Canadiens Magazine

The Last Word: Jamie Bell

Thursday, 15.12.2011 / 10:30 AM / CANADIENS magazine
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The Last Word: Jamie Bell
In hockey, like in movies, there are some roles that are harder to fill than others. That’s why when Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson decided to adapt the iconic series The Adventures of Tintin for the big screen, they chose an actor as distinguished and experienced as the title character himself. We caught up with Jamie Bell – renowned for his work in such films as Billy Elliot, Defiance, and The Eagle – ahead of the movie’s North American premiere in Montreal to find out more about the actor who brought the legendary reporter to life.

So, visiting Montreal for the first time, what were your impressions of the city?
JAMIE BELL:
Honestly, I barely had any free time. I went to a great French restaurant, L’Express. I liked the French bistro vibe there. As a European, it’s nice to be in North America and have a real sense of a different culture and a different language.

Are you a hockey fan? Have you ever played?
JB:
I was on ice skates playing hockey at the age of three, but I wasn’t really good, so that didn’t last very long! I’ve always liked hockey and I always thought it was one of the most graceful sports. You have to be athletic, very agile, and you need to have incredible vision to be able to play this game. It’s kind of similar to soccer, but the physical toll and the speed of soccer are nowhere near hockey. I like the box where the players go sit when they get naughty on the ice; it reminds me of being in “Time out” as a kid. (laughs)

Have you ever been to an NHL game?
JB:
I went to a Leafs game while I was in Toronto promoting Tintin. They were doing well when I was in the stands, but as soon as I left because I had to go to a screening, they got hammered! I kind of felt bad because I said to myself they might’ve done better if I’d stayed!

Bell rocking his personalized Habs jersey.
Oh, you should never feel bad about the Leafs losing. But anyway, getting back to soccer, you’re an Arsenal guy, right? 
JB:
I’m a massive football fan. I’m a die-hard Gunners fan even though they’re not having a great year so far. I’ve stuck by them since I was six years old. I was getting teased back in school because I wasn’t showing any allegiance to a team, so I asked my mom to pick me up a football shirt. Not really knowing which one to get, she brought me back an Arsenal jersey and that’s how it all started.

Your favorite numbers are eight and 14. Is there a link to sports, or is it more of a personal significance? 
JB:
I always kind of had something for eight. But 14 is definitely for Thierry Henry, who was Arsenal’s star player for a number of years.

As someone who danced on camera in your breakthrough role as Billy Elliot, who would you say, in history, was the greatest dancer in the history of cinema?
JB:
Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were pretty good. They just don’t really make those kinds of movies anymore.

If golfing is considered a sport, shouldn’t dancing be, as well?  Your cardio needs to be better and coordination is just as necessary.
JB:
It’s interesting because some people don’t consider certain sports an art form. To me, soccer is an art form. To be honest, all sports are theatre to a degree. It’s unscripted drama and that’s what makes it so good. The pressure is the same.

Were you surprised when it was decided to hold the North American premiere of
The Adventures of Tintin here rather than in L.A. or New York?
JB:
It made sense to do it in Montreal because it went with the theme. We started by doing the world premiere in Brussels because that’s where Tintin is from. The movie was really well received. Getting that stamp of approval was really important to us. To continue that trend by going to a French-speaking city in North America first only made sense. It was Steven [Spielberg]’s request and it was the right thing to do.

The likeness is unmistakeable!
In Tintin you worked with some ridiculous talent. Were you in awe of taking direction from Steven Spielberg?
JB:
Absolutely. He’s the man! As a kid, I really looked up to him. He created all those moments as a kid that you never forget. Like when Indiana Jones is reaching back for his fedora in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He invented all these iconic signatures for us growing up. When you’re on an actual set working with him and you see him create moments like that for your character, it’s pretty amazing. He has a child-like energy when he makes films. He has a passion for movies that is unrivaled.

What was your favorite Spielberg film growing up?
JB:
It’s so difficult to choose. E.T. is an American classic, but I would say Close Encounters of the Third Kind is my favorite. That movie is so him.

Were you an avid Tintin reader when you were a kid?  What was your favorite book?
JB:
Definitely. Being European and English, it was very much a part of me growing up. You can’t really avoid it. My favorite book was Tintin in Tibet, purely because the stakes of the relationship between Tintin and Captain Haddock are very high. You feel like one of them could die there; they put their lives on the line for each other. As opposed to the other ones where you had the sense they would get away with it and everything would be fine. In this book specifically, you get the feeling where it might actually end really badly.

Jamie's favorite Tintin boko growing up.
Explain the technology used to shoot Tintin in 100 words or less.
JB:
If you went to see the movie without me or without anyone having done any work with the digital puppet that you see on the posters, the puppet wouldn’t move, speak, or feel anything. It would just be a lifeless, digital puppet. The actor’s role in this technology is to give it life, which is all about performance. When you break it down, it’s pretty much the same thing as if we would’ve been in a live action film.

There was quite the U.K. dream team associated with Tintin.  What was it like working with your countrymen and comic geniuses Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright, as well as James Bond himself, Daniel Craig?
JB:
It was great. We wanted to round up the cast with a European flavor. There’s a sensibility about Tintin that’s quintessentially European that we wanted to uphold. They’re all really talented and they’ve been amazing at immersing themselves in their roles and losing themselves in their characters. You don’t get a trace of James Bond in that movie at all!

Bell got to work with James Bond himself, Daniel Craig on the set of Tintin.
You just joined Twitter a few months ago.  You have the reputation as a pretty serious actor but you’re following people like Jonah Hill, Sarah Silverman, and Seth MacFarlane. So when’s an outright raunchy comedy starring Jamie Bell hitting theaters?
JB:
I’ve been asked that a few times, but funny is really difficult to do. It’s tough because when I know it’s a joke, I put a lot of pressure on myself because I know it has to make people laugh. I put all the emphasis on that line and in the end, I miss the point. It would have to be the right project where I could just be me, but that’s going to be difficult. I have a lot of respect for comedians because it’s really difficult to make people laugh. But they’re so hilarious and that’s why I’m following them on Twitter.

You’re “@1jamiebell”, but it appears the owner of “@jamiebell” is some dude out in BC. Ever consider stopping there on your tour of Canada to claim your rightful Twitter handle?
JB:
I saw that! (laughs) Honestly, I’m happy to let him have it. It’s kind of hilarious that someone else has my exact same name. 

We’ll follow you if you follow us, deal?
JB:
For sure! I read somewhere that the Canadiens are one of the most followed sports teams on Twitter. And even though I went to a Leafs game, Go Habs Go!

For more info on The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, head to www.us.movie.tintin.com. To keep tabs on Jamie in real time, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1jamiebell.

This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in
CANADIENS magazine Vol. 26 No. 2.