“It’s probably just because I wear tight jeans,” laughs 23-year-old actor Jamie Blackley when asked why the world of rock ‘n’ roll has become such a recurrent theme in his evolving body of work. He could hardly be immodest enough to go into detail. With dark, inquisitive eyes framed by thick slugs of ’brows, he has the ability to switch his look at will between teen heartthrob and wiry rock star, while his performances exude an almost nervy sense of offbeat charisma. Such roles are a perfect fit.
Born on the Isle of Man, Blackley gravitated towards acting as a child. As a teen, the likes of Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix became inspirational figures, and Christopher Nolan was an obvious but engaging choice for a favourite director. The defining film of his teen years was Anton Corbijn’s Ian Curtis biopic Control. “It was such a big film for me. It was a big thrill because I was such a massive fan of Joy Division. Sam Riley was someone I really looked at and thought, ‘I’d love to do as good a job as that.’”
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I get really starstruck, really easily…
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Blackley’s first tentative steps into professional acting were on stage, with rock musical Spring Awakenings followed by a role as George Harrison in a production of Backbeat. “He was always the coolest Beatle, wasn’t he?” he questions, evidently aware of the innate controversy of ranking your fabbest of the four. “I put pressure on myself because it was George Harrison.”
His cinematic roles have subsequently evolved step-by-step. There have been small parts in the likes of Snow White And The Huntsman (interestingly, he mentions Charlize Theron rather than Kristen Stewart as the first of that film’s collection of “amazing names”) and WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate (which he used as a chance to learn by observing Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl).
His lead roles to date have tended to be in films which haven’t troubled the box office or end-of-year lists, but he was easily the greatest attribute of Inbetweeners-meets-Trainspotting comedy We Are The Freaks as well as Vinyl, a comedy based loosely on a prank by ’80s Welsh band The Alarm to get back into the charts. The altogether darker Uwantme2killhim?, scored by Jon Hopkins, fared better as Blackley and co-lead Toby Regbo shared the Edinburgh Film Festival’s award for Best Performance in a British Film.
“It was something that neither of us was expecting, and to be honest, I don’t even know if we knew that there was an award,” he recalls, noting that the plaque is on display at his parents’ house. “I don’t know if it opened loads of doors for me, but it was really cool that we could share it together because we had such a great time on that job.”
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If I Stay, trailer
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Blackley’s next few roles, however, should certainly accelerate his fortunes. This month’s If I Stay sees him cast as Adam, the rebellious rocker boyfriend of Chloë Grace Moretz’s teenage cellist Mia in an adaptation of Gayle Forman’s young adult novel. It’s a “different young adult novel” he argues. “It’s not set in a dystopian future in which everyone is killing everyone, it feels like a pretty truthful story about love and loss and everything in between.”
The arc of working with someone of Moretz’s level of fame was an unusual experience. “It’s really strange and really nerve-racking because she’s someone you see on TV all of the time, and I get really starstruck, really easily,” he explains, before correcting himself. “Not like that, but I get very anxious about the whole thing. Then it works out, and you’re right, she became just like any other person. She’s great.”
The huge attention that Moretz attracts was new to Blackley and their work together inspired somewhat creepy headlines such as “Chloe Moretz, 16, gets kiss from her hot co-star Jamie Blackley, 22, while filming love story.” But, he admits, she dealt with it well.
If I Stay heralded a change in Blackley’s fortunes. “I was going through a period where I couldn’t get a job for the life of me,” is his summary of the time. His confidence had slipped to the point where he didn’t even bother to reply to a request to film an audition (“like an idiot!”) because he thought his chances of getting the role were so slim. Eventually he was persuaded when the casting director visited London, which soon resulted in him travelling to Los Angeles to test with Moretz before he eventually secured the part itself.
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[Working with Woody Allen is] something that I never thought in a million years I’d ever be speaking about…
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If I Stay will be followed by Kids In Love, a coming-of-age story that features Will Poulter and Cara Delevingne – the latter of whom he’s tight-lipped on, in part because he didn’t have any direct scenes with her. People are excited about seeing her step in to the world of acting. “I bet they are!” is pretty much all he’ll say.
Best of all is a key part in Woody Allen’s as-yet-untitled film, which also features Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, and is likely to be released next year. Blackley’s involvement was confirmed shortly before this interview took place. “All I can say is that I’m very excited to start doing that – it’s something that I never thought in a million years that I’d ever be speaking about. It’s all a bit of a blur at the moment.”
Has he met Woody yet?
“I met him once, one time,” he declares, almost over-emphasising his eagerness to keep any further information under wraps. Nonetheless, he picks Blue Jasmine as a personal favourite. Together with Midnight In Paris, Woody Allen has been on especially good form in recent years.
“He really, really has,” concurs Blackley. “And let’s hope it continues!”
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Words: Ben Hopkins
Photography: Liam MF Warwick
Fashion: Gary Armstrong
Full fashion credits available in issue 97 of Clash magazine, where this article also appears. If I Stay is in cinemas from August 29th.