A stark, daring stare and brooding features burn in your memory when you first see Jamie Bell onscreen. If that doesn’t work, his acting talent surely will make you remember him. Currently in the film The Eagle alongside Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe), he exudes a quiet strength and self possession. For his role as Esca, slave to Marcus Aquila, Jamie trained for the physicality of the stunts, learned to ride a horse, and learned to speak the ancient Gaelic language.
Jamie first shot into fame after his outstanding performance in Billy Elliot, a story of an 11-year-old boy who takes up ballet at the dismay of his working class family. He won the Best Actor award for that role at BAFTA in 2001, beating out Russell Crowe for Gladiator – not bad for a 14-year-old. Born in Billingham, England, he trained as a dancer and enrolled in theatre arts school, eventually becoming part of the National Youth Music Theatre. Preferring tap dancing over ballet, he won several tap dancing awards. He was chosen out of a couple thousand children for his role as Billy Elliot. He also shares the distinction with Christian Bale (for Empire of the Sun, 1987) as the second actor to ever be awarded Outstanding Performance by a Young Actor from the National Board of Review, USA.
His past work has been impressive for a young talent. He acted alongside Daniel Craig in 2008’s Defiance, played young Jimmy in King Kong, and jumped through space-time continuum in Jumper with Hayden Christensen. In 2005, he starred with Evan Rachel Wood in the Green Day video “Wake Me Up When September Ends;” it’s a peek into the depth of his ability to display strong emotions.
A must-see film, Mister Foe (2007), directed and co-written by David Mackenzie (Young Adam, with Ewan McGregor), showcases Jamie as a 17-year-old misfit in his first starring role since Billy Elliot. As a voyeuristic troubled teenager, he seeks the truth behind his mother’s death. He encounters and becomes obsessed with Sophia Myles (Tristan and Isolde) who resembles his deceased mother. At the center of intrigue is his love-hate relationship with his stepmother (Claire Forlani). The film was an Official Selection at the Berlin Film Festival and the Edinburgh Film Festival.
In Undertow (2004), Jamie displays a fine performance along with fellow stars Josh Lucas and Dermot Mulroney. This thriller, about a family living in rural Georgia whose world is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of the uncle (Lucas), fresh out of prison. Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, George Washington), the film centers on the offbeat portrayal of its characters and the growth of Chris (Jamie) into manhood.
At 24, Jamie is busy in his acting career. He just completed four films yet to be released, including the new version of Jane Eyre (as St. John Rivers with Michael Fassbender) and the title role in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (the first in a series of 3D motion capture films based on a character created by Georges Remi). In Retreat, he stars in a thriller about being stranded on an island with Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton. Man on a Ledge comes out in 2012 with his co-star Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans).
Jamie has gone beyond his dancing days and evolved into a quality actor. Whatever film or project he is involved in, his acting talent shines through beyond the constraints of the media. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if he ended up in a film where he once again dances and possibly sings.
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