It takes a rare talent to clock up a volume of impressive performances in a career that’s only a decade old. But British actor Jack O’Connell has done just that, coming a long way since his solid debut aged 15 in Shane Meadows’ This Is England. In the last few years alone, his work leading Starred Up and ’71 brought him British Independent Film Awards nominations, and he came to Hollywood’s attention when Angelina Jolie cast him as Louis Zamperini in her movie Unbroken.
It could be because O’Connell doesn’t fit as the prototypical movie star that he has proved so attractive to directors. He feels—and is—real, and his natural ability in front of the camera makes him adaptable. There’s a common ground of intensity in the performances cited here—and that’s particularly true of his latest role in Jodie Foster’s Money Monster alongside George Clooney and Julia Roberts. But the characters themselves are poles apart, and O’Connell makes finding them look effortless.
In Money Monster he plays Kyle Budwell, a struggling blue-collar New Yorker who takes Clooney’s Lee Gates—a stocks-and-shares TV star—hostage when he loses $60,000 on a bad investment tip. Played out in real time, the sparring match between Budwell and Gates is never less than thrilling, and O’Connell more than holds his own against the veteran Clooney.
Here, O’Connell shares his interest in the project and the design of his blossoming career; why Hollywood’s voracious appetite for his talent won’t stop him from working at home in Britain.