Jamie Bell – From ballet shoes to boy reporter


Featuring on our cover, British actor Jamie Bell plays the lead role in The Adventures Of Tintin

img190Landing the lead role of Tintin had a surreal quality to it for Jamie Bell – the first film he saw in a cinema was Jurassic Park when he was eight, and he says he told himself when the credits rolled that he would remember the name of the director, Steven Spielberg, mainly because of the dinosaurs.

And here he is all these years later starring in a major film directed by the man.

Bell already had a professional relationship with Tintin’s co-producer Peter Jackson, the man behind the innovative motion capture technology used in the film, from working on the 2005 remake of King Kong which Jackson directed. Andy Serkis, the actor who plays Tintin’s sidekick Captain Haddock, had the role of the giant gorilla.


But Bell is annoyed when people assume he just does the voice of Tintin in the adventure animation. The technology requires the actors to play their roles in a motion capture studio wearing special suits, and Bell injured himself skidding across the deck of the ship to the extent of needing the services of a chiropractor for two days. But although he has the lead role, he is not the face of Tintin – all of the actors have had their facial features and bodies digitally altered to match the original characters as drawn by creator Hergé.

At the age of 25 with 18 films to his credit, Tintin is one of several films Bell is in this year, including Jane Eyre, playing Jane’s cousin St John Rivers, and The Eagle, in which he plays Esca, slave to a Roman commander.

Bell shot to stardom aged 14 as the dancer Billy Elliot in the film of the same name, the tale of a motherless 11-year-old working class boy set against the background of the 1984 miners’ strike in a northern British town, who secretly attends ballet lessons, practising until he gets an audition with the Royal Ballet School. Plucked from obscurity out of two thousand hopefuls by director Stephen Daldry, an early mentor who remains a close friend, he won a Bafta for the role.


The film mirrored aspects of Bell’s own life – brought up by his mother, and from a similar social background to Billy Elliot, he never knew his father and says he used to stuff his ballet shoes down his pants to hide them from his friends Oddly enough, like Tintin, Bell also has a little white dog, describing the fictional character he plays as “incredibly driven and morally correct”. Of the choice of motion capture technology as opposed to live action, he says: “For a motion picture of this sort, it is maybe the only medium in which to do it,” describing the experience as “like rehearsing for a play that you will never put on the stage”.

Bell says it was important to respect Tintin’s iconic character, and be careful with how he was portrayed. Being British, his Tintin has an English accent: there is no trace of Bell’s north east England roots.

“If Tintin had an American accent, I’m sure the rest of the world would have been very upset.”