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For Whom The Bell Tolls
With an already impressive array of films under his belt, including Billy Elliot, King Kong, Flags Of Our Fathers and Jane Eyre, Jamie Bell has now achieved his childhood dream of working with Steven Spielberg. Taking the lead role in Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn, he talks to Roe McDermott about working with his hero, reimagining the controversial comic, and how he uses his work to exorcise his personal demons.
Roe McDermott, 28 Oct 2011
Little Billy Elliot is all grown up. Now 25, Jamie Bell not only sports the thick-framed glasses and artfully dishevelled ‘do of an unapologetic hipster – he also has the self-possessed air of a seasoned thesp. And he’s earned it. Landing his first starring role at age 13, Bell has now been acting for half his lifetime, and boasts a filmography that actors twice his age would be jealous of. Having worked with directors such as Clint Eastwood and Peter Jackson, one would think the young actor is beyond intimidation. But speaking of his leading role in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn, Bell has the awe-struck air of a little boy whose dreams have come true.
“There are very few adjectives left to describe what it’s like working with Steven Spielberg,” he gushes. “He’s a great visual auteur. What I love about Steven is that he has a direct link to nostalgia, the idea of nostalgia – he just blows the door wide open to the enjoyment of youth, the exuberance of youth. I’m majorly nostalgic about Tintin and those kinds of things. The chance to get to work with him on this was great. Not to mention the fruition of one of my own childhood dreams – I was eight when I saw Jurassic Park and I remember seeing Steven’s name at the end. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to remember that name, because he’s done something to me here, something very important.’ And now I’m working with him. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
Though the old adage that states you should never meet your idols doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Bell, he admits that taking on the role of such an iconic character was a daunting prospect. However he’s aware that the character’s history is not exactly without blemish. Artist Herge’s work has been widely criticised for its racial stereotyping and colonialist leanings. Bell is refreshingly balanced on the subject, acknowledging the issue without preaching about political correctness.
“We have to be aware of the times and the societal structure and that. It’s unfortunate that there was an uneducated ignorance which we kind of have to forgive, because of the era. I’m not saying it’s right, that certain people were portrayed like that, at all... I think we do have to acknowledge that, and in doing so it’s a good sign that we’ve progressed.”