See today's short L.A. Times piece about young British actor, Jamie Campbell Bower -- currently riding the Young Hollywood publicity machine with uncommon verve. With a role in Tim Burton's forthcoming film version of the Sondheim musical, starring Johnny Depp, Bower sings and acts with the kind of talent most young Hollywood actors can't imagine. And in the course of reporting a larger story about the production of the film, I happened to catch a quick breakfast with the guy. The film, as I'm learning, was really a culmination of passions for many important people, even if it just looks like a Christmas-release horror-entertainment. And it certainly deals with material that more mainstream moviegoers would love if only they knew Sondheim. But I'll leave my commentary there. The big story runs in December. Click for more to read today's piece in text form below.
A young actor makes the cut for "Sweeney Todd"
Jamie Campbell Bower, a lad of 18, savors his high-profile role opposite Johnny Depp's dangerous, razor-wielding barber.
By Adam Baer
Special to The Times
November 4, 2007
IT'S 10 a.m. on a September weekday and Jamie Campbell Bower, all of 18 and straight from London by way of the Teen Vogue Young Hollywood party the night before, has just emerged from the back of an SUV outside a Los Feliz cafe. Â¶ Wearing a shoulder-exposing sailor's shirt, skinny red pants tucked into black boots, Wayfarers, an anchor tattoo on his arm and a retro cap, the lanky blond actor -- already beloved by the CosmoGirl set -- is ready for yet another in a long line of media meet-and-greets. Â¶ Bower's in town to promote his film debut, not in some small indie as befits many a fledgling career, but as Anthony Hope in Tim Burton's Christmas-release film version of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Sweeney Todd," starring Johnny Depp. Â¶ After some coffee and a blah review of the previous night's Marc Jacobs fashion show, the witty up-and-comer fields questions about having had a viable chance to meet Lauren Conrad, the American reality show queen of MTV's "The Hills." "I didn't see her," he says. "Which is a shame, because I would have jumped on her." Then he descends into a tale about an Olsen twin, alcohol and the Hamptons. It's not so bad in L.A., he says.
By his own description, Bower, who speaks in youth-filled anecdotal bursts, thrives on collaboration and the spotlight. "I always was a performer," he says. "When I was bored or when I wasn't getting attention, I'd pull down my pants and it still works." But Bower also acted heavily in his London high school and joined both the National Youth Theatre and Youth Music Theatre, touring England with an adaptation of "A Midsummer's Night Dream." "That's when it hit me that I wanted to do this professionally," he says, gesturing excitedly. "And films are a lot more challenging than theater. The acting's much more internal. Whereas on stage it's, like, all 'jazz hands.' "
"Sweeney Todd," Sondheim's morally and harmonically dense thriller about the murderous "demon barber of Fleet Street," offers a tailored fit for the posh-accented Londoner, who spent his childhood singing concert music. "It's not 'Chicago,' and it's not 'High School Musical,' " he says. "I think it's just a complete one-off." And Bower knew the score, unlike some American students, whose high school music programs might consider "Rent" a stretch.
"Tim helped a lot and is a very relaxed director," Bower says, "though I was terribly nervous -- and Johnny was great too. On the first day of shooting, I was standing with him on a boat in the middle of the studio. And I'm like, 'Is this actually happening? Am I here?' Now, Johnny can tell I'm a wreck. I'm shaking while there's this huge fan blowing our hair wild. But then he leans over and says, 'Jamie, that's our biggest fan.' It was a great way to break the tension."
Bower, who went out for the film with an agent he found through a family friend and actress -- Laura Michelle Kelly, who appears in the movie as well -- might already claim fluency with terms like "AD" (assistant director), CGI (computer-generated imagery) and PA (production assistant). "But this is my first proper film thing," he says. "And when I finished it, there was nothing to really top it. So I went back to work for the BBC [on a soap opera] and just wondered when the next big thing like this would happen again."
According to the film's Oscar-winning producer, Richard Zanuck, Bower's the complete package. "He's so young and highly qualified," Zanuck said recently on the Warner Bros. lot. "And we auditioned a lot of actors for his role."
For now, the fashion-loving actor admits excitement about the prospect of appearing in the next Harry Potter film -- or so he says in October's Teen Vogue. And he's taking meetings. Before heading west, he stopped in Manhattan for a chat with GQ, and he has an Elle photo shoot on the horizon.
It's good to debut on-screen with Johnny Depp in front of Tim Burton's camera. "It was an insane thing to do," he adds before thanking his visitor for taking the time to meet him and heading back into the young-Hollywood publicity machine. "It's not like anything that's been done before, and I can't believe I'm a part of it."