With Angelina Jolie as his chaperone, Jack O’Connell is finding his feet in Hollywood. War epic Unbroken is due to be released on Boxing Day and until now the actor has been known for his portrayal of troubled (and troublesome) young men. With initial reports being positive on O’Connell and his up-and-coming role (which will no doubt propel him into super-stardom), a look into the actors previous works seems appropriate.
Many found themselves intrigued by O’Connell during his turn in E4’s Skins; a television series which upped the bar for drama which focuses on young adults. O’Connell is remembered for his role as Cook, a violent teen with a history of rebellion, and a criminal wrap sheet that doesn’t read well. Before this captivating turn came two films which cemented him as an actor unafraid to tackle the big subjects; first is the now classic Brit drama This Is England. Directed by Shane Meadows and featuring O’Connell in only a small role the film explored racism, Thatcherism and the lifestyle that ultimately comes with being a Skinhead. Two years later the young actor can be seen as the lead antagonist in gory indie horror Eden Lake; disgustingly chavvy and repulsively evil, O’Connell plays Brett with a stellar force (this is probably the only role the actor portrays that you find yourself loathing).
After his turn in various supporting roles O’Connell found himself as the lead in 90’s set rave drama Weekender. As Dylan, he stands out as a comedic force with the ability to switch characteristics comfortably and realistically whenever necessary. With five more British titles under his belt between 2011 and 2013 (including Tower Block), last year saw the actor take on a role which would lead to his discovery in Hollywood. Starred Up, directed by David Mackenzie (and co-starring Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend) follows O’Connell as Eric Love, a young man with a pension for violence and a lack of morality which finds him in adult prison at nineteen. This turn, which O’Connell (in an interview with Film4) described, in ways, as a method approach, cemented him as a powerful force – brutal, aesthetically grim and unabashedly real, Starred Up gave O’Connell the power to fully present himself as the adult actor he has become.
This year has been a stellar year performance wise, with a range of diverse roles – from support in 300: Rise of an Empire to the lead in historical action drama ’71. Next comes the eagerly awaited, and much anticipated, Unbroken. As Louis Zamperini O’Connell finds himself in his biggest role to date; portraying the life of a celebrated athlete and war hero. The actor has already won four awards for his role in the film (two of which were joint for Starred Up) and slowly but surely Jack O’Connell is becoming a known force within Hollywood.
Never afraid to portray men who are often treading the thin line between love and hate, and often seen in roles which challenge those watching (aesthetically and emotionally), beyond the perhaps ‘tough guy’ characters he has become so known for, he manages to portray a heart (however hard it is to find that) and O’Connell is a British actor about to take the rest of the world by storm.