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Last Updated: Monday, 23 June, 2003, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Jamie Bell 'to stay in UK'

by Emma Saunders
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Charlie Hunnam (left) and Jamie Bell (right)
Bell (left) plays abused orphan Smike in Nicholas Nickleby
Billy Elliot actor Jamie Bell has said he has no plans to move to America to further his career.

The 17-year-old is still best known for his role aged 13 in Billy Elliot in 2000, for which he won a Bafta, although his latest film, Nicholas Nickleby, is released in the UK on Friday.

In an interview to promote the movie, Bell said he would not like to follow in the footsteps of other British actors who have moved to the US to boost their profiles.

"I've just made a movie in the States (Undertow, set in Georgia) but I have no desire to go and live there. I'm not needy for that," he said.

"Anyway, what's wrong with Billingham?" he added, referring to the Teeside town where he grew up and still lives.

The teenager's new film is an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.

Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot
Billy Elliot put Bell in the spotlight
Bell plays down-trodden orphan Smike, who has a deformity that restricts his mobility.

Bell was keen to choose a very different part from his debut as Billy Elliot.

"I wanted to move away from Billy Elliot, a character who obviously has no problems with movement. Playing Smike was physically tough, my ankles and lower back were distressed by the end of the first week," he said.

Bell said he wanted his audience to realise he had grown up.

"I spent two years going round with Billy Elliot and I wasn't creating anything. If you have created an image of yourself at 13 and it is still with you at 17, it needs to be dropped. I want people to see me as an adult."

This involves making careful decisions about the right films to make.

"There is always a thought process - will this help in my transition from child to adult and will it distance me from Billy Elliot?"he said.

He is already enjoying more freedom, and went on a plane to LA recently for the first time without a chaperone.

Stephen Daldry, who directed Bell in Billy Elliot, has remained friends with the young star and is a big influence.

"He reads a lot of my work - it's all his fault, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. He feels responsible for me and worries about me because of the perils of the film industry," said Bell.

Jamie Bell
Bell wants to put Billy Elliot behind him

The actor acknowledged it was a demanding role, both physically and mentally.

"I rehearsed with the choreographer for two weeks and watched films like My Left Foot and The Elephant Man to try to get his feet right. It was interesting to see how someone like that gets about in everyday life," he said.

Director Douglas McGrath said Bell was fully committed to the role.

"He was standing fully on the two sides of his feet and had to push the rest of his weight forward, it really throws your back out," he told BBC News Online.




SEE ALSO:
Stars gather at Nickleby première
23 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Dickens role for Billy Elliot star
06 Jan 03  |  Entertainment
Bell swaps ballet for bullets
09 Dec 02  |  Entertainment
Jamie's dance to fame
06 Feb 01  |  Entertainment


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