Rising Star: Jack O’Connell’s Hollywood journey continues

“I don’t like to be the centre of attention”, claimed Jack O’Connell, star of Angelina Jolie’s award-winning Unbroken and recent nominee of the EE Rising Star BAFTA. The bright, patterned socks poking out of his trousers beg to differ as we talk at BAFTA headquarters, shortly after the announcement has been made.

For someone that does not enjoy the spotlight, O’Connell, 24, received his fair share of it in 2014; he starred in acclaimed prison drama Starred Up, went on the run in the fraught Irish-set ’71 and earned the lead in Jolie’s biopic of Olympian Louis Zamperini. Shooting the film was a harrowing experience for O’Connell, who admitted to blacking out on set , but even after its release he remains close to the director and her cast.

“It came down to Angie’s sense of character; everyone was generous and didn’t approach the working environment with an ego. I’ve been on those sets before and it can be hazardous.”
An unlikely friendship formed with Japanese actor Takamasa Ishihara, who played his tormentor in the film. “He’s nothing like the person that portrays; we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together on set because of what was required of my character, but nowadays we’re pals. He’s very kind-hearted and a loving dad.”

His new-found success, which he proudly puts down to his enthusiasm for each role he takes on, caught the attention of the judging panel for this year’s award. He will compete with Whiplash star Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, best known for her role in the Divergent series, The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie and Belle actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, in the category. As with his fellow nominees, O’Connell’s career only appears to be warming up. Having completed filming Justin Chadwick’s Tulip Fever alongside Christoph Waltz, the former Skins actor has started working on Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, where he will co-star with George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

“I’ve met Jodie twice now and she’s very in-tune”, said O’Connell, who won the part during a Skype audition with the director. “It’s a brilliant script, very amusing. I’m looking forward to it because there is a lot of dialogue involved, less cartwheels and dodging bullets.”

In spite of Hollywood’s calling, O’Connell is determined to keep a low profile. When asked how he will celebrate if he wins the Rising Star award, the actor hopes to keep things local.

“In an ideal world, there’ll be a nearby pub that does a lock-in and I’ll spend the night with my favourite people just turning the place upside down; singing songs, passing my BAFTA around and hoping it will still be in one piece by the morning.”

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