When you see Jamie Bell in this summer'sFantastic Four, he’ll be that great hulking thing—called the Thing—covered head to toe in rock-like material and towering over the other cast members at 6'8". It’s quite a look for Bell, 29, who arrives for breakfast in New York looking slim, sharp-featured, and lively, though he confesses he’s still recovering from the celeb-studded Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute gala two nights prior. “I feel like I’ve aged since I’ve been here,” he says with a groan.
It may seem odd to watch Bell, who pirouetted to fame in the critically acclaimed film Billy Elliot, lumbering and smashing his way through one of the Marvel blockbuster tent poles of the summer. Then again, we never thought we’d see little Billy whipping a bottomless Charlotte Gainsbourg with a cat-o’-nine-tails while she lay strapped to a couch in his sex dungeon, as he did in Lars von Trier’s 2013 art-house flickNymphomaniac: Volume II. But Bell has never let typecasting get in his way: “Luckily, there aren’t that many films about guy dancers, besides Magic Mike and Step Up,” he jokes.
Though Bell was thrust into the spotlight at an early age, he has neither crashed nor burned, and he seems uniquely immune to the trappings of Hollywood. He doesn’t watch TV (despite having the lead role in AMC’s Revolutionary War drama Turn: Washington Spies), opting instead to devour political nonfiction books and documentaries. And he’s the father of a two-year-old son with ex Evan Rachel Wood. As for his occasional forays into the limelight, like the glitzy Met gala, which found him suited up in Theory, “I always think I’m just gonna stand in a corner by myself.”
Modest and self-effacing as Bell can be, he’ll project a more aggressive demeanor when the film hits screens on August 7. After all, as the Thing might say, “It’s clobberin’ time!”
Photos by Photographed by Thomas Goldblum