FROM BILLY ELLIOT TO ROCKETMAN: WHY WE LOVE JAMIE BELL

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FROM BILLY ELLIOT TO ROCKETMAN: WHY WE LOVE JAMIE BELL


Described by top film critic Mark Kermode as an “unbelievably versatile” actor, Jamie Bell made the decision to become an actor at the tender age of nine. Even before his breakthrough with Billy Elliot – I Will Dance, he was on stage for several plays.

As a 13-year-old skinny, pale boy, Jamie Bell beat out more than 2,000 competitors, landed his first big movie role and made his breakthrough as an actor. We are talking about the casting for the leading role in the film Billy Elliot – I Will Dance. Threefold Oscar® Nominee Stephen Daldry filmed the story of a boy who, against all conventions, discovers his passion for ballet. A story that was tailor-made for Jamie Bell, because the British actor comes from a family where dancing runs in the blood: his mother, sister, grandmother and aunt are all dancers. Jamie Bell himself began dancing at the age of six and was thus predestined to win the role of Billy Elliot.

The role in Billy Elliot – I Will Dance catapulted Jamie Bell into the top tier of Hollywood’s most promising young actors, thanks to three Oscar® nominations and 56 film awards in total. In the years to come, Jamie Bell worked with the most sought-after Hollywood directors. Among other things, he stood in front of the camera for King Kong directed by Peter Jackson, for Clint Eastwood in Flags of Our Fathers, under Steven Spielberg for The Adventures of Tintin as well as for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.

And Jamie Bell’s career is going steadily uphill. In 2019, he was convincing as a neo-Nazi in the film drama Skin at the Berlinale – Berlin International Film Festival. For director Guy Nattiv, casting Jamie Bell was definitely a gamble, but he trusted his gut: “Everyone has Billy Elliot in their head, but I had a man in front of me who wanted to discover a dark side of himself. He told me he was scared shitless of the role, which I thought was only right.”

Just a few weeks after the Berlinale premiere of Skin, Jamie Bell shined at the International Film Festival de Cannes as Elton John’s songwriter Bernie Taupin in the film biopic Rocketman, which chronicles Elton John’s career and his drug problems.

Jamie met Elton when he was about 13 at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 for Billy Elliot‘s premiere and he was very emotional about it. At the reception afterwards, Elton John came over to him and the director, and he was shaking and weeping. The film really connected with him. Elton identified with the relationship between Billy and his father.

© Gavin Bond | Paramount Pictures

Nearly 20 years down the road, Lee Hall – the Writer of Billy Elliot – would be the one to write Paramount’s musical Elton John biopic, Rocketman. “It just felt written in the stars somehow that I would portray his best mate, Bernie,” Jamie said in an interview.

He also was surprised to be asked to sing for the film, and performed “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. “No one asked me if I could sing before they cast me in this movie, which was a little disconcerting,” laughed Jamie. “You know, I got to Abbey Road, the hallowed turf that is Abbey Road, and got to the booth and still no one was like: ‘You know, how are you feeling about this? Are you comfortable with this?’ But I think I got through it. I kind of winged it, really.”

Yet in his latest picture, Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Jamie delivers what may be his best work to date as Peter Turner, a young actor who fell deeply in love with screen legend Gloria Grahame during the last years of her life.

The events in the film are based on Turner’s book of the same name about his real-life relationship with Grahame, and this made all the difference to him. ”I read Peter’s memoir and suddenly I was approached with the truth of it all, and it just sat differently inside me,” said Jamie Bell of the connection he made to the character. For his astounding performance, Jamie Bell deservedly won the BAFTA for Best Actor.

Now 35, Jamie Bell is himself a veteran of the film industry, having made more than 30 films since his exhilarating debut as the teenage ballet dancer. He has worked with major directors on tentpole films as well as UK directors on smaller projects, including David Mackenzie’s Hallam Foe and Kevin Macdonald’s The Eagle. But Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool is the first to turn the Fresnel lights on Jamie Bell as a dashing grown-up romantic lead.

Thanks to his talent, ambition and love of his profession, the British actor has made the leap from child star to serious adult actor with flying colors. And that’s why we love Jamie Bell.

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