Jamie Bell on the awards season pact that he once had with Russell Crowe.
ACTOR Interview by KERRY PARNELL
“Russell Crowe had a paternal instinct with me; he was very cool”
The 2000 ﬁlm Billy Elliot turned you into a global star. At the time, one of the things you said you feared was not being able to make the transition to an adult actor. Now here you are at 33, still going. How did you do it?
Every role sets the tone for the next one – you just have to keep plugging away. You have to be patient. But I’m very grateful to still be having a go.
How did you avoid the Hollywood trap as a child? I think having the same representation helps – my manager has been with me for almost 20 years. There’s always someone who has my back saying, “Don’t do that… you’re being an idiot.”
What if your ﬁve-year-old son Jack wanted to act? I don’t believe in ever saying no to your kids and stopping them from doing things. If my mum had said no, I wouldn’t be sitting here. But you proceed with caution. It’s very slippery.
You play Elton John’s lyricist and creative partner Bernie Taupin in the upcoming biopic Rocketman. This is not a movie with stylish clothes. Yes, the clobber is a bit intense! It was loud and expressive – the high-waisted jeans were very uncomfortable, the length of the hair alone is unbelievable. Dexter [Fletcher], the director, was reassuring me, “It’s good, it’s good”, because I wasn’t sure. Then you look at pictures of the real thing… We looked better than they did.
At least you didn’t have a tiny fringe.
Bernie had a fringe, a bowl cut that went into a mullet. So I came out all right.
Bodyguard’s Richard Madden is one of your co-stars – didn’t the frenzy around that BBC/Netﬂix hit TV show erupt during ﬁlming? Yes! It was hilarious.
I might be the sole Briton who hasn’t seen it, but I promised Rich that I would [catch up]. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Do you watch much TV? I mostly watch documentaries. The Fyre Festival ones [about a controversial failed music festival in the Bahamas in 2017] were fascinating. It said a lot about our culture, this endeavouring sense [that] we need to capture things and broadcast ourselves. It ﬁlled me with anxiety because the equivalent of that as an actor is being on set and not knowing your lines, or what the story is about. I have nightmares about that.
Would you ever like to move to the other side of the camera?
Yes, I still have ﬂights of fantasy about fulﬁlling that role. I was obsessed with writing when I was a kid – I wanted to be a journalist. I was good at that at school. I wasn’t very good at many things, but I could do creative writing. But I’m very happy with what I chose.
When you won the Best Actor BAFTA in 2001 for Billy Elliot, you defeated Russell Crowe for his performance in Gladiator. Did he ever forgive you?
Russell had a very paternal instinct; he was very cool. On the awards circuit [that year], we dared each other that if we won, we would say each other’s names. So when I won the BAFTA, I said Russell Crowe wanted me to thank him. Then to his credit, he won the Academy Award and mentioned me. I’ll never forget it.
You co-starred with your wife Kate Mara in 2015’s Fantastic Four. What was that like? We weren’t together at the time but I had known Kate for a decade, so it was great. I think we both wish the movie was better… but what are you going to do?
Rocketman is in cinemas from Thursday, May 30.