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Getting to know Jack: 5 Questions for Jack O’Connell of ’71

The best way to describe Jack O’Connell is committed. The interview with the soon to be stratospheric actor, winner of the BAFTA Rising Star award left us dazed. It was like we had just stepped into the ring for twelve rounds with the heavily accented O’Connell. Instead, we talked to him for twelve minutes, and have rarely been as humbled by the end of the interview.

The brutally honest O’Connell was exceptionally praiseworthy of ’71, which is a great sign for moviegoers on the fence about seeing it. Though the film is harrowing, when a star, and soon to be megastar like O’Connell is so forceful in its defense, it is definitely a memorable one.

What were the circumstances with getting set up for ’71?

Two weeks after we wrapped Starred Up, we were on set with ’71. If I had it my way, I’d have a more 70’s haircut. I was very keen to get into that era and the main area to distinguish myself from Eric for Gary was with music, and understanding what it was like to be born in 1950, probably sat up a lot straighter than I am and often get some form of guidance. I really benefitted from Yann (Demange’s) direction. He made sure that I didn’t use any Eric for Gary.

What was the atmosphere on set like?

I once heard that a pleasant experience shooting doesn’t guarantee anything in the edit suite, and in my experience, it’s been the polar opposite. In that, it has to hurt. The reason that I feel settled about ’71, that I did Starred Up, and that I am doing about Unbroken us because I can with total honesty say that I hurt. It’s something that I’m looking forward to doing again quite absurdly, but on set you get support, but ’71 was so under-budgeted that everyone had their own strife, their own difficulties. There wasn’t a lot there to make my life any easier.

Do you take that with you?

It hardens me. It’s something I’ve experience before, and I’m capable of enjoying. So yeah, it all has to contribute. Otherwise it’s going to hammer me into the ground.

But as you say, it’s all a hardening process. If it means I’m going to be back here, promoting films that are being responded, that people are responding to, that’s why we do it. Do I feel it? Sure. But we gave 110% so I can sit here and say all that is validated.

Do you think that ’71 has modern themes?

Hopefully, yeah. I mean, I think we’ve got a universal story on our hands. Unfortunately, conflict is relevant everywhere. So I do hope that puts it in the timeless category to appreciate it that way.

What is very humbling is to come out and see a cinema appreciative organization like this (TIFF), and see it get the approval it deserves. You know, a film this might fall on deaf ears, if it wasn’t for responses it would receive from cinema lovers who know the difference. I feel a great sense of gratitude to people like yourselves.

’71 opens in select theatres on Friday. It is an Elevation Pictures release.