RT Interview: Jamie Bell talks Defiance and Dance

The young actor talks to RT about his career and next steps.

by | January 8, 2009 | Comments

Jamie Bell - Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com

Jamie Bell tap-danced his way into the national consciousness with his breakthrough performance in Billy Elliot nine years ago. Just 14 at the time, he saw off competition from former Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe and Geoffrey Rush to win the Best Actor award at the BAFTAs. Since then he has worked with heavyweight screen luminaries such as Peter Jackson, Clint Eastwood, and now Edward Zwick, director of his latest film, the WWII epic Defiance.

RT spoke to the young actor about working with 007, his hopes for the future, and whether he’d ever consider slipping back into his tap shoes for the big screen.

Did you find it daunting sharing the screen with actors like Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber in Defiance?

Jamie Bell: A little bit, because they’re both pretty good actors. I had immense admiration for both of them before starting the movie, and even more so after the movie. The great thing about it was realising that they’re incredibly generous with everything; with their ideas, with their acting, with their ability. They’re the actors who, when you stand in front of them, they elevate your performance without really doing anything. So it was daunting, but immediately I was equal, and immediately there was none of that sort of macho stuff that usually happens on movie sets.

Defiance
Bell (left) with Daniel Craig in Edward Zwick’s Defiance.

Having had no training in acting prior to Billy Elliot, when you’re on sets like these, do you actively seek out advice from the more experienced actors?

JB: I don’t think it’s ever a direct thing. I don’t ever go, “How would you do this?” or, “How would this happen?” It’s more about studying the way that they approach scenes. We would start scenes and Liev would just go, “Hold on a second,” and walk through the pages. And I would just see how he mentally and intellectually goes through every step and every decision that his character makes. When you see someone who is paying that much attention to detail, you start doing these things yourself. I’ve learnt so much from so many of the fantastic people I’ve managed to work with, and these guys were no different.

You’ve had a lot of diverse roles in big films such as Jumper and King Kong and smaller independent films such as The Chumscrubber and Hallam Foe; has it been a conscious decision to strike that balance?

JB: I think so. I’ve almost been acting for 10 years, and you’re always striving for longevity. I think that there’s no way of ensuring it; everyone does things differently. I often find the smaller, independent films are much more rewarding than the bigger stuff, but you do the bigger stuff because it’s a business, and you’ve got to show your face a bit, get yourself around. So those sorts of things are often very business-driven decisions.

Hallam Foe
In last year’s Hallam Foe as the odd title character.

Smaller films tend to be much more intimate character stories, and you get to work with directors who don’t follow any set conventions. I mean, I love Ed Zwick, he’s a fantastic director and I think he manages to blend the intimate with the epic incredibly well. But it’s also fantastic working with people like David Mackenzie [on Hallam Foe] or David Gordon Green [Undertow] who both defy convention. And that’s their whole purpose of being, is that they do things completely differently, which is also refreshing. It challenges you in a different way.

Is there anyone you’d love to work with in the future?

JB: Yeah. I think there’s probably a list every actor carries around with them with the same names on it. But I also like fresh, young, different directors too. I’d love to work with some people again actually. I’d like to reunite with some people and do something different. That idea sounds good to me, you know, the familiarity. But they’re all the same people on the same list!

Do you find being a young British actor in the United States an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to landing roles?

JB: I don’t think it makes that much difference really. People have an idea of who you are, and you’re either right for it or wrong for it. The reason I’m living in New York is because most of the work is in the States. While it’s mostly in Los Angeles, I chose not to live in LA because I just didn’t really vibe with it. New York is much more my kind of place, and it’s also in between LA and London, and I love to come back to England all the time, so it seemed to be the perfect place for me now. But that could definitely change.

Jumper
In Fox’s big-budget action flick of 2007, Jumper.

Any things you are yet to do that you’d like to?

JB: No. I think most of the decisions that always come up are not really thought about that much. It just comes up, you know, “Do you want to make a movie about a kid who climbs rooftops and wears make-up around his nipples?” It just stems from that, and you go, “Well that sounds interesting, lets look into it.” There’s never a grand master plan of what the next thing is. I just usually wait, and turn a lot of stuff down, until the right thing with the right person comes along.

Would you consider taking a role involving dancing again?

JB: I would definitely never cancel it out as an option, I love dancing, and it’s a massive part of my life. I just haven’t seen the right thing yet. There hasn’t been a really good dancing movie for a while, or at least I haven’t seen it, and it hasn’t come through my desk. But I would love to. I would never cancel that out.

Billy Elliot
As Billy Elliot in the role which made him famous.

Were you offered more dancing roles after Billy Elliot?

JB: Bizarrely not. It’s hard to incorporate dance into movies I think. I think dance has to be seen live or on stage, and I don’t think it really works in the recorded format. If I was to do it again, I’d love to do one of those old musical movies. I usually hate musicals, but they don’t make them any more, so you’re just waiting for the right thing to come along. Maybe Baz Luhrmann will do something good.

Have you got any advice for any aspiring young actors out there?

JB: There’s no right way to do it. I think everyone does it very differently. I look at my contemporaries, and we’re all at different stages and levels, and all choosing different routes, different ways to do things. But, really, I’m crap at giving advice. I’ve 10 years of people giving me advice, and I still need to receive it. Even though I’ve been working for 10 years, I still have no idea of what the hell I’m doing actually, and that’s the reality of it.

Tag Cloud

comic DGA President Star Wars Dark Horse Comics Holidays 24 frames Fox News vampires Rock dc CW Seed DC streaming service National Geographic crossover toy story Cartoon Network Schedule TNT Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt GLAAD teaser DC Comics Rocketman NYCC Watching Series Country DC Universe Tomatazos harry potter medical drama Warner Bros. Comedy Central LGBTQ Set visit Netflix robots Logo Universal Paramount Network Western social media facebook cooking Amazon Prime richard e. Grant discovery streaming true crime Ghostbusters NBC Heroines CBS All Access Certified Fresh travel 2016 CBS YouTube Premium TruTV Writers Guild of America Polls and Games Tarantino Mary poppins Musicals Winners Awards Shudder festivals YouTube Red Interview 2019 WGN adaptation historical drama spinoff Adult Swim Grammys PaleyFest CMT Film Festival Mudbound witnail CNN TV Land animated Tumblr Chilling Adventures of Sabrina GIFs Pixar miniseries Lucasfilm Reality Spring TV ratings SDCC Food Network LGBT Biopics ESPN romance SXSW Spike cinemax Photos Epix Teen Opinion Music technology VH1 Superheroe Shondaland Trivia First Look Extras Apple supernatural Pride Month thriller Comic Book TIFF Video Games VICE BBC America See It Skip It TLC TV blaxploitation Election FX Action Christmas BBC Mystery Calendar GoT Thanksgiving crime Comics on TV Walt Disney Pictures TBS DirecTV serial killer Women's History Month aliens political drama TCA 2017 The Witch nature Syfy Trailer transformers zombie USA Network Musical award winner jamie lee curtis MSNBC 21st Century Fox Quiz Pirates PBS APB Sony Pictures Lionsgate cats TCA Masterpiece Summer Reality Competition Captain marvel doctor who Rocky Disney spy thriller Nat Geo Fall TV Character Guide game show Mary Poppins Returns Bravo Sneak Peek composers Crackle psychological thriller Nominations Box Office Mindy Kaling Britbox comiccon BET Brie Larson IFC Films The CW Fantasy Ovation X-Men 2018 Martial Arts finale police drama Superheroes Elton John E! Pet Sematary zero dark thirty Animation period drama Sci-Fi History anime Ellie Kemper justice league Vudu MCU Countdown Valentine's Day Toys USA docudrama Hulu Infographic Freeform SundanceTV sitcom Winter TV strong female leads AMC Sundance Nickelodeon Anna Paquin TCM television boxoffice Emmys Cosplay Showtime The Arrangement mockumentary Sundance Now casting RT History science fiction Pop HBO crime thriller Lifetime 45 dceu Paramount Best and Worst ABC Family Esquire Chernobyl Mary Tyler Moore sequel Black Mirror E3 spider-man Emmy Nominations OWN psycho talk show El Rey Kids & Family MTV Creative Arts Emmys based on movie Disney Channel what to watch politics YA San Diego Comic-Con binge Oscars anthology crime drama American Society of Cinematographers Marathons Spectrum Originals diversity Comedy Acorn TV biography Awards Tour Red Carpet Columbia Pictures green book Podcast ABC Year in Review A&E ITV Rom-Com space IFC Super Bowl Drama Song of Ice and Fire 2015 cops 007 dramedy hist 2017 FXX cults elevated horror dragons mutant Amazon Star Trek theme song 20th Century Fox unscripted Premiere Dates war natural history Starz Marvel FOX Cannes adventure New York Comic Con Stephen King disaster golden globes sports zombies RT21 singing competition Trophy Talk Horror