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.

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.

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

king arthur Columbia Pictures jurassic park werewolf Disney Plus Trophy Talk scary movies popular Starz Hulu strong female leads 79th Golden Globes Awards Oscars Crackle miniseries black comedy posters Geeked Week Sony ghosts Binge Guide Pirates transformers canceled Rocky international cats scary sequel biography dramedy travel Dark Horse Comics social media dogs latino spinoff nbcuniversal screen actors guild AMC Lucasfilm a nightmare on elm street Tubi binge CNN Reality DC Comics streamig 2018 marvel comics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 24 frames PlayStation Masterpiece Paramount Network ABC vs. FX on Hulu dc 2021 Ellie Kemper President South by Southwest Film Festival Focus Features telelvision VICE Awards YouTube Premium adenture Discovery Channel south america Comic-Con@Home 2021 Cartoon Network Spike HBO Max rt archives Character Guide crime thriller Turner Mudbound summer TV Endgame trophy Animation DGA Best Actress Tumblr Chernobyl asian-american Syfy Netflix obituary hidden camera Best Actor Western CMT Mary Tyler Moore renewed TV shows black cancelled Apple TV Plus Mary Poppins Returns spider-man BBC animated breaking bad new york godzilla Emmy Nominations Schedule Creative Arts Emmys CBS All Access name the review classics docuseries wonder woman women The Academy book adaptation Hollywood Foreign Press Association batman singing competition kaiju GIFs indiana jones thriller leaderboard new zealand universal monsters chucky documentary boxoffice pirates of the caribbean prank cancelled TV shows nature Premiere Dates Sci-Fi TruTV VOD Baby Yoda Fall TV game of thrones HBO Go Set visit series satire hist Song of Ice and Fire Turner Classic Movies cars Countdown 007 jamie lee curtis mockumentary tv talk Prime Video comic books RT21 Avengers TIFF best CW Seed Pop TV VH1 saw San Diego Comic-Con MCU Extras NBC genre lord of the rings 73rd Emmy Awards Disney+ Disney Plus Pride Month period drama spy thriller free movies OneApp Chilling Adventures of Sabrina aapi Brie Larson elevated horror GLAAD Polls and Games FXX TV movies Acorn TV Universal Pictures TV Black History Month comiccon Food Network 90s natural history revenge summer TV preview dark 1990s Mindy Kaling 2020 golden globe awards blockbusters AMC Plus BAFTA MTV venice spider-verse live action ratings Rock SDCC comics Travel Channel 71st Emmy Awards The Arrangement Hallmark 20th Century Fox Vudu high school Wes Anderson green book Alien golden globes scorecard MGM art house critics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Neflix deadpool Indigenous Reality Competition First Look Fantasy royal family docudrama BBC One hispanic heritage month Family Logo cops hispanic Apple TV+ Trivia documentaries Pop zero dark thirty SXSW versus concert cooking Lifetime Christmas movies Star Trek supernatural comedies Academy Awards 72 Emmy Awards A&E Ovation PBS Disney streaming service archives Video Games broadcast olympics X-Men E! Freeform Classic Film FX space streaming movies TV One Sony Pictures TV renewals 94th Oscars TCA comic book movies Mystery emmy awards Election LGBTQ sitcom Epix Amazon Prime Video Pet Sematary Esquire Funimation Teen superhero anime Valentine's Day Oscar festival basketball Spectrum Originals IFC suspense TCA Awards medical drama Cannes joker adaptation Fargo theme song monster movies blaxploitation A24 feel good HBO cancelled TV series The Purge spain reviews Cosplay History TCA Winter 2020 Thanksgiving Walt Disney Pictures mission: impossible ABC Signature Awards Tour facebook remakes children's TV TCM Television Critics Association Interview 99% Calendar Comics on TV Infographic scene in color series Black Mirror Sundance romantic comedy Television Academy Broadway critic resources Musical slashers YouTube 2019 canceled TV shows SundanceTV mcc Kids & Family target WarnerMedia all-time Arrowverse The Walking Dead talk show dragons Nickelodeon Red Carpet Shudder justice league Ghostbusters ESPN First Reviews Sneak Peek italian Horror Christmas trailers Star Wars worst mutant OWN dreamworks National Geographic American Society of Cinematographers Hear Us Out Fox Searchlight french Music Spring TV scene in color Winter TV teaser fresh The CW adventure dceu DC Universe sports Peacock directors Sundance TV RT History boxing rom-coms book Quiz Adult Swim kong scene in color film series YouTube Red child's play television crossover Musicals award winner Action MSNBC Native Heroines ViacomCBS See It Skip It robots harry potter japan TBS Certified Fresh technology comic book movie james bond video Image Comics movie live event BET Tarantino Tokyo Olympics Disney Channel finale Elton John Hallmark Christmas movies psychological thriller criterion richard e. Grant Amazon nfl 2016 crime drama fast and furious APB historical drama Biopics rotten Showtime Rocketman doctor who YA Pixar screenings football 2017 Year in Review cartoon heist movie crime Netflix Christmas movies political drama Paramount Plus The Witch PaleyFest IMDb TV Crunchyroll Exclusive Video true crime casting Paramount Pictures rt labs independent rt labs critics edition know your critic sopranos E3 Film Festival parents Winners Grammys twilight diversity stoner BET Awards Captain marvel unscripted ITV stand-up comedy streaming Superheroes comic composers ABC Family cancelled television marvel cinematic universe DC streaming service rotten movies we love young adult gangster what to watch ID spanish Legendary interviews vampires 21st Century Fox Stephen King movies worst movies Shondaland christmas movies Super Bowl Marvel Television New York Comic Con TNT Rom-Com reboot game show laika Summer sequels aliens films psycho new star wars movies TV Land Bravo Women's History Month Marathons sag awards Warner Bros. USA El Rey based on movie NYCC FOX Watching Series Apple disaster Paramount quibi serial killer japanese 93rd Oscars HFPA mob stop motion GoT WGN DirecTV Britbox science fiction USA Network Opinion 4/20 superman Holiday witnail discovery LGBT Podcast toy story Comedy Nominations spanish language 45 Trailer Anna Paquin biopic Amazon Studios debate Nat Geo Drama The Walt Disney Company CBS Superheroe Amazon Prime Sundance Now Country zombies festivals Universal IFC Films Pacific Islander Marvel Studios Tags: Comedy TLC news Toys zombie Star Wars Celebration kids die hard Comic Book action-comedy Writers Guild of America war Lifetime SXSW 2022 blockbuster Film NBA Best and Worst Marvel Fox News Disney Tomatazos video on demand Lionsgate Photos police drama toronto romance Best Picture king kong cinemax Best Director Box Office Comedy Central TCA 2017 halloween razzies dexter halloween tv foreign Martial Arts indie Instagram Live BBC America Emmys slasher Mary poppins politics cults Holidays franchise anthology target scene in color legend hollywood summer preview australia 2015 obi wan