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Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow
Jamie Bell: A real-life 'Billy Elliot'
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jamie Bell is 14, just another kid from a small town in England. So is Billy Elliot.
Young Bell loves ballet, but for years hid his talent from friends because he feared their reaction. Elliot faced the same dilemma with his family.
The youngster persevered, and has been rewarded with a starring role in a title film that's drawing crowds and acclaim.
Young Elliot? He's the character Bell plays in "Billy Elliot," the movie about a boy who must dance, no matter what his disapproving father says.
The role has transformed a once-anonymous young dancer into a celebrity, someone who leapt into a high-profile role with hardly any acting experience. Critics adore "Billy Elliot," and it's showing to full houses.
Some people have even mentioned the film and Oscar in the same breath -- breathtaking stuff, to be sure, though Bell seems unfazed by all the hoopla. Life, he said, is about school, not awards -- for now, at least.
CNN: You share similarities with Billy Elliot, but one big difference is the age at which you developed an interest in ballet. How long have you been dancing?
Jamie Bell: Since I was 6
CNN: You are now 14 years old; how did you hide ballet from your friends for so long?
Bell: Well, I just didn't tell them, ... and when they used to say, "Are you coming out to play tonight?" I'd say, "No, I am going to the doctors" or, "I have to visit my nana in the hospital," or something. So they didn't know where I was going.
CNN: How did your friends react when they found out?
Bell: Well, most of my closest friends were fine, but it was mostly the kids that I didn't really know that ... said "girlie boy" or "ballerina boy." But most of that gave me more determination to do it, because I wanted to prove to them that (ballet) wasn't just for girls; it was for boys as well.
CNN: How did you know ballet was something you wanted to do as early as 6 years old?
Bell: I've got a sister, and she used to dance as well. She is five years older than me, so when she was 10 she used to go all around the country doing her dancing, and I used to get dragged along with her. ... So I sort of got used to it -- being around the girls and seeing how the teachers teach the class. ... I used to stand outside the door and try to copy what the girls were doing inside, and could never do it.
Once, I got dragged to this competition, and there was this girl dancing on the stage, and she was out of time (rhythm). And I said to my mom, "I could do better than that." And she said, "Well, fine, I'll get you tap shoes and you can go on Saturday." So it was really my family that got me into it.
CNN: Did you ever have an interest in acting before this movie?
Bell: When I was 9, I started doing local pantomimes and local shows, ... so I got to act in that. And I actually did three years with the National Youth Music Theatre, ... so I was in things like that for a few years.
CNN: Where were you when you learned that you got the part over 2,000 other actors?
Bell: I was watching a soccer game at the time, so I was more into the soccer game than what the director said when he called me up -- so I wasn't paying much attention to him, actually. The whole week before he actually phoned I was really nervous. I wasn't eating properly, I was getting home from school really early and checking the messages on the phone, getting the phone when it rang before anyone else got to it, saying "Hello, hello?"
CNN: How much is Jamie Bell like Billy Elliot?
Bell: I'd say his personality is a lot like me. He's a very mature character; I like to think of myself as a mature person. He's very open; he's got a lot of responsibility; he has to look after his nana; and he's got a friend who is deciding which way he is turning (coming to terms with his homosexuality). So he is going through a hard time, but he is embracing it.
CNN: Are you surprised at all by the attention that the film is getting?
Bell: Absolutely, because when we were filming it ... we were really filming it for ourselves. ... We are just very pleased that everyone seems to like it.
CNN: What was your favorite part of making the movie?
Bell: Doing a pirouette and actually falling headfirst into a bath (was) probably the most exciting part of the whole thing.
CNN: Are you starting to get some female fans following you around?
Bell: A bit, yeah. ... I just kind of send them away and say I've already got one. ... But I haven't; I just say I have.
CNN: Where do you go from here? Are you now an actor or a dancer?
Bell: Both. It's just (that) school that is important to me now. I've got ... really important examinations ...in two years, so I've really got to concentrate on that. That's what I will be doing for a while.
Review: 'Billy Elliot' a leaping testimony to human spirit
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