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Who is Jamie Bell and why is he playing Tintin?
Bell – A Beautiful Mover
Before being cast as Tintin, Jamie Bell was best known for his staring role in Billy Elliot. Bell was just 14 when he took the title role in this story of a working class boy who wants to be a ballet dancer. The film is set against the backdrop of a grim mining town during the bitter, year long miner’s strike of 1984 and was one of the best British films of the last ten years. It has since been adapted into a book and a smash West End stage play.
Following such as huge hit is difficult for any actor, but for a child actor such success can destroy their career and their life. But between Billy Elliot and getting cast as Tintin, Jamie Bell went back to basics and built his career from the ground up. He played a role in the low budget, World War I horror film Deathwatch with his future Tintin co-star Andy Serkis (Captain Haddock). Bell then had a small role in the 2002 version of Nicholas Nickleby.
Jamie Bell and the Youthful Looks
His next film, Undertow, did much to make it clear that Jamie Bell could make the leap from child actor to adult actor. The 2004 film stars the 18 year Bell as a troubled teenager on the run from a murderous uncle. Through the film split the critics, the performance of Bell and his co-star Devon Alan won them Young Artist Awards from the Young Artist Foundation.
There is no doubt that in winning the part of Tintin, Jamie Bell’s youth was significant. Having played one trouble teenager in Undertow, he played a similar role in Dear Wendy. This idiosyncratic film is about a group of gun-totting pacifist and was written by experimental film maker Lars von Trier. The Chumscrubber was Bell’s next film and once again he was playing a troubled teenager, though as a change of pace, this is a dark comedy. Here the focus is prescription medications, video games and the false ideal of middle class American suburbia.
Serkis & Jackson
His next film brought him back together with Andy Serkis. Bell got the part of Jimmy in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Though only a minor role, it was no doubt that it was directly responsible for the casting of Jamie Bell as Tintin. Working with Serkis, Jackson, motion capture and a massive budget provided a great learning experience for Bell and a chance to shine before Peter Jackson.
Finally breaking through into more adult roles in his next film (though for Jamie Bell, Tintin may be a step back in this regard) with Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. Flags of Our Fathers traces the story of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima and were captured on film by war photographer Joe Rosenthal.
Then it was back to playing disturbed characters in low budget, UK films as Bell starred in the award winning Hallam Foe (Mr Foe in the US). Playing a part completely unlike the clean cut, asexual Tintin, Jamie Bell is the eponymous Hallam Foe. A voyeur with dark obsessions about his dead mother. The film won various awards and Bell was nominated for Best Actor in the British Independent Film Awards.
Another CGI, high budget film was next for Jamie Bell in Jumper. This was poorly received by the critics and was summed up by one reviewer as “A tightly made film that could have been so much better. “
Jamie Bell – Dirty and Dangerous
Having played numerous troubled teenagers in various dark film, there was one more before Jamie Bell became Tintin, and this was the Mother of all dark subject matters – the holocaust. Just released in the UK, Defiance is the story of Jewish resistance fighters in Eastern Europe. The film placed Bell alongside Daniel Craig who is to play Red Rackham in The Secret of the Unicorn. </p
Tintin – Once, Twice, Three times?
Jamie Bell as Tintin is a great choice. He is an experienced film actor who can deliver great performances. Of special importance to motion capture films like The Secret of the Unicorn is the ability to move. Billy Elliot showed he has clear control of his body and in action films like Deathwatch, Jumpers and Defiance he has shown the right fighting dynamism to be Tintin. What will be interesting is what human qualities Bell will bring to Tintin. The comic book character is very flat and stereotyped, rarely displaying emotion except when angry at a bully or worried about Snowy. Getting the balance between making Tintin a living breathing character for the audience to empathise with and staying faithful to the books will be a difficult piece of acting.
If Jamie Bell pulls off Tintin, then at least one more film awaits. Peter Jackson is set to direct the second film and there is the possibility of a third. Though not confirmed, it seems likely that production of the second film will proceed soon after the first has finished. Probably adapting Red Rackham’s Treasure, the second part of the adventure started in The Secret of the Unicorn. If studios run to form, this will be released a year after the first. Production of the third film will only start if the first film proves to be a success.
Bell’s Big Chance
As Tintin, Jamie Bell has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Working with Spielberg with a huge budget and an internationally famous character co
uld springboard Bell into Hollywood’s A-List. Becoming an action film hero and a sex symbol along the lines of Harrison Ford and Matt Damon is entirely possible. But that requires the film to be a smash and that is no easy thing to achieve, even when working with Spielberg and Jackson.