Interview Jamie Bell

“Blur: No Distance Left to Run,” is a feature length documentary film telling the story of blur. Filmed throughout the band’s 2009 rehearsals and acclaimed summer tour, the film finds four members of blur together for the first time in nine years. With previously unseen archive material alongside revealing new interviews and reportage, the film recounts blur’s highs and lows, from Colchester and Goldsmiths, to their headline return at Glastonbury and Hyde Park. “No Distance Left To Run” is the story of an English band, a portrait of enduring friendship and resolution.

Interview by Paul Byrne.

There are some shoots that become so troubled that, well, it’s really down to luck should all that blood, sweat and tears end up creating a memorable movie.
It happened with such notoriously difficult shoots as Apocalypse Now, Fitzcarraldo and Blade Runner. In the case of this week’s Jumper though, the behind-the-scene battle scars are there for all to see.

Based on Steven Gould’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the plot has a young kid discovering he can teleport anywhere he wants in the world. In the movie, he’s bounced from his teens into being a twenty-something who decides to return home to track down his childhood sweetheart just as the nasty Bible-bashing paladins add him to their list of wiped-out jumpers.

The man behind the camera is Doug Liman, the visionary behind Swingers (1996), Go (1999), The Bourne Identity (2002) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He’s also the brainbox who gave us The O.C., but, hey, let’s not hold that against him.

What we can hold against Doug Liman is his tendency to do take after take after take until not only his cast and crew are climbing the walls, but the studio suits on the war path.
The print for Jumper was only finished two weeks before it was due to hit cinemas worldwide on Valentine’s Day.

“Hey, that’s the way a maverick works,” smiles Jamie Bell, the Billingham boy who broke through with Billy Elliot seven years ago, and who plays the friendly jumper out to save our hero from instant extinction. “This is a filmmaker who is always trying to push the envelope, always trying to find a new way of working within a genre. He reinvented the spy thriller with The Bourne Identity. He gave the Brat Pack movie a shot in the arm with Swingers, the teen comedy with Go, the action comedy with Mr. & Mrs. Smith. When I signed on, I was happy to follow this guy to the ends of the earth.”
And then Jamie Bell got to the set. And realised that Doug Liman might actually be mad.
“I was on the phone to the representation, and going, ‘This guy’s nuts! Why didn’t anyone tell me?!’. Mr. & Mrs. Smith took two years to make. Jumper, for me personally, took a year and a half. And yeah, over that time, it got pretty darn tough.”

The signs were there from the start. A few weeks before production started, leading boy Tom Sturridge was out, and Star Wars pretty boy Hayden Christensen was in. A few weeks after production started, Aussie hottie Teresa Palmer (Daniel Radcliffe’s girlfriend in December Boys) was out, and The O.C.’s Rachel Bilson was in.

“Yeah, it was terrible to see that happen,” nods the 21-year old Bell, “especially to a young actor, because it can be really damaging. But they’re so talented, you know they’re going to have their own careers. I am sorry that we didn’t get to make that film with them, but the studio was right. The studio said that we needed to age this character. The demographic who would be going to see this movie don’t want their younger brother being the hero, they want to see their older brother up there, someone to look up to. That was a smart move by the studio.
“I think it’s only benefited the movie, but, as an actor, yeah, it’s always sad when stuff like that happens.”

As an actor, Jamie Bell has been both lucky and smart since he broke through as the cosmic dancer in Stephen Daldry’s award-winning tearjerker. Movies such as indie faves Dear Wendy, The Chumscrubber and Hallam Foe have sat alongside bigger budget fare such as Jackson’s King Kong and Clint Eastwood’s Faith Of Our Fathers. Like his Jumper co-star, Hayden Christensen, Bell has been aware of the Mark Hamill Curse right from the start.

“No actor wants to be known for just one part,” he nods, “and so, when you wind up in a role that everyone seems to love, you’ve got to work fast to go and find a bunch of other roles completely different, so that people know the difference between you and that character you played. They will work out, hopefully, that you’re an actor, and that you can play lots and lots of different people.”
Next up, Bell’s got Ed Zwick’s Defiance, a WWII drama alongside Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, the trio playing Jewish brothers who escape from Nazi-occupied Poland into the Belarussian forest, where they build a village. Again, Bell has signed on because he’s a fan of the director.

“I’ve been very lucky in that I”ve managed to work with directors such as Peter Jackson and Clint Eastwood, and now, Ed Zwick,” he says. “And I’m proud that I can add the name Doug Liman to that list.
“This is a director who pushes the boundaries, of life, of his professional career, and I enjoy that. It’s a great energy to be around. For every minute of every other person’s life, he lives two, and I love that about him. He’s so adventurous. We were in Cairo recently, and he asked me along to The Souk. And I thought, this will be cool. It was the darkest, craziest, most frightening backstreets I’ve ever been down, but this guy loves it. It’s what makes him tick. And that’s what makes his films so interesting, that he’s constantly pushing, and I love the fact that he openly states that he’s using the studios money to find new ways of making movies.”

The shoot of Jumper may have brought its stars to nine different countries, but the frenetic, frantic shoot meant there was little time for sightseeing. The insistence by Liman that his actors do their own stunts whenever possible resulted in an injured hand, a split-open ear and a hyper-dilated pupil for Christensen. How was it for Bell?

“Normally, for this kind of travel, you want to bring back souvenirs. We came back with only bruises and grazes, and banged-up knees and banged-up elbows. We were doing all that tussling, all that throwing each other to the ground, but that’s typical of Doug. He’s not about to settle for some CGI characters going into battle. For him, it was very specific that he wanted me and Hayden to go at it for real.”

‘Jumper’ is now showing at Irish cinemas nationwide