THE BAD BOY IS BACK IN MONEY MONSTER
Jack O’Connell specialises in angry young men. The troubled intensity of his characters in This Is
England, the Channel 4 series Skins and prison drama Starred Up, with Ben Mendelsohn, sent critics searching for new superlatives.
Class-conscious English casting agents, however, still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that the lad can act.
“If I have ever gone for posher roles, I get laughed out of the room,” says O’Connell, who appears opposite George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the Jodie Foster-directed crime thriller Money Monster.
Unlike Benedict Cumberbatch, who was educated at Harrow, and Eddie Redmayne, who went to Eton, O’Connell grew up between two housing estates in working-class Derby.
The 25-year-old actor was unable to pursue his initial career plan – the army – because of a juvenile criminal record.
“I don’t think the same number of roles are available to me given those restraints,’’ O’Connell says.
“I would love that not to be the case. But I have experienced it. It does apply.
“But I am not going to get anywhere by mouthing off about it. There are things I can do. It gives me an incentive to work harder.”
Cinematic class prejudice is one of the reasons why O’Connell, who made his Hollywood debut as World War II hero Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, is currently trying his luck on the other side of the Atlantic.
“There is a lot less emphasis on class over here,” he says.
That may well be the case. But Money Monster doesn’t exactly bust O’Connell out of his current mould.
Apart from the opportunity to work with some of Hollywood’s best, the role of Brooklyn-born battler Kyle Budwell tempted O’Connell with a surprising sympathetic character arc. After losing every cent of the $60,000 he inherited from his late mother on a bum steer by finance personality Lee Gates (Clooney), Budwell takes the TV host hostage, at gunpoint, on air, demanding both answers and an apology.
“Although his actions are rash they are still very calculated,” O’Connell says.
“I would never recommend anyone go do that. But he’s not stupid. He’s fallen victim to a rigged system and he’s trying to make everybody aware of it.
“He has some admirable traits which make him very interesting, very attractive for an actor to play.”
The next O’Connell film to hit cinemas is the period romance Tulip Fever, costarring Alicia Vikander, Holliday Grainger and O’Connell’s former girlfriend Cara Delevingne.
Sporting long hair and a 17th century costume, the actor is barely recognisable in the role.
“To play somebody from such a distant period of time helped me step into something new,’’ he says.
“And also, the character I play loves his wife. I got to play this family man.
“But, I mean if we are talking class again, there is very little what’s different in terms of that.”
Tulip Fever director Justin Chadwick is also hoping to cast O’Connell in his next film, A
Life In The Day, which tells the story of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 32.
Nicholas Hoult is circling the flamboyant role of Epstein, who was gay.
O’Connell would play Julian Lennon, another working class character, to be sure, but one guaranteed to mix things up a little bit.
“I feel very positive towards that project. I just don’t know if it’s real. I don’t know if it’s any more than speculation at the moment,” O’Connell says.
Money Monster opens today
Jack O'Connell plays Brooklyn-born battler Kyle Budwell in Money Monster.