Jamie Bell on the awards sea­son pact that he once had with Rus­sell Crowe.

AC­TOR In­ter­view by KERRY PAR­NELL

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

“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.


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