-in-the-car incident. But I know plenty else.  In fact, if you're obsessed with actors who actually have a lot in common with their characters—and Jennifer Lawrence haters, I'm looking at you—you have a lot to like in this latest casting news.

Get all the deets on the new Finnick!

Let's start with the surface stuff. Claflin's got green eyes. Really. Not blue. Not gray. Green. Fans came down hard on Jennifer Lawrence for her lack of brown-ness, but maybe they can be happy with Claflin's eye color; Finnick Odair's eyes are also green. I've seen them. So there.

If that isn't enough, here are some more facts that prety clinch it for the guy:

• Claflin's childhood clearly prepared him for the bloody Panem arena. "My parents bought me this book called Twisted Tales when I was a kid, which is all the fairy tales turned on their heads," he told E!'s Marc Malkin. "At the end of Cinderella, the prince finds out she's not a princess...so he chops her head off."

• He's said he spent his teens in "one of the roughest schools there is." And, in the same way that Finnick has a "self-effacing humor," according to the books, Claflin is down-to-earth too. When I interviewed him last year, he modestly explained, "I come from the bottom of the ladder. I'm from Norwich. Not many people seem to know about it. It's that sticky-outy bit over there. You know, in the east."

Find out exactly how much Jennifer Lawrence is getting for Catching Fire!

• Fans of the books also know that Claflin has a true love, Annie Cresta. Claflin, meanwhile, has a real woman he's pretty crazy about: fiance Laura Haddock, 26, a British actress who appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger. "Back in London and reunited with @laurajhaddock," he Tweeted a few days ago after a trip to South Africa. "Happy happy happy. Sun shiny day as well. Good timing. Hope you all have a good one x."

• And oh: Like career tribute Odair, Claflin has a mentor. "Johnny Depp gave me the best advice," Claflin told me after costarring with him in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. "He said, ‘Keep your feet on the ground. Stay grounded. Remember where you came from'."

• Finally, the kid knows from pain. I won't spoil what happens to Finnick in the Suzanne Collins series, but Claflin does know what it's like to be knocked out of a competition. Before he became an actor, he wanted to be a pro soccer player, but a busted ankle killed that plan. It's a loss for the Norwich soccer team, but definitely a gain for Hunger Games fans.

Meet Sam Claflin's new castmates in Catching Fire

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