Jack O’Connell: I’m actually a hippy in real life – I had three dreadlocks once

You’re in Bulgaria filming 300: Rise Of An Empire. How’s that going?

So far, so good. I’ve been out here in training, mainly fitness training, unfortunately, so my lifestyle has had to change also.

In what way?

Well, I like to enjoy a beer every now and then while watching football. And the Euros were on at the time so it was tough.

They said no beers at all?

Yeah, originally. But I suppose that was just shock tactics to whip us into shape. It’s not the first time I’ve had to get fit.

There was probably a different vibe on the set of your latest film, Tower Block…

That film was so ideally timed because nothing else was going on. The only downfall was I was working on my 21st birthday. So I spent that in film studios in a huge disused warehouse in East London, shooting a low-budget horror movie. A crowd of boys came down and made it very decent at the weekend, though. Now I’ve seen the film, I was just blown away by it. I was so surprised they could make it so cinematic.

You have said you have a clear understanding of your character, thug Kurtis. Can you elaborate on that?

The director gave me this character on paper as a guideline and it was detailed in terms of the sort of society that Kurtis is from. I just understood his background personally, so it made the role quite easy for me.

What keeps you sane when you’re away from home?

I’ve got a few photos of my family all about the place and on my phone I’ve got that WhatsApp – basically you can have group conversations with all your pals if you’ve got Wi-Fi.

What would your fans be surprised to know about you?

I’m actually a hippy in real life. I had three dreadlocks on the back of my head once. They were spawning. I think they were definitely fertile.

What would you do for work if you weren’t acting?

Throughout my career I’ve had other lines of work and that’s always wise for any actor. I worked on a farm for a little bit. That was cool, shovelling s*** basically. I was keeping the animals up to speed with their hygiene. I went around in a little jeep. All good. I’d do it again. If there’s anyone out there, feel free… hashtag agriculture.

You seem quite mature for your years.

If I’m among my boys or people I’ve grown up with, I can be immature. I did have to grow up quicker than your average kid but I’m not a unique case in that sense, particularly in this job. I’ve been travelling to different cities as an actor since I was 14, which is now seven years. And I’ve been working with adults. I’ve laughed with adults and I have a lot of adult friends. I was also one of the youngest in my school year so I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with it.

You worked with Michael Fassbender ages ago, too long ago for him to have helped you with your female fans. How are you coping with the attention?

Well, I would like to think I didn’t need any help. I don’t know, it’s not something I dwell on too heavily. That’s the key. Obviously it’s flattering. I’d be lying if I said I never think about my female fans in certain shots and certain scenes. Like when I’m topless, I might think: ‘This one is for the ladies.’ In reality I have had times where I am unfavourably outnumbered, maybe when I am on my own and there’s a crowd of them. But it would be beneficial if everyone could understand that when I am put in front of a camera, they make me look good. So if they see me out and about and I’ve got me hands down me pants scratching or I’m caught in an unfortunate circumstance, I might disappoint.

There’s a huge amount of hype surrounding your next film, Private Peaceful, about brothers in love with the same girl during World War I. How do you feel about it?

The war is one of those topics, isn’t it? I was born and raised in this country and a few of my grandparents were involved. That made it personal that I was going to do a good job. It’s getting released at a time when we are all inclined to remember, just before Remembrance Day on November 11. Hopefully it stands as a decent reminder. Keeping it alive is just important. It’s part of our culture, isn’t it? To portray someone like Charlie Peaceful, I jumped at the opportunity.

Do you still want to play Paul Gascoigne?

Paul Gascoigne, yes, but I have a new one. I’ve matured: Dennis The Menace.

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