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Jack O'Connell (actor)

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Jack O'Connell
Jack O'Connell 2014 (cropped).jpg
O'Connell at the premiere of Unbroken in Sydney in November 2014
Born (1990-08-01) 1 August 1990 (age 24)
Alvaston, Derby, England
Nationality British
Occupation Actor
Years active 2005–present

Jack O'Connell (born 1 August 1990) is an English actor. Born and raised in Derby, he trained in acting at the Television Workshop, which led to his film debut in the coming-of-age drama This Is England (2006).

O'Connell is largely known for playing angry, troubled youth. He first found fame as the hard-living James Cook on the E4 teen series Skins (2009–10), followed by other lead roles in the television dramas Dive (2010) and United (2011). His breakthrough came when he gave critically acclaimed performances in the independent films Starred Up (2013) and '71 (2014), and starred as war hero Louis Zamperini in his first major Hollywood picture, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken (2014). O'Connell consequently won the BAFTA Rising Star Award.

Early life[edit]

Born in Alvaston, Derby,[1] O'Connell grew up in a working-class family, whose home stood between two housing estates.[2] His father, Johnny Patrick O'Connell, was an Irishman from Kerry, who worked on the British railways for Bombardier until his death from pancreatic cancer in 2009.[3][4] His mother, Alison (née Gutteridge), who is English, was employed by airline British Midland before taking on management of her son's career.[5][6] He has a younger sister, Megan, an aspiring actress.[7] O'Connell does not consider himself British, instead identifying strongly with his Derby upbringing and Irish heritage.[4][8]

As the grandson of Ken Gutteridge, a player for and later manager of Burton Albion, O'Connell aspired to become a professional football player.[4] He played as a striker for Alvaston Rangers and was later scouted by Derby County, where he had trials.[3][6] After a series of injuries ended this career path, he wanted to join the army,[4] believing it to be his only realistic option to make an honest living.[9] His parents had sent him to army cadets when he was 12, with the aim of teaching him discipline,[5] but his juvenile criminal record prevented him from enlisting in the army.[6] As a youth, O'Connell was in and out of court on charges related to alcohol and violence, and he received a one-year young offender's referral order when he was 17.[2][5] Regarding his past transgressions, he has described himself as "a product of his environment."[5][10]

At age 16, O'Connell left Saint Benedict Catholic School with two GCSEs, a B in drama and a C in English.[1][5] He later reflected on his "brutal" experience at Saint Benedict,[5] saying, "What I learnt aside from anything academic at school was probably very valuable lessons in terms of how to lie, how to play the game, how to play authority against itself." He took an interest in acting during the compulsory drama classes, and from age 13, he attended the free Television Workshop in Nottingham, where he trained in drama twice weekly.[9] O'Connell began attending auditions in London, where he sometimes slept outside, not being able to afford a hotel. He eventually moved from Derby to Hounslow in west London, working as a farmhand in nearby Cobham in between acting parts.[5]

Career[edit]

2005–12: Career beginnings[edit]

Since the start of his career, O'Connell has mainly played young delinquents;[5] The New York Times writer John Freeman noted retrospectively, "If a British film called for a tough case, a grappler, someone with a bit of grit, chances were O'Connell got the part. [He] has delivered one gripping physical performance after another, bringing an electric authenticity to the portrayal of angry, troubled youth."[2] O'Connell made his professional acting debut in 2005 when he played a runaway with anger issues in an episode of Doctors, followed by a recurring role as a boy accused of rape in The Bill.[1][11] His stage debut came that same year after a rendition of the play The Spider Men by the Television Workshop was selected to be performed at the Royal National Theatre in London.[12] O'Connell played his debut film role in "This Is England" (2006), a critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama set in the skinhead subculture of the early 1980s.[13][14] At age 15, he was deemed too old to play the main character, leading filmmaker Shane Meadows to write the supporting role of the belligerent Pukey specifically for him.[12][15]

O'Connell at the premiere of Harry Brown in London in November 2009

During 2007, O'Connell appeared in television episodes of Waterloo Road, Holby City, and Wire in the Blood.[1] He played a 15-year-old student involved in a sexual relationship with his teacher in the play Scarborough, first performed at the Edinburgh Festival before its transfer the following year to London's Royal Court Theatre.[16] Variety‍ '​s David Benedict wrote of his stage performance, "His sincere grasp of Daz's innocent tenderness is, paradoxically, a sign of the character's—and the actor's—unexpected maturity."[17] In the horror–thriller Eden Lake (2008), which received positive reviews,[18] O'Connell played a vicious gang leader who terrorises a young married couple.[19] He next starred as a juvenile delinquent in "Between You and Me" (2008), an educational film produced by the Derbyshire Constabulary,[20] followed by a minor role in the ITV serial Wuthering Heights (2009).[1]

O'Connell first found fame, chiefly among people his age, as the troubled and hard-living James Cook in the third and fourth series of the E4 teen drama Skins (2009–10).[2] Grantland writer Amos Barshad opined that among his co-stars, which included Dev Patel and Nicholas Hoult, none "ever quite matched the luminescent, leering mania of O'Connell's Cook. As a preposterously ramped up bad boy, Cook was almost like a baby Tyler Durden."[21] He won a TV Choice Award for Best Actor for his performance in the fourth series.[22] O'Connell later reprised his role in the feature-length special Skins Rise (2013), which follows a twenty-something Cook on the run from authorities.[23] He has said of Cook, "He's probably the most similar character to myself that I had the good fortune of portraying," though he noted that unlike Cook he had matured beyond adolescence.[21]

In the vigilante thriller Harry Brown (2009), which polarised critics,[24] O'Connell played an abused-child-turned-gangbanger.[25] He impressed lead actor Michael Caine, who shouted "Star of the future!" at him during filming.[4] His portrayal of a teenaged father in the BBC Two drama Dive (2010) earned him critical praise; Euan Ferguson of The Guardian described it as "a performance that is of an actor twice his years: mesmerising, comedic and soulful."[26] The Daily Telegraph critic Olly Grant concurred, writing, "He was a revelation; nuanced, understated, wise beyond his years."[27] Following a lead role in the Sky1 serial The Runaway (2011), set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London,[13] O'Connell starred as football player Bobby Charlton in another well-received BBC Two drama, United (2011), which chronicles the 1958 Munich air crash that killed eight players of Manchester United.[27]

His next film, the theatrically released Weekender (2011), showcased the Manchester rave scene of the early 1990s.[13] Though the film received poor reviews,[28] O'Connell's "dumb but sparky sidekick" was called "a godsend" by Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph.[29] Similarly, the thriller Tower Block (2012), about flat tenants under attack from a sniper, received mixed reviews,[30] but The Hollywood Reporter critic Jordan Mintzer singled out O'Connell as "the standout [of the cast]" as the building's protection racketeer.[13][31] Following his turn as a soldier in Private Peaceful (2012), an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, he co-starred as the apprentice of a hitman played by Tim Roth in The Liability (2012), both of which met with mixed critical reception.[32][33]

2013–present: Breakthrough[edit]

O'Connell at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2013

O'Connell's career breakthrough came when he starred in the independent prison drama Starred Up (2013).[4] His portrayal of a violent teenager incarcerated in the same prison as his father received widespread critical acclaim; Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty wrote, "O'Connell bristles with terrifying hair-trigger unpredictability. Watching him, you feel like you're witnessing the arrival of a new movie star."[34] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone agreed, describing his "mad-dog incarnate" portrayal as "a star-is-born performance."[35] O'Connell next starred in another acclaimed independent film, '71 (2014), portraying a soldier deployed to Belfast at the height of political violence in Northern Ireland.[4][36] He was director Yann Demange's first and only choice for the part.[4] Writing for Empire, Nev Pierce opined, "In a superb ensemble, O'Connell is outstanding," adding, "We know he can do violence, but here he holds the screen with no swagger—just a simple desire to survive."[37] He received consecutive nominations for the British Independent Film Award for Best Actor.[38][39]

Following a supporting role as an Athenian warrior in his first blockbuster, 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), O'Connell played his first leading role in a major Hollywood picture, Unbroken (2014), directed by Angelina Jolie.[4] He portrayed Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American Olympic distance runner who, as a bombardier in World War II, survived a plane crash over the Pacific and was held for two years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. To prepare for the role, he underwent a strict diet to lose almost 30 pounds and worked with a dialect coach to mask his thick Derbyshire accent.[40] The resulting performance was positively received; Richard Corliss of Time concluded, "Jolie has made a grand, solid movie of the Zamperini story, but O'Connell is the part of Unbroken that was truly worth the wait."[41] For his work in Starred Up and Unbroken, O'Connell received the Breakthrough Award from the National Board of Review.[42] He additionally became the tenth recipient of the publicly voted BAFTA Rising Star Award.[43]

Personal life[edit]

After his father died, when O'Connell was 18, he coped in part by engaging in self-destructive behavior, later commenting, "I didn't stop partying for like seven years."[2] While living in Bristol during his 2009–10 run on Skins, O'Connell acquired a reputation in the tabloid media as a "party boy," a "bad boy," and a "bit of rough,"[4] regularly giving interviews while hung over.[5] His childhood nickname "Jack the Lad"—meaning "a conspicuously self-assured, carefree, brash young man"[44]—is tattooed on his arm.[7][45] His troubled youth has influenced his work, resulting in him playing mainly delinquents for the first decade of his career,[5] while his juvenile criminal record initially prevented him from being cast in Hollywood productions as he was unable to obtain a U.S. visa.[2][10] By age 24, O'Connell had largely changed his lifestyle,[5] saying, "I'm not trying to have the most fun I've ever had ever, anymore. That used to be the mentality every time I left the house."[45] He has credited Angelina Jolie, who directed him in the 2014 drama Unbroken, with influencing his outlook, describing working with her as an intervention in his life.[2]

O'Connell has resided in east London since 2014.[5]

Filmography[edit]

Films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2006 This Is England Pukey Nicholls
2006 Black Dog Chris Short film
2008 Eden Lake Brett
2009 Wayfaring Stranger Bobby Brewer Short film
2009 Harry Brown Marky
2010 The Hardest Part Thug Short film
2010 Dive Robert Wisley Television film
2011 United Bobby Charlton Television film
2011 Weekender Dylan
2011 The Somnambulists Man 10
2012 Tower Block Kurtis
2012 Private Peaceful Charlie Peaceful
2012 The Liability Adam
2013 Starred Up Eric Love
2014 '71 Gary Hook
2014 300: Rise of an Empire Calisto
2014 Shelter Charlie Miller Short film
2014 Unbroken Louis Zamperini
2015 Tulip Fever William Post-production
2016 Money Monster Kyle Budwell Filming

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2005 Doctors Connor Yates Episode: "Like Father, Like Son"
2005 The Bill Ross Trescott 4 episodes
2007 Waterloo Road Dale Baxter 1 episode
2007 Holby City Davey Hunt Episode: "Trust"
2007 Wire in the Blood Jack Norton Episode: "The Names of Angels"
2009 Wuthering Heights Shepherd lad 1 episode
2009–10 Skins James Cook 16 episodes
2011 The Runaway Eamonn Docherty 6 episodes
2013 Skins Redux James Cook 2 episodes: "Rise"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Film Result
2008 Fright Meter Awards Best Supporting Actor Eden Lake Won[46]
2009 Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Awards Best Actor Eden Lake Won[47]
2010 Monte-Carlo Television Festival Golden Nymph Awards Outstanding Actor – Drama Series Skins Nominated[48]
TV Choice Awards Best Actor Skins Won[22]
2013 British Independent Film Awards Best Actor Starred Up Nominated[38]
Les Arcs European Film Festival Awards Best Actor Starred Up Won[49]
2014 BAFTA Scotland Awards Best Actor Starred Up Nominated[50]
British Independent Film Awards Best Actor '71 Nominated[39]
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Most Promising Performer Starred Up
Unbroken
Won[51]
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Awards Breakthrough Starred Up
‍ '​71
Unbroken
Won[52]
Best Actor Starred Up
‍ '​71
Nominated[52]
Dublin International Film Festival Awards Best Actor Starred Up Won[53]
Hollywood Film Awards New Hollywood Unbroken Won[54]
National Board of Review Awards Breakthrough Performance Starred Up
Unbroken
Won[42]
New York Film Critics Online Awards Breakthrough Performance Starred Up
Unbroken
Won[55]
2015 BAFTA Awards Rising Star N/A Won[43]
Empire Awards Best Male Newcomer Unbroken Nominated[56]
Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association Dorian Awards Rising Star N/A Nominated[57]
London Film Critics' Circle Awards British Actor of the Year Starred Up
‍ '​71
Unbroken
Nominated[58]
Trophée Chopard N/A N/A Won[59]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e McFarnon, Emma (11 July 2013). "In profile: Derby's Hollywood star Jack O'Connell". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Freeman, John (12 September 2014). "Jack O'Connell: Lust for Life". T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Charlton role just perfect for football-crazy rising star who loves the Rams". Derby Telegraph. 23 April 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rickett, Oscar (3 October 2014). "Jack O'Connell: From Skins to Official Box Office Material". The Independent. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Conner, Megan (7 December 2014). "Jack O'Connell: 'My world just got much bigger'". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Wilson, Paul (8 December 2014). "Jack O'Connell Models Your Next Suit". Esquire. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Raphael, Sarah (9 February 2015). "Jack O'Connell, Starred Up". i-D. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Milton, Stephen (14 March 2014). "Jack O'Connell: journey from tearaway to redemption". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  9. ^ a b McLean, Craig (17 March 2014). "Starred Up: exclusive interview with Jack O'Connell". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Zakarin, Jordan (21 April 2014). "Jack O'Connell on 'Starred Up' and His Troubled Past: 'I Really Had to Dig Deep to Get a Second Chance'". TheWrap. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "W's Best Performances: Jack O'Connell, Unbroken". W. 5 January 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Stern, Marlow (10 December 2014). "Angelina Jolie's New Muse: The Rise of Jack O'Connell, Star of the WWII Epic 'Unbroken'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c d Whyatt, Paul (2 January 2015). "Jack O'Connell: We chart the Derby actor's remarkable rise to stardom". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "This Is England". Metacritic. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  15. ^ Phelan, Laurence; Montgomery, Hugh (22 April 2007). "The Brit pack of UK cinema". The Independent. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. 
  16. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (13 February 2008). "Scarborough: Double lessons in forbidden love". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Benedict, David (15 February 2008). "Review: 'Scarborough'". Variety. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Eden Lake (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  19. ^ Quinn, Anthony (12 September 2008). "The end of innocence". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 September 2008. 
  20. ^ Norman, Sally (1 October 2008). "Drama of crime and consequences". Youth Work Now. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. 
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  22. ^ a b Masters, Tim (6 September 2010). "Emmerdale scores TV Choice hat-trick". BBC News. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  23. ^ Tate, Gabriel (24 June 2013). "'Skins' stars talk about the show's return". Time Out. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Rea, Steven (11 May 2010). "Michael Caine relishes role of 'reluctant vigilante' in 'Harry Brown'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  25. ^ Vance, Kelly (28 April 2010). "Michael Caine Is the Man Who Would Be Bronson". East Bay Express. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  26. ^ Ferguson, Euan (11 July 2010). "TV review: Dive; Identity; To Kill a Mockingbird at 50". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  27. ^ a b Grant, Olly (21 April 2011). "A moving BBC drama reunites the Busby Babes". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  28. ^ "Weekender". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  29. ^ Robey, Tim (2 September 2011). "Weekender's fine cast saves this unoriginal film from disaster". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  30. ^ "Tower Block (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  31. ^ Mintzer, Jordan (15 February 2012). "Tower Block: Berlin Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  32. ^ "Private Peaceful". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  33. ^ "The Liability (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  34. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (29 August 2014). "Starred Up". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  35. ^ Travers, Peter (28 August 2014). "'Starred Up' Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  36. ^ "'71". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  37. ^ Pierce, Nev (6 October 2014). "'71: Brutal brilliance". Empire. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  38. ^ a b "2013 Nominations Announced for the 16th Annual British Independent Film Awards". British Independent Film Awards. 10 November 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  39. ^ a b "British Independent Film Awards Nominations 2014". British Independent Film Awards. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  40. ^ Vilkomerson, Sara (28 November 2014). "Angelina Jolie talks 'Unbroken' and her brilliant new star, Jack O'Connell". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  41. ^ Corliss, Richard (23 December 2014). "Review: Angelina Jolie's Unbroken Is Grand, But Not Quite Enthralling". Time. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  42. ^ a b Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (3 December 2014). "National Board of Review Names 'A Most Violent Year' Best Film of 2014". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  43. ^ a b "Film in 2015". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
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  45. ^ a b Schube, Sam (January 2015). "Gentleman Jack". GQ. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  46. ^ "2008 Fright Meter Award Winners". Fright Meter Awards. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  47. ^ Dale, Martin (2 March 2009). "'Idiots and Angels' tops Fantasporto". Variety. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  48. ^ "50 Eme Festival de Television de Monte-Carlo" (PDF) (in French). Monte-Carlo Television Festival. 6 June 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  49. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (20 December 2013). "Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Ida' Wins Les Arcs Film Fest's Top Award". Variety. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  50. ^ "British Academy Scotland Awards: Winners in 2014". BAFTA Scotland. 20 October 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  51. ^ "2014 Chicago Film Critics Awards". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  52. ^ a b Tapley, Kristopher (17 December 2014). "Dublin critics award 'Boyhood,' 'Frank,' Jake Gyllenhaal and Marion Cotillard". Hitflix. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  53. ^ "Dublin Film Critics Circle Announce Jury Award Winners at JDIFF". Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. 24 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  54. ^ "2014 Hollywood Film Awards". British Independent Film Awards. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  55. ^ Kilday, Gregg (7 December 2014). "New York Film Critics Online Name 'Boyhood' Best Picture". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  56. ^ Barraclough, Leo (30 March 2015). "'Interstellar' wins Film, Director at Empire Awards". Variety. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  57. ^ Reilly, Travis (20 January 2015). "'Boyhood,' 'Transparent' Lead Dorian Awards'". TheWrap. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  58. ^ Ritman, Alex (16 December 2014). "'Birdman,' 'Mr. Turner' Lead London Critics' Circle Film Awards Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  59. ^ "Jack O’Connell, Lola Kirke Honored at Star-Fueled Chopard Event in Cannes". Variety. 16 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 

External links[edit]