How To Have Sex’s Samuel Bottomley: “Everyone assumes it’s a fun, young film about sex, but it comes with a much deeper message”

The 22 year old Bafta-nominee discusses his parents reaction to the casting, his creative process, and the important messages behind the film…

Let’s be honest, ‘How to Have Sex’ is a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point in our adolescence. Perhaps your parents gave you the talk at that time, perhaps you turned to the internet to teach you the unobtainable, non-realistic ways, or maybe you had an older sibling who would drip-feed you information on a daily basis bursting with expletives and hand gestures. But regardless of how young you were when you discovered the word ‘sex’, putting it into practice at a later age would come with its own challenges.

However, director Molly Manning Walker’s drama How to Have Sex isn’t a VHS video that would be rolled into a classroom in order to broach the topic, it’s an unravelling of sex, consent, sexualisation and expectations in society. The film follows three British teenage girls (Mia McKenna-Bruce, Lara Peake, and Enva Lewis) on an end-of-exams trip to Malia, similar to the ones many young British teens have been on, and sees them navigate consent, self-discovery and sex over the course of a few days. 

As part of their journey, the girls meet Paddy (cue Samuel Bottomley) who adds a stark turning point for the film as a whole. The Bafta-nominee Bottomley has featured in UK series Somewhere Boy, Liam Williams’ Ladhood, ITV’s The Teacher, and the hard-hitting, gut-wrenching show that was Tyrannosaur opposite Eddie Marsan. The Bradford boy’s career now has a Cannes Film Festival accolade – Un Certain Regard award – to its name. And as Bottomley’s blossoming career cements its footing, the actor sits down with HUNGER to discuss Manning Walker’s prize-winning directorial debut and what people should know about the film…

HUNGER: Hey Sam! Where are you in the world right now?

Samuel Bottomley: Hey HUNGER! I’m in the Corinthia Hotel in London with a brew right now because last night we had the premiere of How To Have Sex. Was amazing.  

A brew to soothe a sore head! Where’s the place that feels most like home?

My garden, up in Halifax. It’s my own little safe space where I can bring my mates round for BBQs and fires in the evening.

Lovely. And where’s a place that you’d like to call home?

Los Angeles. Since I first went there, it felt like the pinnacle of the entertainment industry. Full of nice people and really beautiful weather. I would love to have a home there one day.

Beats this weather, for sure. You’ve been acting since you were 9 years old. Was this always the dream or was there another career you wanted to pursue as a child?

I was street cast, so acting wasn’t even on my radar as a career. I’ve always liked music and wanted to be in a band, so if I hadn’t gone into acting maybe I would have done something in music. When I did my first job though I thought I wanted to be a cameraman. I thought he was the coolest guy on set.

What’s your earliest memory of acting? 

My first audition was with Paddy Considine, producer Diarmid Scrimshaw and casting director Des Hamilton in a hotel in Leeds and I’d left the script in my mum’s car. I remember just sitting in the waiting room, playing on my mum’s phone and then I got the job. It was quite mad, really.

You’ve worked alongside some big names in the industry – Richard E. Grant, Eddie Izzard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sheridan Smith to name a few, how does it feel to be in a lead role this time?

This film feels like everyone’s performance is as strong as each other’s, so the six of us feel like the lead together. It has been cool working with new actors all the time and this cast is absolutely amazing, so I feel very blessed.  

What were your friends/parents’ first reactions when you said you were going to be in a film called ‘How To Have Sex’?

They just had a giggle. Everyone assumes it’s a fun, young film about sex, and it is, but it comes with a much deeper message about consent. It’s a deceptively cool title.

What drew you to the script?

Mainly how young, real and relevant it felt. Molly’s voice really spoke to me in a way that nothing else has before. It’s so authentic to my generation.

How do you hope audiences will resonate with it?

I don’t know how they will resonate with it, but they will definitely come away from it with a lot of new conversations and things to talk about. I was speaking to other cast mates the other day about it and we think it should be shown as part of the sex education curriculum in schools.

How did the process for the film differ from previous experiences in terms of how you work as an actor?

My process usually tends to stay the same, but each job is obviously so different so I just adapt to it. Filming in Malia with a whole cast of young actors all of a similar age to me was a new experience.

What’s one of your best memories from filming?

Me, Sean (from the cast), my Mum and my Dad all nearly sank a boat off the coast of Malia because my Dad had just finished his sailing course and he dropped the anchor into some rocks and we nearly capsized. Oh, and going out on Halloween with the cast on the Malia strip dressed as Casper the Ghost was jokes. 

What’s your go-to album to get you into the right headspace? 

Mmmm.. My go to album would be Enema of the State by Blink 182. The album rolls into one. The last bit of a song runs into the beginning of the next and Travis Barkers’ drumming on this album is my fave ever.

If you could play any dream role, what would it be? 

You know what, I’d go with Spiderman. I’m long and lanky and think it would be so fun. It’s been played by more English guys than American, so I think I’ve got a good chance..

Finally, what’s next for Samuel Bottomley? 

I can’t wait for people to see How To Have Sex – I’m really proud of it and I’m filming a job later this year in South Africa. I’m also really interested to start directing some bits and bobs of my own which I’m buzzing for.

Thank you, Sam! 


How To Have Sex is available to watch in cinemas now.

WriterRy Gavin