Jack O’Connell Interview: Harry Brown

jack300He may be most famous for his work as Cookie in Skins, but Jack O’Connell is no newbie to film-making.

The 19 year-old has already played young delinquents in Eden Lake and This Is England.

In those movies his character may have escaped with nothing more than a grounding, but the outlook isn’t so good for him in Harry Brown – he’s got a gun-toting Michael Caine breathing down his neck.

We caught up with him as he hopped out of bed with one of his many on-set girlfriends…

OTB: Hi Jack, how’s your day been so far?

JO’C: Not bad mate, I’ve just been doing a couple of scenes for Skins, luckily I was in bed with a girl, so that’s always nice…

Excellent! We really enjoyed Harry Brown, what was it like working with Michael Caine?

When I got the part it took a while for it to sink in, especially as he’s nearing the end of his career. I was just happy to be involved really, but we had an awesome cast. Ben Drew was fantastic as one of the main antagonists and no-one else could have played that character as believably as he did, the same with Sean Harris as ‘Stretch’. I think that if you can’t buy at least one character during a film then you become detached.

When you saw the script did you immediately think it was something you wanted to be a part of?

When I saw the script I immediately believed in it and thought it dealt with a really important issue that was yet to be handled correctly. I’m slightly familiar with such culture – although I haven’t experienced anything as bad the stuff in the film – and it’s very worrying. So to be given the chance to portray it without glorifying it was important.

To be honest all the kids are little hoodlums apart from maybe your character (Marky) who is almost as much a victim as Harry Brown himself…

Exactly, and I enjoyed that depth, it demonstrated how you can become a victim of that whole culture while in the middle of it. I’m not suggesting that Marky was blameless, but he ends up performing sex acts to get his fix. The victims don’t always appear on the defence side of the court-room, some of these people don’t deserve our sympathy but a bit of help. Hopefully the film won’t just be seen as a conventional traditional vigilante story, but one that deals with broader issues.

In your career, you’ve been in Skins and Eden Lake – lots of really gritty stuff. Do you not feel like taking a break and doing a rom-com?

As long as I believe in the role, I’ll play anything. I’ve got a lot of time for writers and I’ve been lucky to work with some really good ones. I enjoy a lot of theatre work as well and did ‘Scarborough’ which had a little run at the Royal Court in Sloane Square back in the day, I guess you could call that a rom-com! When you’re starting out, you pretty much take anything, but I got lucky and was given the opportunity to demonstrate a bit of depth. In This Is England I didn’t know what the hell I was getting involved in but it was a fantastic thing to be involved in. In terms of a break – no I’m not up for a break mate, I’m still hungry for it.

What has it been like to be a part of Skins and how do you feel about leaving?

Yeah we finish filming next week actually, but again I’ve been lucky because the cast we’ve had has been excellent. I’m really grateful to everyone involved because they’ve been great for me, but I think the two series contract works really well for everyone because it means we get a chance to go off and do and something else, it keeps everyone really passionate and fresh which might not necessarily be the case in other shows. Believe me mate it’s been one hell of an ejaculation into the industry!

Well that’s one way of putting it! Is it true that Shane Meadows wrote a role especially for you in This Is England?

Yeah he did. Initially I auditioned for the role that Thomas Turgoose played and no-one could done that character any better than he did, but from the audition process I was very confident that I could add something to the film. I’ve got a hell of a lot to thank Shane Meadows for, he gave me enough to go to other auditions with and almost establish myself as a recognised performer. I would love to work with him again.

Has he been the biggest influence on your career?

It’s a combination of several people. Working with Stephen Graham on This Is England was amazing and watching him bounce off Shane Meadows when I was 15 was really cool – I saw it very idealistically. You’d see him rock up on set and he’s just be there to play his character, that kind of certainty just reassures everyone. Once again if you offered me another chance to work with him I would jump at it.

Tell us about Eden Lake, you’re definitely a bit of a nutter in that film…

I loved that script! It was another important issue and it was an easy character for me to play coming off the back of This Is England, especially after watching what Steven Graham did with Combo. I definitely fell for that script…sorry they’re calling me back on to the set….

Quick last question Jack: What’s it like having Michael Caine stick a gun in your face?

No problem mate – I love the pressure….

Sean Marland

Harry Brown may have been a hard b*****d, but did he make it into our hardest Harrys list?