He has grown up on our screens. Jamie Bell beat out hundreds of other teenage boys to win a coveted role in Billy Elliot. He went on to win a BAFTA and the hearts of millions. After Tin Tin, Snowpiercer, and Defiance, that kid from the north-east of England raised by a single mum is now also a dad himself. And the Thing. He’s in the rebooted version of Fantastic Four, a film that has been mired in reports of onset tension controversy and reshoots from day one.
When the film was launched and the casting was announced there was a lot of criticism – a lot of it racist. If you were talking to these people who complained, what would you say to convince them that they should go see this film?
I think everyone is entitled to their opinion. I have very strong opinions on a lot of things. If it’s something that people love and they’re read since they were a kid they’re going to have very passionate feelings. The truth of the matter is, I don’t think this film strays too wildly away from what the comic book was and is. This is very much a Fantastic Four movie, and people deserve a good movie.
There’s been lots of reporting around Josh Trank’s role in this film. Famously he’s been let go, or fired, or quit, depending on who you ask, from Star Wars, which shares a producer with Fantastic Four. Even 20th Century themselves have said that there were bumps in the road, so - could you set the record straight? What were the bumps in the road?
I think that’s probably something you have to ask 20th Century about; my job as an actor is to turn up and play the character I’ve been asked to play and in that regard I had no issues with Josh Trank. Josh was someone who was very committed. He steered this massive ship it, and was very available to all of us actors I consider him a close friend of mine, so my experience was fantastic.
Traditionally with these sorts of computer generated characters, you act in your body suit and then it’s completely animated. I read they kept your actual eyes. Is that right?
I think they’ve tried to maintain something about my face. Josh always felt the windows into any character was the eyes, so maintaining my eyes, or at least a resemblance of my own eyes, would be moving and something the audience would be able to connect with and remember that there was something under all that rock.
Because this is the second time you’ve acted underneath digital makeup, for lack of a better term. If you could go back and talk to yourself before you had done Tin Tin what would you say to yourself about that process of getting a great performance in that environment?
It’s a very immersive thing; there’s something about the technology that have to break through so they can actually pick up what it is you’re doing, what kind of articulations you’re using; what feelings you’re really feeling. On Tin Tin I was just getting used to the technology. And there was the Spielberg effect as well; you’re just so in awe every day you turn up on set that you’re nervous. But on this I took all those lessons and threw myself in 100 per cent.
When you were a kid after making Billy Elliot you had a father son relationship with the director, and went and lived with him. As time has passed, as you’ve become a parent, do you still have that dynamic? Are you still very close with him?
We’re still very close, and I definitely consider him a very good friend of mine. Now growing up and being a father on my own you eventually move on, you separate. But he’s definitely a big influence in my life, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity he gave me at such an early age.
On the topic of family, I did enjoy your tweet the other day about trying to put sunscreen on a child. It’s ridiculous.
It basically goes everywhere else but the kid.
You’re a single dad raising a kid on your own; what’s the best lesson you’ve learned?
Man, that’s an hour long conversation! It’s a thrill, it’s challenging, it’s work… but it’s just love isn’t it? It’s what you’re supposed to do. They’re so fragile and so small. I’m having a great time with it. It’s such a unique relationship, and such a great chance to get to know another human being. So I’m really enjoying it. I love it.