Charisma, Charm And Acting Ability

001024 earlyshow jamie bell
There's already plenty of Oscar buzz surrounding the new British film Billy Elliot, which has been called one of the best British films in years.

It's the story of an 11-year-old miner's son who wants to be a ballet dancer, but must hide his dancing lessons from his father.

The star of the film is 14-year-old Jamie Bell. The director, Stephen Daldry, chose him out of 2,000 boys who auditioned for the lead role. Daldry has said he needed a boy who could not only dance but who had charisma, charm and acting ability.

Bell, who has been dancing since he was six, endured about seven auditions and then a tough two weeks of choreography and rehearsals in a run-off with another boy.

The audition process was "a hard time" said Bell.

Billy Elliot opened in England two weeks ago and broke records for a British film. It's already brought in over $4.2 million, which is how much the film cost to make.

The film is set in 1984 during a miner's strike. Billy's father sends the boy to take boxing lessons and is later embarrassed to find out that his son is taking dancing lessons instead.

In real life, Jamie, who comes from a single-parent family, used to watch his older sister take ballet lessons.

"When I was little, I used to get dragged to here and there, following her," said Bell. "I got dragged to this one competition and saw this girl dancing on the stage and she wasn't dancing in time to the music, and I could tell. And I turned to my mum and said, 'I could do better.' She said, 'Well, fine. I'll get you a pair of tap shoes...'"

His mother agreed to let him take lessons.

"Dancing has been in my family for ages. My nana and my mum and my auntie danced," he explained.

During and after filming, Daldry took Bell under his wing.

When asked what he learned from Daldry, Bell said he has the same sort of relationship with the director that Billy had with his dance teacher in the film.

"It was his debut feature, so we were learning together," said Bell. "I told him things I found out in the day and he'd tell me things he found out. It was very interesting because we were both finding out together, which was great."

When Bell started school again after he'd finished shooting, his classmates wanted his autograph.

"You know you're a big star when old ladies stop the car in the street and ask for your autograph," said Bell.