Jack O’Connell is a fan of New York but not so much Wall Street. He doesn’t mean all the greed monsters down there, though they don’t come off well in his new film, which is in fact called “Money Monster.” The English actor refers to how the combination of high traffic and the narrowing tail of the island can actually be dangerous when someone is in need of ambulances and firetrucks, which he noticed while filming down there.
“You’d see these emergency services forced to cut through the streets we blocked off, firetrucks taking a U-turn, having a nosy,” O’Connell says, dropping in some homeland slang. “It was slightly disturbing.”
“Money Monster” is O’Connell’s second big Hollywood movie, after a series of electric turns in movies back home. He scored raves as a rage machine in the prison drama “Starred Up.” The same goes for his more reserved, panicked performance as a soldier fighting to stay alive in the IRA thriller "'71.” The actor was promising enough that Angelina Jolie took a chance, casting the relative unknown as Olympiad-turned-POW Louis Zamperini in her hit biopic “Unbroken.”
That role — strong yet sensitive — is quite different from O’Connell’s early work, which saw him typecast as aggro delinquents, in films like “This Is England” (as a skinhead) and the show “Skins” (as keyed-up James Cook). Just as he’s been trying to stay well-behaved, following a youth spent being self-destructive on the off-hours, O’Connell is adamant about trying new things.
“My respect for actors comes when I see them really pushing themselves and performing out of their comfort zones,” O’Connell says. “I admire character actors. Speaking selfishly, I consider myself quite observant. Ideally I’d like to establish myself as someone who can be unique and change my strengths.”