Sangster grew up in South London in a family where both of his parents were in the film industry. His father, Mark, was a film editor and his mother Anastasia was also an actress. Thomas’ parents influence rubbed off on him but was the film industry all that he expected?
At the age of 11, Sangster took on his first acting job in a TV movie, playing the part of Bob Gregson, a young railway station porter set in the 1890’s. Following this, Thomas went on to take starring roles in a number of TV movies including Bobbie’s Girl, The Miracle of the Cards, and Stig of the Dump. Sangster’s adorable looks heightened his profile and people began taking an interest into his works. However, he was still awaiting his big break.
Shooting To Stardom
There was one TV movie in particular which portrayed Thomas’ huge potential as a young actor. First, he played a little boy who was kidnapped by the Nazis in Entrusted, followed up by taking on the challenging and harsh role of 10-year-old Adolf Hitler in the CBS TV movie Hitler: The Rise of Evil in 2003. His impressive performance resulted in Sangster winning the award for Best Actor in a Mini Series at the 2003 Monte Carlo Film Festival.
Despite seeing success from a young age, Sangster experienced rejection when he auditioned for the roles of Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies. Losing out on those parts was difficult for the young actor due to the worldwide success of the franchise, and the actors in them. Sangster moved on from the disappointment and remained optimistic that something else big would come him way. He didn’t have long to wait, his biggest film was right around the corner.
All You Need Is Love
In 2003, Sangster was approached by acclaimed British director Richard Curtis to appear in a leading role in his new Christmas themed romantic comedy, Love Actually. Thomas was auditioning for the role of Sam, an orphan who had fallen in love with his American classmate all while being raised by his mourning step father, played by Liam Neeson. The star-studded cast of Love Actually also included the likes of Kiera Knightly, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman.
Keeping It In The Family
Thomas impressed producers and won the part in Love Actually, but as it turned out, he was not the only person in his family to be cast in the film. In fact, it was revealed that Hugh Grant was Sangster’s second cousin due to his great-grandmother, Barbara Bertram, and Grant’s grandmother being sisters. Nevertheless, Thomas had a lot to prove in the movie, having his name appear alongside some of the biggest British actors and actresses.
Learning New Talents
When Thomas was cast in Love Actually, his character Sam was a drummer, practicing for his school’s Christmas play. Subsequently, the role required Sam to play the drums but when he auditioned for the part, he had no prior experience. Despite this, Curtis was sure that he was perfect for the role, and following a number of drum lessons, Sam was a natural on the instrument. Luckily, Sangster’s father was a percussionist and taught him all he need to know.
Not Suitable For Minors
Sangster was the youngest person in the cast in Love Actually which contained many adult themes. The 13-year-old accidentally saw one of the intimate scenes of the movie during a viewing and at which time, Thomas turned to director Richard Curtis and informed him that it was the first R-rated movie he had seen. This particular scene was supposed to be edited out in order to make it suitable for the youngest member of the cast to watch.
Box Office Hit
When Love Actually hit theaters in 2003, its success was completely unprecedented. It’s budget was $45 million and the film went on to rake in $246.9 million, making a huge profit. Fans of the movie fell in love with the different storylines and each of the characters. In particular, people couldn’t get enough of the adorable Thomas Sangster and how he was chasing after his childhood love. Thomas had reached stardom and he quickly became known as the “kid from Love Actually.”
Coping With Fame
Soon after Thomas’ hit film came out, the youngster found his new celebrity status hard to come to terms with. He said, “I find it weird the way people get so excited about celebrity. If my friends are on the phone, their friends will say: ‘Is that kid from Love Actually there?’ And the phone gets passed round and I have to speak to this stranger asking: ‘Are you famous?’ I don’t know how to answer.”
On the back of the success of Love Actually, Sangster found himself being recognized for his performance. He was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award and a Young Artist Award for his role in the film, which in turn increased his acting profile. Sangster was now recognized as one of the best child stars and producers began flocking to cast him in their films. In addition, Thomas looked a lot younger than his age, which meant younger roles were open for him too.
Another Major Movie
In 2005, Thomas starred in his second feature film, Nanny McPhee, playing the role of Simon Brown, the eldest of seven unruly children belonging to Cedric Brown, played by Colin Firth. Interestingly, the film also featured Emma Thompson playing Nanny McPhee who also appeared in Love Actually. Therefore, Sangster was once again acting alongside Firth and Thompson and the new film was almost like a reunion for them. This was not the last time that Thomas would work with Firth.
Playing The Kid
The film Nanny McPhee focused on the bad behavior of Cedric Brown’s young children and a new nanny with magical powers. All of the children were portrayed as being rather young, but at the time of filming, Sangster was actually 15-years-old. Thomas had a physical appearance which looked to be much younger than his actual age. Although this won him a lot of younger roles in films and TV shows, he wasn’t as appreciative of it in real life.
No Luck With Ladies
Sangster recalled that the attention that he got was not always the kind he wanted. He said that “Girls would always come over in an ‘oh, he’s so cute’ way, which is not what you want. It was never in a Beatles or One Direction way. It’s always like “Look what the cute little kid is up to now!” It [his Love Actually role] follows me around and it’s still one of the main things I get recognized for.”
Sangster was just 15-years-old when he had appeared in two hit films. Although he enjoyed the success, it wasn’t something people at school were used to. He said of his acting, “It makes you different at school, most people played PlayStation, hung out with mates. Whereas I was going off and working, abandoning school life for months at a time. There is a certain part of it that alienates you, I suppose.” Nevertheless, he never took his profession for granted.
Thomas had a wide range of experience from his acting career and decided to put his knowledge to good use. In 2006, he partnered with his actress mother, Tasha Bertram, to establish Brodie Films, an independent film company which strived to create film industry opportunities for British talent including innovative writers, actors and directors. The company was based in London and Thomas was given something to branch out to. As a child star, his career could end at any moment, so this was his safety net.
In 2007, Sangster was given his most mature role to date in The Last Legion, starring opposite Ben Kingsley and Colin Firth, for the third time. Thomas played the role of a young Emperor and due to the film being an action movie, it was his most challenging yet. Although the film didn’t do as well as expected at the box office and with critics, it gave Sangster to branch out from being a cute, child actor, to a more serious and mature one.
Having returned from filming abroad, Sangster was forced to return to school where he quickly realized how different his life was in comparison to friends. He explained, “You go back to school after shooting for four months and everyone goes, “Where were you?” Oh, I had to go to Tunisia and make a movie with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley. I wasn’t saying it as a way of showing off — that’s what I was doing — but that is so beyond anything anyone else was doing.”
Leaving School For Acting
Thomas admitted that while at school, he was “not very good” in theater classes due to them being “more stagey than acting in front of a camera.” As a result, he made the conscious decision to leave school and focus on his career. He recalled, “It didn’t take much persuasion, if you find something you’re good at and you enjoy doing it and you’re able to make a living out of it, that’s what everyone strives for. I already had that at 10.”
Standing Up To Bullies
As much as Thomas’ youthful appearance and his status as a child star received plenty of positive attention, it also warranted bullying. However, instead of succumbing to the people trying to bring him down, Sangster admitted he had always overcome it and not let it affect him. He said, “I don’t know what it is. I’ve always been able to be firm, to talk my way out of sticky situations. Bullies at school. Attempted muggings.”
Reunited With His Crush
In 2007, Sangster was back on the acting scene, this time with an animated voice over in Disney Channel series Phineas and Ferb, as the character of Ferb Fletcher. As it turned out, the person who would be voicing one of the other characters was none other than Love Actually star, Olivia Olson, who played Sangster’s childhood love. It seems that the cast from Love Actually could never escape each other, and fans could not get enough of the fact they were reunited.
The Downside Of Fame
On-screen, Sangster appeared confident and comfortable in front of his crushes. However, in reality, it was quite different. He admitted he struggled distinguishing whether someone liked him, explaining, “It was especially true in my mid-teens when I wanted to look good in front of girls. You don’t know whether a girl just recognizes you or fancies you and is giving you the eye. I didn’t want to go over if they recognized me, because I didn’t want to go out with someone because of that.”
Going For Game Of Thrones
Sangster stepped back into major productions in 2012 when he joined the cast of popular HBO series Game Of Thrones. Despite the global success of the series, Sangster was unaware of the magnitude, saying “I didn’t really know about it. I’d heard the name and that was about it. It was one of those, ‘They need to audition you tomorrow.'” Upon winning the part, he watched the first two seasons in a week and said he “realized I was going to be part of something very, very cool.”
Who Are You?
Off the back of Game Of Thrones, Sangster’s fame increased. However, his youthful looks still had people deceived into thinking he was just a teenager. Thomas explained that he was in the States while his passport was being held so he went for a drink without ID. He was denied alcohol for looking underage, admitting, “For the first time in my life I got out my phone, and looked myself up on IMDb.” He was still denied a drink, despite being recognized and asked for his autograph!”
A New Identity
In 2014, Sangster was cast as the role of Newt in the 20th Century Fox films The Maze Runner. The film was adapted from the hugely successful novel and Sangster had one of the main roles. When people saw him, they immediately recognized him from Love Actually, but couldn’t believe how he was all grown up and taking on serious roles. The success of the film was huge and it took in over $348 million at the box office, setting it up for a sequel.
Shaking The Old Image
Thomas admitted he is eager to branch out even further and completely shed his ‘cute kid’ image. He admitted, “I want to play someone twisted, with ulterior motives, it would be cool to dive into the psychology of that because you have to relate it to you somehow.” He recalled that when he was younger, “I wanted to play the evil kid who looks at you and blood spurts out. I was always the cute kid.”
Still A Kid At Heart
For Thomas, the acting industry was something that came to him, he didn’t go looking for fame. He promised, “I never dreamed of being an actor, I was doing it for fun.” He added, “I’d come home and daydream about flying Spitfires and draw cars. To me, that was just as important and it kinda still is. I still go home and tinker with my motorbikes and try to work out how they work.”
Child Star Stigma
Many child stars that we see nowadays often spiral into dark places having been sheltered and under so much pressure in the industry from the get go. Sangster, however, has been one of the anomalies and avoided this altogether. The actor has attributed this to “good family and friends.” He was sympathetic and added, “You can see why people [get sucked in], though; it’s hard. You feel like the world revolves around you because everyone says you’re amazing.”
Appreciating His Beginnings
Despite having been in many different films after Love Actually, it is the one movie Thomas will always be remembered for. Everyone fell in love with Sam when watching the Christmas film and rather than hating the association with it, he has welcomed it. Sangster said, “It’s still something that I hold close to my heart, even though it comes up all the time. People are only ever nice about it.” However, fans were still longing for the sequel.
Love Actually Returns
After years of fans desperately calling for a Love Actually 2, they finally got their wish. In 2017, in raising funds for Red Nose Day, a short sequel to the film was made, entitled Red Nose Day Actually. Most of the cast reprised their roles, along with Liam Neeson (Daniel) and Thomas Sangster. In their scene, a 26-year-old Sam returns from New York with his love Joanna who proceeds to ask Daniel for Sam’s hand in marriage. Love Actually fans got their fairytale ending, and so did Sam.