click to enlargeTintin Type
By Laura Jacobs Photograph by Doug Inglish
A foundation in dance is not a bad thing for an actor. Back in the day, at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse, the likes of Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach, Joanne Woodward, and Marian Seldes took classes from America’s high priestess of modern dance, Martha Graham. “The body says what words cannot,” Graham decreed, and she was right. Case in point: Jamie Bell. As a dance-trained youngster, he leapt to stardom with his role in the 2000 film Billy Elliot, poignant as the shy boy with jug ears who loves to dance. He won that year’s BAFTA Award for best actor—at 14! Shortly thereafter, young Bell met with Steven Spielberg, who was planning to make a live-action movie based on the beloved Belgian comic-book series “The Adventures of Tintin.” Although the project didn’t move forward, Bell did, working on other movies with major filmmakers—Peter Jackson, Clint Eastwood, and Spielberg among them. And then The Adventures of Tintin caught up with Bell. Spielberg and Jackson came together and decided the film should be animated, using performance-capture technology as part of the process. Bell was called to New Zealand to have a go at the new technology, and was again offered the role. “The character’s a very physical one,” he says. “So because of my dance background there was something about that kind of expression in me that I think they were looking for.” Meanwhile, in the live-action thriller Man on a Ledge, to be released a month after Tintin, look for the dance moves Bell throws into the mix. He has not outgrown Billy—or those charming ears.
Jamie Bell, all grown up, photographed in Los Angeles.