FANTASTIC MAN. Playing the thing in the upcoming “Fantastic Four,” Jamie Bell has come a long away from debuting in a drama movie fifteen years ago that beat Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks and several other heavy lifters for Best Actor at the Bafta Awards. DA MAN chats with the actor to find out more
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who loved ballet. His friends mocked him, called him names, but he persisted. Then one day, he was chosen from among thousands of other boys to play the role of a boy very much like himself: A boy who fell in love with dance in a world where boys were supposed to play sports. That role, as Billy Elliot in “Billy Elliot,” won that young boy, Jamie Bell, almost a dozen movie awards and paved the way for a long and illustrious acting career. So far, he has appeared in blockbuster action movies like “King Kong” and “Jumper,” he’s lent his voice (and done motion-capture work) for animated features like “The Adventures of Tintin,” and now joins the ranks of A-list actors playing A-list superheroes.
DA MAN: Hi, Jamie. Thanks for taking time off your schedule for this interview. Now, obviously, the next big thing from you is the release of “Fantastic Four.” How do you think will audiences react to this new superhero flick?
Jamie Bell: I’m really hoping people like the movie. People deserve a good movie and I really hope our hard work pays off. A lot of love went into it.
DA: Since you’re playing Ben Grimm aka. The Thing, how long will you actually be on-screen before the CGI takes over?
JB: The film focuses on the four before their transformation as well as after. It’s very much an origin for these characters.
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DA: Speaking of special effects, what was it like working with motion-capture technology to portray a character that’s essentially a huge walking rock?
JB: Mocap (Motion Capture) is a fantastic tool to use as an actor. It enables you to embody almost anything. In terms of approach, I approached this role no different to how I would approach any character.
DA: As with most—if not all—new superhero movies, there’s a lot of debate about everything from the casting, how the movie relates to the source material and, naturally, costume design. Personally, what do you think about this new interpretation of the “Fantastic Four”?
JB: This is very much a standalone film. It’s an origin tale. It’s certainly much darker in tone, but in actuality, isn’t that far away from the source material. It very much brings the “Fantastic Four” into the 21st century.
DA: The movie isn’t out yet, but we’re already seeing plans for a sequel, slated for a 2017 release. Is there anything you can tell us about “The Fantastic Four 2”?
JB: I’ve heard just about as much as you when it comes to the sequel.
DA: Of course, another rumored sequel that we’re looking forward to is “The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun.” Can you tell us anything about this movie?
JB: We’re hoping to shoot it next year.
DA: Another Tintin movie means more time spent in motion-capture suits. But you’ll be working together with Andy Serkis again. What is it like working with the man dubbed “the godfather of motion capture”?
JB: Andy is the most amazing actor I’ve ever worked with. Beyond his outrageous talent, he’s also one of the kindest men I know. It is an absolute gift to work with Andy Serkis.
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DA: It would seem that many of your current and future projects are based on very famous—and very beloved—properties. Do you feel that there’s a lot of pressure to stay true to the original form of the characters you’re portraying?
JB: I think in many ways it is important to honor the origin of the character you are playing, but I also believe that, as an actor, it is important to make a character your own.
“I believe that, as an actor, it is important to make a character your own”
DA: On the TV front, you’re still starring in “TURN: Washington’s Spies” and the current season is getting rave reviews. What do you think is it that allows this show to stand out among other period dramas?
JB: The attention to historical accuracy on our show is very rare. I think that sets us apart. I think it’s also because how its subject is a real part of history that not many people know about. So it’s intriguing.
DA: Do you think that this show can appeal to a global audience who may not be all that familiar with how the American Revolutionary War went?
JB: I really hope that “TURN” has a life internationally. I think there are some great stories and some great characters in there.
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“Do what you love. Give it a shot. You never know what might happen”
DA: If we’re not mistaken, “TURN: Washington’s Spies” is the first time you’ve done a TV show for a full season, right? Well, two seasons. Did you have any trouble adjusting to the pacing and scheduling of shooting a series of films as opposed to one?
JB: A TV show is hard work. It’s very fast paced and you shoot a lot of material in one day. It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
DA: Besides the titles we’ve already mentioned, do you have any other film projects in the works?
JB: I’m about to make a film called “6 Days,” which chronicles, in real time, the siege at the Iranian embassy in London in 1980.
DA: Let’s move back to the role that started your career: “Billy Elliot.” Looking back, what do you think is it that made the movie such a huge success?
JB: Just how universal the character is. It’s a fantastic underdog story.
DA: What was it that motivated you to audition for the role?
JB: My mother.
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DA: What was it like dealing with the sudden fame and public attention while you were still a teenager?
JB: I was very lucky to have loving people surrounding me, making sure I made good choices. I still got to be very much a kid.
DA: Do you think that “Billy Elliot” somehow helped break down the stigma of boys picking up dancing?
JB: I hope so. I have met quite a lot of people who have said it’s helped them in their pursuit of dance.
DA: Do you still dance?
JB: It’s like riding a bike. You never forget.
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DA: Besides acting and dancing, what else interests you?
JB: I love music—listening to it, playing it. I love food—eating it, mostly. I also like writing, and so on.
DA: Do you have any advice for young boys everywhere who might be interested in the performing arts but are still unsure?
JB: Do what you love. Give it a shot. You never know what might happen.
DA: What is the single most important thing that motivates you each and every day?
WATCH: DA MAN TV – Jamie Bell: Fantastic Man
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