Jamie Bell is one those rare actors you can never second guess. He could be starring in the family-friendly The Adventures of Tintin, or the not-so-family-friendly Nymphomaniac. Moving seamlessly between genres, through blockbusters to smaller indies – his latest project is an intense thriller entitled 6 Days – based on the real life events that unravelled at the Iranian Embassy in London back in the Spring of 1980.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Bell to discuss his latest project, while he explained his own career choices – and what drives him as an actor.
“The people I admire the most are the people I can’t pin down,” he said. “Like, who is Joaquin Phoenix? He’s a great actor because he’s an illusion, he’s kind of magic, he disappears, he inhabits things so well. I always say the best compliment you can give to an actor is when you can’t see the edges. You can’t see where the work starts and who they are as a person begins. There’s only a few actors where you can’t see the edges of them.”
In 6 Days, Bell plays Rusty, a highly trained soldier, representing the more aggressive side of the negotiations, vying to secure the safety of the several hostages inside the Embassy during this breathtaking siege. For the actor, signing on to this project was an easy decision.
“A movie is supposed to take you places, to transport you, and bring you along for the experience, and I felt that this was a film about opening doors, it opens a door and brings you into the building,” he continued. “You go in with those gunmen. It made sense to me, I would want to go on that ride because I want to know what happens. I’ve seen the images, the TV footage, but I’ve never been inside the building, what a great idea.”
“The movie doesn’t dress itself up as anything else, it’s a real-time telling of these events, and that’s it. We don’t over-dramatise anything, because the event speaks for itself.”
Bell was playing a character based on a real person – and the real life Rusty Firmin was available during the shoot to lend a hand, though the actor admitted sometimes he did require the freedom to implement his own ideas onto the role.
“Rusty was there for all the training which was really useful, because he would tell me things like how to hold the weapon. That stuff is invaluable. When you begin to inhabit a character and the real guy is there watching you, sometimes you do need some space. But he knew that.”
The training seemed rather intense, and Bell thrived in the preparation, which wasn’t just physical – but psychological, too.
“We did drills, clearing rooms, going upstairs at various locations,” he explained. “There is a certain way you do all that stuff. There are ways of entering rooms and buildings strategically and we all took it really seriously, and the one thing we took away from it is that the SAS are trained in overwhelming opposition so intensely, they enter rooms screaming. It’s not like James Bond, they come in screaming at you and it’s very overwhelming and I think the idea is to put you in a place of submission, and it works.”
When asked whether he believes the way the government handled these events helped to shape the way we counter terrorism in a modern landscape, Bell believed that while it had a knock-on effect, we’re facing a whole new set of challenges today that requires a whole new perspective.
“We face new challenges now, different kinds of challenges. It was maybe a bit more cut and dry back then, a bit more black and white, and I don’t think it is anymore. We’re in a different world now. Things have changed.”
Before getting too deep into politics – we changed the pace of the conversation. After all, we all want to know about Bell’s involvement in the forthcoming Tintin sequel, don’t we?
“Everyone is waiting for a clear window,” he smiled. “But I’m excited about it. Peter [Jackson] clearly has a great sensibility to do one of them, and I’d love to see a Tintin movie with Peter directing.”
This is emblematic of an actor who continues pushes himself, and tries new things, unable to be pigeonholed. This is evident in what he has lined up, too.
“The next thing I have is basically a romantic two-hander with Annette Bening called Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, which is a real change of pace and audience. I always come out of an experience thinking that I need to do something different, I need to challenge myself in a different way.”
“I’ve got one coming up where I play a white supremacist neo-Nazi, which is very different from a love story with Annette Bening. I’ve been very fortunate to have those roles come my way to be given those opportunities, and have people trust me with their projects.”
Finally, Bell, who has such an infectious enthusiasm for the industry, didn’t rule out one day transferring his talents to a role behind the camera, contemplating a move into directing.
“I like developing and creatively being a part of the process on the other side, it’s something I have a massive amount of love for, and I’m obsessed with movies in general,” he finished.
6 Days comes to Netflix on November the 3rd.