If you don’t know the name Samuel Bottomley yet, there is a good chance you will soon. Since his 2011 debut in Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur at age nine, the now 22-year-old actor has steadily built a diverse portfolio in both film and television. Born and raised in Bradford, Bottomley’s most recent work includes the role of Dean Paxton in the 2021 film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Kyle in Channel 5’s The Teacher, and Aaron in the comedic drama Somewhere Boy, which aired on Channel 4 and for which the young actor received a nomination for Supporting Actor in this year BAFTA awards. Since March, his star has been on a considerable rise that looks due to continue with the release of Molly Manning Walker’s directorial debut, How To Have Sex.
How to Have Sex first debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023, where it won the official selection in the Un Certain Regard category over nineteen other films that were shot in unusual styles and portrayed non-traditional stories. This may very well be the case for a French audience and judgment panel, but Walker’s tale of three teenage girls who embark upon a once-in-a-lifetime holiday of drinking, clubbing and hooking up can easily be described as quintessentially British. The gritty and realistic story centers on Mia McKenna-Bruce’s Tara and her quest to lose her virginity. Bottomley enters the picture as a possible way to fulfill that wish. Insecure, egotistical and driven by toxic masculinity, his character Paddy is, like the rest of the characters, a fair representation of today’s average teenage male. He is also the film’s “villain.” As Samuel’s performance is equal parts gut-wrenching and mesmerizing, it is no surprise it has already earned him critical acclaim in the form of a British Independent Film Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The role is a true testament to his talent and is sure to catapult him into well-deserved stardom.
In anticipation of How to Have Sex’s release, Samuel Bottomley sat down with Principle to discuss portraying the complicated character, the film’s premiere at the London BFI Film Festival, what he hopes his future holds career-wise, and more.
Let’s start by talking a little bit about the film in general. What initially drew you to the project?
The role itself definitely interested me. Paddy is quite an in-depth character. He has a lot of layers. The script itself also caught my attention. It was written in a way that felt very “real life” and really close to my generation with the language it used and stuff like that.
Yeah, I definitely got that same feeling when I was watching it. I can see how that can be the case. The movie was both written and directed by Molly Manning Walker. What was it like working under her and with a cast of primarily young actors?
It was really cool. She was very collaborative and very trusting, not just for me but with everyone. We’d all been through auditions and gained a bit of trust with each other. Molly knew that we understood our characters, and she wasn’t scared for us to take them in our own way. She wasn’t overly protective of the characters that she wrote. Some people can be, which makes it harder to elaborate on backstories and stuff, which actors like to do sometimes.
Yeah. I understand how that can be helpful.
It was the same with the other actors, really. This is the first time I’ve done a job where I was around people of my age. I’d done Ladhood, but throughout my career, a lot of time, I’m the baby on set. I still was the youngest on set, but it was nice and refreshing that a lot of people there were around my age as well. I think the oldest one was like 28, so it’s still the same generation. It felt very youthful. When we weren’t filming, it felt like a holiday at times.
That’s fitting, given the setting. You said previously that Molly wasn’t overly protective of her characters and kind of let you do what you want to with them. The audience doesn’t get to know a lot about Paddy’s personal life. Did you come up with a backstory for him?
Molly and I spoke about things like him having a girlfriend back home and whether he did or not. I ended up preferring the thought that he didn’t have a girlfriend, and that was the conclusion that we came to. The backstory that I made for Paddy was that he’d never really had a relationship before. He’s been raised by his mom on the same street as Badger, his friend in the film. It wasn’t anything that far outside of the film, but it’s just nice to create a little bit of a backstory to play with. For example, I didn’t want him to have a girlfriend because I thought if he had a girlfriend, there’s just too many complications that come with that. You have to then ask questions like, “Is he in love or not?” and other things.
He may have only needed a simple backstory, but he’s a complicated character. How did you get into Paddy’s headspace?
It’s a very selfish headspace to be in. In a lot of scenes, I had to keep remembering that he was intoxicated in them. There are a lot of different things that you have to try and get across to the audience, but when it came to Paddy, something that was really important was that he has a bit of a one-track mind when he’s intoxicated. It becomes almost like a game of who can score the highest, you know what I mean? When actually acting it physically, I had to keep in check the fact that he was not thinking about anything other than himself.
I don’t think there’s one scene where they’re all not intoxicated once the film really starts. How do you think that environment influenced Paddy’s decisions and his actions?
Being around all the other people definitely played into it. I’ve never really been on a holiday like that before. But Paddy being surrounded by so many drunk young adults was probably a recipe for disaster.
How to Have Sex recently premiered at the BFI London Film Festival. What was that experience like?
It was nice, man. To actually watch it with an English audience because it is a really English film was so nice. It’s quite funny at the start of the film. Everyone laughed at the same bits. It was quite a nice night, to be fair.
You’ve had a very busy and exciting year when you think back to being nominated for a BAFTA in March. Knowing what you know now, what would you say if you could talk to a version of yourself from five years ago?
Oh. I don’t know. I would tell myself to just keep doing what I’m doing, to be honest.
On the flip side of that, looking toward the future, what is next for you? Are there any kind of roles you want to take on?
I did a great audition yesterday. I don’t think I can say what it’s for. There’s not a lot of auditions I do where I think, “I really want that.” But I did an audition yesterday, and it would be a cool job. I’d love to do a period piece at some point, a northern period piece. I’d love to do something like The Gallows Pole from Shane Meadows. Shane Meadows is a great director from England. He did a series that got cut short for whatever reason, but it was set in the town that I live in now.
It was a period piece about how they used to cut coins and then make more coins with the chips they had cut off. I’d love to do cool pieces about places I’m from.
That would definitely be easy to relate to. To bring everything back to How To Have Sex, I’ve personally never been on the kind of holiday that is depicted in the film, and you said you hadn’t either. But thinking about holidays in general, where would you go on a dream holiday, and what would you do?
I like skiing with my dad, so I’d probably do that somewhere nice, like the Alps. We’ve never actually been to the Alps. We’ve gone to France and Italy. So, it’d be nice if I could get my little brother and my dad to go skiing.
That sounds lovely. What would you say the message of the film is?
I think the message of the film is whatever you take from it. I think everyone’s going to take something a little bit different. I remember watching it at the premiere and in the cab on the way to the after-party, listening to people talking about it that hadn’t seen it before. It was so interesting to hear all the different things people took from it and how they saw it. In the end, though, I think it will open up the conversation a lot more. For men especially, I think it’ll make them more reflective and introspective of their pasts.
Congratulations on How to Have Sex’s 13 nominations at The British Independent Film Awards! That’s an insane amount. When preparing and working on the film, did you ever think that it might have this kind of critical success?
Thank you very much! For sure I knew we were creating something special and important, but you never know how much critical success something will gain.
You’re nominated for Best Supporting Performance alongside your co-star Shaun Thomas. These co-nominations are something that has been happening more and more recently. For you, does being nominated alongside Shaun make the experience more exciting or more nerve-wracking?
I’m over the moon that Shaun is in the nominations with me. He’s such a talented guy and definitely deserves this. It makes the experience of being nominated alongside him so much more exciting as our journey together continues. I’m really happy.
I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in outside acclaim and accolades, especially when they are coming in this amount. As an actor, how do you personally define success?
For me I feel like if the director I’m working with is happy with my performance as well as my other peers in the cast and crew, that’s a success for me. What happens afterwards and whether it’s perceived well is just a big bonus.