Welcome to Jack O'Connell Web, your newest source for the british actor Jack O'Connell. You may recognize Jack from the television series "Skins" or from the films "Starred Up,", "Unbroken," and Money Monster." The site aims to provide you with all the latest news, photos, media, and more on Jack and his career. Please take a look around the site and visit again soon!
The Interview: Jack O’Connell

Seven years ago, when teen drama Skins began filming in Bristol, little did we know that it would furnish us with the next generation of Hollywood heavyweights. Dev Patel became Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire; Nicholas Hoult joined X-Men; and Game of Thrones is dotted with Skins alumni. When Jack O’Connell joined the Channel 4 franchise in 2009, fresh from the set of This Is England, he probably didn’t have Hollywood in his sights either. A young actor from Derbyshire, Jack had, by his own admission, a chequered past, and before finding his feet as an actor, he had planned to join the army as a way of channelling his angst.

But he needn’t have worried, his talent was clear from the offset. Intense, unnerving and with a raw dynamism that makes his performances jump from the screen, this boy from the wrong side of the tracks was always going to get there in the end. “I just want to work hard to become the best actor of my generation,” Jack says during his shoot with Rankin. Last year, David Mackenzie’s Starred Up propelled him closer towards that goal. A harrowing and brilliant portrayal of life in prison, Starred Up was critically acclaimed and it caught the attention of someone who would offer Jack a career-changing, if not life-changing role. That someone just happened to be Angelina Jolie, and that role was the lead part in her next directorial effort, Unbroken. Jack plays Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who enlisted as a United States Army Air Forces pilot during World War Two. After his plane crashed, Zamperini survived 47 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean before being captured and imprisoned by Japanese forces.

Critics are yet to see the film, but before Zamperini passed away this summer at the age of 97, he praised Jack’s portrayal of his incredible life. And while that may be the only validation that the actor needs, undoubtedly there will be much more to come. Jack O’Connell is just warming up.

HUNGER: UNBROKEN IS THE BIGGEST FILM OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR. HOW DAUNTING WAS IT WHEN YOU GOT THE PART?

Jack O’Connell: It was massive pressure. From the moment I started hearing about the film, I knew that the only way I was going to be satisfied with the outcome was if I paid attention and made sure I did it piece by piece as opposed to focusing on the whole task. We broke it down and took it a day at a time, but it really wasn’t an easy film to make.

“ANGELINA SEEMS TO HAVE GOT THE HANG OF SELFLESSNESS, AND I CAME AWAY FROM THE FILM HOPING TO BE ABLE TO GET THERE ONE DAY.”

DID YOU MEET THE REAL LOUIS ZAMPERINI?

Yes, three times. Twice prior to the shoot and then once afterwards. When I met him after the shoot, the pressure was off and by then I really felt like I’d done him justice. The feedback from the footage that he’d seen was very flattering, that’s what was important to me. If everybody hates the film, it will be a shame, but Louis was satisfied, so I’m happy.

WHAT DID HIS STORY TEACH YOU ABOUT LIFE?

Selflessness – which was a very valuable lesson for me. Angelina seems to have got the hang of selflessness, and I came away from the film hoping to be able to get there one day. I’m not able to not think about myself in certain situations and I can see how Louis’s attitude to life made mine seem actually quite stupid. It taught me not to concentrate on my own hardships as much. That generation is very selfless and free of any kind of self-loathing, compared to nowadays anyway. It’s very hard to hear people whingeing about their issues after being involved in a story like that.

WE SEE LOUIS AS A CHILD IN UNBROKEN, AND HE’S QUITE A TEARAWAY. IS HE SIMILAR TO HOW YOU WERE?

Yeah, definitely. I was never a bully and I never victimised people, but there was a frustration when it came to tolerating authority, being told when to stand, when to talk and when not to. I definitely had teething pains with that. I didn’t really conform.

YOU WENT TO A ROUGH CATHOLIC SCHOOL. WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DID THAT HAVE ON YOU?

I went to two actually. I was first taught by nuns, so I left school with an over-exaggerated sense of guilt if I ever did anything wrong, and I really do believe that being schooled with that level of strictness didn’t do me any favours. Along with other students I was physically abused at that school. We were prodded, poked, hit round the head, hit with rulers, and we grew up thinking that being terrified was normal. I’m still very angry at that schooling system. Things have changed now, we’re in a different period, so for that to happen in 1994 is disgraceful. But that kind of treatment has always existed, so I’m not going to feel too sorry for myself. Now, as a 23-year-old, I use it in my favour.

“I WAS TAUGHT BY NUNS, SO I LEFT SCHOOL WITH AN OVER-EXAGGERATED SENSE OF GUILT.”

AT ONE POINT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT JOINING THE ARMY AFTER SCHOOL. WHAT WAS THE APPEAL THERE?

It was the only form of discipline that I thought worked. I liked the idea of being part of something bigger, and not worrying about myself. I thought it was a way to stay legitimate. Employment is scarce around my way and I didn’t want to be trapped, and I didn’t want to spiral out of control, which could well have happened. It was going to be a desperate last-ditch attempt, which thankfully I managed
to avoid.

YOU PLAYED A YOUNG SOLDIER IN ’71, IS THAT WHY YOU WERE DRAWN TO THE ROLE?

I’m descended from Irish Catholics, so I already knew a bit about the history, but it is quite a heated topic. Before I agreed to do the film I had to read the whole script and speak to the director to make sure that no one was pointing fingers or falsely accusing anyone of things that did not happen. Once I clarified that, I wanted to be involved in the story. It wasn’t even about Belfast really, it was about portraying war, and the cost of war on ground level, which is important. We can get lost in the politics of it all, but war is also about the normal people who get caught up in it. And that’s what I wanted to play. Gary, my character, was quite reserved, which is unlike many of the roles I’ve played before. I didn’t know the answers a lot of the time in that film. I felt like I was learning a lot along the way.

WHERE DO YOU PULL THE EMOTION, ANGER AND AGGRESSION FROM FOR A ROLE?

Starred Up was the first time that I was able to devise a character by getting myself into an emotional headspace and going with it. But the scenes with Ben [Mendelsohn] made me cry, which I didn’t see coming, and we were just able to go with that. At other times you’re pulled into a scene and just expected to cry and when that happens I like to prepare something by getting into my own grief. Some actors struggle with it, but for me it’s therapeutic. It’s a nice release because outside of a job I’m not sure when I’d channel it. And plenty has happened to me that I can pull from.

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