RT Interview: Jamie Bell talks Defiance and Dance

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

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.

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