Jamie Bell is just happy to be smoking. As we walk out onto the ledge – well, balcony – of the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, he seems relieved that he can combine his much-needed cigarette break with our now oddly appropriate interview about his latest film, Man on a Ledge. In the film, Jamie Bell plays the brother of Sam Worthington, a man who climbs out on the ledge of a New York City skyscraper to create a diversion so Bell and Genesis Rodriguez can commit a daring heist across the street. That much you can tell from the trailers, but there's twists aplenty, so we spend most of our time avoiding spoilers and talking about the international Tintin phenomenon, his long career acting opposite Andy Serkis, the dance movie he really wants to make and his role in the upcoming Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth, starring James McAvoy.
CraveOnline: You did the coolest thing I’ve ever seen – I saw the DVD special features for Jumper, and you choreographed that dance scene with your body double. That was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
Jamie Bell: Thanks, dude. I had a lot of down time, because there was a lot of sh*t going on, on that movie.
Yeah, it seemed like a difficult shoot.
It was really awful. I will say, though, I love Doug Liman and his intention, and if we’d managed to make the movie that he wanted to make, it would have been really cool. And I was happy with what I did in the movie.
You were great. Actually I thought the movie came out pretty fun considering how difficult the production was.
I imagine Man on a Ledge is a little easier, you’re mainly hanging out and flirting with Genesis [Rodriguez].
Yeah, not a problem. Easy. No, no, it was fun, and honestly what a lot of people have been responding to is a certain chemistry between us, and it’s weird, because it wasn’t forged or anything. We genuinely had a great time, all the time. Asger [Leth], our director, who would literally sort of just set stuff up and give us a scenario to work on, give us the context, and then go, “Yeah, let’s do one off the script, and then do one with whatever you want to do.”
How much of the stuff that wasn’t in the script ended up in the film, do you think?
The little bits and pieces. The looks, sometimes, like something at the end of a scene, even though you might not know that that might be the end of the scene. There’d be just a look, or just a moment between us. All the kind of, like, stuff between us was always just inspired by us being stupid, really.
Well the audience loved you being stupid, I think. It was a fun film.
Great, because I love being stupid.
Were you sent the script for this? Because I imagine… You’re pretty badass now, you probably don’t have to audition too much.
Well, you know, for a Spider-Man, of course, you have to jump through a million hoops and stuff. But yeah, you have your lot. So yeah, I met with Asger and he said, “Do you think you could be Sam’s brother?” and I said, “No, I don’t think I could be, really. But I really like your script, and I appreciate you as a documentary filmmaker, so yeah, I want to do it.”
You don’t get a lot of screen time with Sam.
No, hardly any. [Laughs.]
Did you prep together at all?
Yeah, we did. I mean, he’s a fiend for logic, you know, with scripts and stuff. He will really hammer a director, and the screenwriters, to try and make sense, and to try and make things better. He’s very passionate about constantly taking what he has and working on it, making it better. I really appreciated that.
What about you? When you were sent the script, how much did it change since you got it? Because I imagine there’s a lot of twists and turns, and…
A lot. A lot, actually, yeah. Also just sort of simplifying stuff, making it more linear. So there were lots of script meetings and stuff. And for me and Genesis it’s pretty simple. There’s a MacGuffin we have to find, and it’s more the humor of finding it, the fun of finding it. So that was good.
I like it because it’s a “fun” heist movie. You know, there aren’t a lot of those, or if there are then they’re kind of jokey, kind of stoner comedy kind of things.
Which I love, by the way.
Oh, they’re fantastic. But there’s a place for them, and there’s a place for Heat.
Oh yeah, totally.
What kind of heist movies do you like, in general?
Yeah, the Michael Mann stuff is always great. I liked Inside Man a lot. I thought that was a really good version of that.
That was a fun one, yeah. That managed to get some real interesting subtext in there and just be a fun story.
Yeah, Chris Nolan’s stuff is great, like the early Chris Nolan. The Memento stuff is awesome.
What are you into? Because you’re in all these, like… You’re kind of the biggest action star in the world right now.
[Laughs] Well, between like, a boy with his dog, and robbing diamonds…
Yeah, exactly. But Tintin is huge!
It’s done really well. A quarter of a billion dollars over there.
I imagine you don’t get recognized a lot for that.
No, which is great. Thank God. Because especially internationally, where it’s so beloved and so well known, it played really well. And over here, the oversaturation of that holiday weekend was just like, “Whoa.”
Yeah, I had to review all of that sh*t, it was crazy.
Oh yeah, what a busy weekend that was.
I did like Tintin better than [the other ones that opened], actually. I know Peter Jackson’s busy, but have you talked about doing the next one of those?
Steven [Spielberg]’s talking about it openly, he says Peter’s directing the next one and it’s being written. So he’s in Middle Earth right now, but we’re going to wait for him to get back.
Did you bug him to get you in The Hobbit at all?
No. No, because I know Andy [Serkis] really well, and most of the guys on [Lord of the] Rings and stuff were always sort of floating around New Zealand. So no, the idea of Hobbit feet is just too much for me.
You’ve worked with Andy Serkis a lot, right back to Deathwatch. Which was a cool f*cking film, by the way.
Thanks man, yeah. I mean, awful to shoot. Horrendous to shoot.
It seems like a small movie, but I heard it took like six weeks to shoot.
Yeah, it was intense.
That was my real first experience of like, really getting to know actors. Because it was only my second movie, and all of us kind of really banded together. The first time I met Andy Serkis, he knew I was playing a soldier, and he was like, “Right, I’m gonna rough him up, because he needs to know that he’s in a bunch of like, really hardass guys.” He actually threw me in the mud the first time I saw him. I was really afraid of him, actually, at first. But then I saw what a nice guy he was, you know, a family guy. I’m so proud of him, and his career and stuff, because he deserves everything, because he’s a f*cking talented guy. Have you seen Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll?
I have not yet, no.
Oh man, he’s outrageous in that. He’s really good.
I’m actually rooting for him, for Rise of Planet of the Apes, to get some Oscar consideration for that.
Yeah, me too.
I’m glad you managed to sneak some dancing into Man on a Ledge. Is that the Jamie Bell trademark now?
Well, there’s always a bit of a signature in everything. There’s always kind of like a little… [Dances.]
Yeah, a little shuffle there. I really want to do another dance film, it’s just hard, because the dance I really love to do is tap dancing, and it’s just hard to make it contemporary and relevant. If anyone’s kicking around a Fred Astaire biopic…
Oh, that would be badass!
I’d love to do that.
Did you ever hear about Fred Astaire’s first audition?
There was this great story. He auditioned, and it was one of those open calls, they just brought in everyone off the street. So he did his little audition, and the thing on the card that they wrote down said, “Can’t sing, can’t act, dances a little.”
Right, right, right! There you go. “Jamie Bell: Can’t sing, can’t act, dances a little bit.” I’m perfect for the biopic, come on!
[Laughs] I got one left: what do you have coming up that you’re really excited about?
I’m gonna shoot a movie called Filth with James McAvoy next week, which is an adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel, who I love as a writer.
Irvine Welsh is fantastic. The Marabou Stork Nightmares? I love that.
Yeah, and Filth is kind of similar. Even though Trainspotting was dark, the book was much darker than the movie. But James’s character is really f*cked up. So I’m interested to see him do that, because usually he plays either romantic leads, or just a very nice kind of guy, or “guy in situation.” In X-Men he was f*cking awesome.
Oh, he was so cool in that, yeah. And you do that too, you usually play a very likeable fellow. Are you playing a dark bastard in this?
I kind of play a bastard, but he’s a likeable bastard. So that should be fun.