Remember the name Jack O’Connell, because it’s one you’re going to be hearing a lot of over the next year.
Much of the interest in O’Connell started with the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of David Mackenzie’s Starred Up last year, in which the 24-year-old British actor plays Eric Love, an angry and violent young prison inmate who has just been moved into an adult prison which just so happens to be holding his father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn, Animal Kingdom). The guards think the only way to deal with Eric is through more violence but a guidance counselor, played by Rupert Friend, thinks that Eric would do well if he participated in his group therapy sessions, something his father is completely against.
O’Connell’s year didn’t just start and end with Starred Up, because he also had a role in the worldwide blockbuster 300: Rise of an Empire and stars in the Yann Demage Northern Ireland action-thriller ’71, which was picked up by Roadside Attractions at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and will be doing the September festival circuit: Telluride, Toronto and the New York Film Festival. (It opens in the UK in late October and in the States sometime next spring.)
If that weren’t enough, O’Connell was also personally picked by Angelina Jolie to play the late Louis Zamperini in her second film as a director, Unbroken, which has already gotten huge Oscar buzz sight unseen. Zamperini’s story is an amazing one that took him from the 1936 Berlin Olympics to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp after he enlisted in the Air Force, and after seeing O’Connell in those other movies, we can only imagine what he will bring to that role.
Meanwhile, Starred Up played at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival back in April, which is when ComingSoon.net had a chance to talk with O’Connell and director David Mackenzie for the video interviews below.
When you watch Starred Up or ’71 or Unbroken, you may be shocked by the chameleon-like nature of O’Connell to change with each role and it’s even more surprising when you meet him in person and realize that at 5′ 8″, he’s not that big a guy. Like his fellow Brit Tom Hardy, though, O’Connell has a really large presence on screen, which may be why he is able to pull off such powerful physically-demanding performances. We spoke with O’Connell about most of the movies he’s been doing over the past year including all three movies.
David Mackenzie could be one of England’s more prolific filmmakers, maybe just behind Michael Winterbottom, but one thing you can say about the choices he makes in terms of the films he directs, he has never made the same movie twice. Whether it’s the controversial Young Adam, the period thriller Asylum, the Ashton Kutcher drama Spread or the science fiction tinged Perfect Sense, each movie has been different than the one before. Starred Up is no exception, being his most naturalistic film yet as he takes a different look at the overused prison genre, not only through the eyes of Jack O’Connell’s character but also through the counselors trying to reform the most violent prisoners. (The film was written by Jonathan Asser, based on his own experiences in the latter role.)
Starred Up opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 27, and then in other cities over the course of September. You can find out where it will play on the Tribeca Film website. Look for our interview with O’Connell’s co-star, the always-brilliant Ben Mendelsohn, sometime next week!