Jack O’Connell won over Jodie Foster to be in Money Monster
RISING talent Jack O'Connell finds himself sandwiched between two colossal actors in Jodie Foster's new thriller Money Monster.
The 25-year-old Brit stars opposite Oscar winners George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the crime drama about an angry blue-collar worker who takes a financial TV host, Lee Gates, hostage after losing his life savings because of the so-called stock guru's dodgy advice.
O'Connell auditioned for the role via Skype just a few weeks after he finished shooting Angelina Jolie's wartime epic Unbroken in Australia.
Despite Foster not wanting someone "young or British'' to play the character of truck driver Kyle Budwell, she admitted in a recent interview that his performance blew her away.
"It was a bit of an event (auditioning for Jodie Foster); you try not to think about it at the time," O'Connell tells Weekend.
"My secret weapon was that my dialect coach was working off camera with me."
O'Connell says working with Foster, herself a two-time Oscar winner, was inspiring.
"I'm proud to know her and proud to have that insight into the way she works and directs," he says.
"You get room to manoeuvre. A lot of the time she wouldn't intervene at all. She would trust that me and George have got it.
"But there were times when, if that wasn't the case, she'd come and speak to me one-on-one and demonstrate the emotion (she wanted) without words. She'd put herself in it enough for me to believe it.
"It helped me to get there myself with Kyle. That's never worked for me before but with Jodie it did."
O'Connell shadowed a crew of New York firefighters to perfect his character's accent.
"I was trying to hone in on the Queens accent, even to a particular street or area," he says.
"The firefighters let us hang out with them in the station and one time I went out in the truck. I was more or less a firefighter for one day (laughs). Obviously I had to do it for free for tax reasons."
At the film's recent premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, critics praised O'Connell for conveying the intense anger behind Budwell's desperate actions.
He had some confronting methods for getting amped up for particularly tense scenes.
"I'd just walk around screaming a bit, when it was necessary, and I'd say some pretty aggressive things - that was mainly for energy," he says.
"There are a lot of strangers there (on set), so you hope you don't seem like a psychopath."
As the hostage crisis unfolds on live TV, O'Connell and Clooney's characters find some empathy for one another. The audience does too, as Clooney's bombastic Gates lets his guard down to help Budwell uncover the truth behind a tangle of big money lies.
"I began with originally not liking Lee's character, and then by the end you do. He's well played by George," O'Connell says.
Money Monster's main drawback, according to overseas critics, is that it too neatly sums up the very timely issue of corporate greed in a scenario where one man (Dominic West as Walt Camby) is the bad apple.
Things aren't that simple, as recent awards favourite The Big Short attempted to explain. But if you're after a more conventional hostage thriller then there's plenty of entertainment value to be found in Money Monster.