“Billy Elliot” alum Jamie Bell says those dance moves came in handy when he’s required to don the guise of a gifted fighter in the new film “The Eagle”, released on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
Tell me about your character.
Esca is his name, freedom is his game. He’s a guy who, when we first meet him in the film, has lost everything. He’s lost his family, he’s lost his values, he’s lost his tribe, he’s lost his freedom and he’s enslaved by the very people who took that all away from him. And in that first scene you can tell, he’s willing to die; he’s very prepared to die – it would be easier if he just died. He could rid himself of the shame of being captured. He is saved and his journey after that is that he lays down a debt of honour. After that moment for him, every step, every action is about becoming a free man again.
Can you talk about the relationship between the Roman master and his British slave?
For the journey that these two characters go on… as much as it is a physical journey into the unknown, into a world that was very dangerous and hostile, it really is a journey about these two guys who are enemies and who are chained together. They have to go on this mission together, not knowing whether the other is going to turn around and put a knife into his back. It’s that suspense, that sense of mistrust and betrayal that is lingering in the air. It draws this story forward.
And why do you think they bond? Is it because they have both lost fathers?
Absolutely. I think they are absolutely very parallel people, with very parallel storylines. I think guilt and shame are big themes for both of these characters. I think their journey is a catharsis. The sentiment of your saving grace could also be your closest enemy is a really valuable message.
So how was it working with Channing Tatum?
Channing is a great guy. I think the world of him. We had such a good time on this. You know, it’s two guys riding on horses and playing with swords in the Highlands of Scotland, and Romans and armour and all that stuff. So we were like kids on set, we had a great time together. We were also very competitive which helped push you a lot harder. So yeah, we had a great time on this, a really good time.
The film feels very historically authentic. Did you learn something about the Romans that perhaps you didn’t know before?
More than anything I had a real appreciation for the tribes of Northern Scotland to be able to survive in that terrain and that landscape. I also really feel for the Romans who obviously came from certain parts of the Continent. They went up there in their tunics and their sandals going, “Where the Hell are we? Let’s get out of here. Let’s build a big wall and never go back there.” I did empathise with them.
How was it learning to fight and did your dance background help you with the fight choreography?
Sure, yeah, absolutely. I think if you have a history of any sort of physical movement, like dancing or anything like that, it’s always going to help when it comes to stuff like this because fight scenes are basically just choreography, they could be dance choreography. So both me and Channing do have that background and we applied all of that stuff. It kind of comes as second nature after a while.
I managed to get off this one unscathed, so I was fine. Nothing to really report there.
Even on the horses?
Even on the horses. I had never ridden a horse before so I had to learn from scratch and really bank time in the saddle before we started the film, but the one thing I was never afraid of was falling off. I really trusted this horse. He was called “The Mountain Goat” because he was incredibly stable over rocky terrain, so I was very well taken care of.
Can you talk about shooting in Scotland? It’s so beautiful up there but cold.
Oh, incredibly cold. I mean, yes, it is beautiful and it is the backdrop of the film; I think it’s a very integral character in the movie and to the telling of that adventure. It does present its difficulties: we were in some very remote places; Kevin MacDonald (director) really wanted to push the envelope of experiencing the frontier, the unknown world. So it was difficult, technically difficult: some of tents blew into the sea, some vehicles overturned, the horses were slipping and sliding on the hills and stuff, so it was demanding but I think that kind of stuff informs the film and informs your performance.
“The Eagle” is on DVD and Blu-ray Thursday
WIN! “The Eagle” on DVD!
To celebrate the release of “The Eagle” on DVD and Blu-ray, Universal Home Entertainment are giving 5 lucky readers the chance to win their own DVD Copy. In 2nd-Century Britain, two men – master and slave – venture beyond the edge of the known world on a dangerous and obsessive quest that will push them beyond the boundaries of loyalty and betrayal, friendship and hatred, deceit and heroism…The Roman epic adventure The Eagle is directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by Duncan Kenworthy. Jeremy Brock has adapted the scr eenplay from Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth. In 140 AD, the Roman Empire extends all the way to Britain – though its grasp is incomplete, as the rebellious tribes of Caledonia (today’s Scotland) hold sway in the far North. Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives in Britain, determined to restore the tarnished reputation of his father, Flavius Aquila. It was 20 years earlier that Rome’s 5,000-strong Ninth Legion, under the command of Flavius and carrying their golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth, marched north into Caledonia. They never returned; Legion and Eagle simply vanished into the mists. Angered, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a wall to seal off the territory; Hadrian’s Wall became the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire – the edge of the known world.
Driven to become a brilliant soldier and now given command of a small fort in the southwest, Marcus bravely leads his troops during a siege. Commended by Rome for his bravery, yet discharged from the army because of his severe wounds, Marcus convalesces, demoralized, in the villa of his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland), a retired army man. When Marcus impulsively gets a young Briton’s life spared at a gladiatorial contest, Aquila buys the Briton, Esca (Jamie Bell), to be Marcus’ slave. Marcus is dismissive of Esca, who harbors a seething hatred of all things Roman. Yet Esca vows to serve the man who has saved his life.
Hearing a rumor that the Eagle has been seen in a tribal temple in the far north, Marcus is galvanized into action, and sets off with Esca across Hadrian’s Wall. But the highlands of Caledonia are a vast and savage wilderness, and Marcus must rely on his slave to navigate the region. When they encounter ex-Roman soldier Guern (Mark Strong), Marcus realizes that the mystery of his father’s disappearance may well be linked to the secret of his own slave’s identity and loyalty – a secret all the more pressing when the two come face-to-face with the warriors of the fearsome Seal Prince (Tahar Rahim).
How to Win : Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying that you’ve joined our Facebook page and tell us who Channing Tatum is married to.
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Zedd - If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy? (Well, answer my question!)
Arrow (Okay, Felicity from Arrow!)
Chrissy Costanza (cat eyes and buttery lyrics!)
Girls (TV) (Okay, Allison Williams!)
Movies - especially when they play in the dark.
Twin Peaks (TV)
Friends (TV) (It had me at "No way are you cool enough to pull Clint"; damn straight, Chandler!)
Traveling - preferably where water is, so I can splash someone!
Star Wars trilogy - no, the other one, fella!
Alex G - far more talented than her younger brother Alex H
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The sign 'Free Wi-Fi'.
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Die Hard - 40 stories of Sheer Adventure!
Alex Goot & Friends (his enemies aren't half as talented!)
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Inflatable kids pools full of Vodka Lime Crush.
Acidic Email from angry, over passionate teenagers after I trash something "Twilight"-related on the site. Sparkle elsewhere.
My baby girl's big, caring heart.