When Jamie Bell read the script for “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” he thought it was a bizarre piece of fiction. In fact, the film is based on Peter Turner’s memoir of his relationship with movie star Gloria Grahame, played by Annette Bening, who was nearly three decades older than him.
The film’s producer, Barbara Broccoli, knew Gloria and Peter. What insight did she give you?
The thing that struck me is she said they didn’t really stand out. They weren’t an extraordinary couple; you didn’t look at them twice. They were just an ordinary guy and a gal in love. I like her perspective about their ordinariness. A lot of this film has to do with nonjudgment and love in its purest form. The film takes place in the late ’70s, early ’80s, when we didn’t have things like Twitter or IMDb. You didn’t know everything about a person. There’s something nonjudgmental about them coming together, their flaws and all.
What was it like playing a real person?
Even though Peter Turner is a real person and he’s alive, he’s not necessarily in the public consciousness, so I didn’t feel pressure to impersonate. But certainly there was a lot of pressure to represent him and his family well and represent this relationship. If the love story doesn’t work, then the whole movie fails, and then I fail him.
What attracts you to a role?
There has to be an element of truth in terms of what I can bring to it. If I can relate to the character, even just one iota, it’s worth doing because I can bring something to it and inhabit the character much easier. But I also want to branch out and do other things where I wouldn’t be expected to play that part. Certainly, if I can find something in it that resonates with me on a personal level — that either moves me or motivates me or angers me or makes me fearful — then usually that’s a good stepping-stone.
How has your dance background benefited you as an actor?
Acting a lot of times is reacting, and to do that you have to be present and be listening. You get that from dance because if you’re not listening and paying attention, you don’t know what the steps are, and you look like an idiot. In acting, if you’re not listening to the person who is saying the lines, then you’re not in the moment. How could you possibly react in a way that’s interesting or spontaneous?
Things you didn’t know about Jamie Bell
AGE: 31 BIRTHPLACE: Stockton-on-Tees, England FAVORITE MOVIE OF 2017: “Good Time” LAST TV SHOW BINGE-WATCHED: “Mindhunter” HIDDEN TALENT: Whistling PREFERRED STYLE OF DANCE: Tap WORST HABIT: Procrastination