Rising British star Jack O'Connell has been on a roll lately, landing lead roles in high-profile dramas directed by Angelina Jolie (Unbroken) and Jodie Foster (Money Monster).
He didn’t have as much luck going out for the role of a young Han Solo in Disney/Lucasfilm’s upcoming Star Wars anthology story, and he expressed some clear discontent about the experience yesterday while promoting Money Monster in Los Angeles.
“I love the process of auditioning, even the rejections,” O'Connell, 25, told Yahoo Movies a couple hours before it was announced that Hail, Caesar! breakout Alden Ehrenreich had been cast to play the iconic antihero. “It will refine you and make you stronger as an actor. Or sometimes it can be so tediously frustrating that it exhausts you as an actor. I think that applied throughout this process.
"It didn’t go my way. I wish them all the best of luck. But I don’t know I necessarily agree with the reasons given.”
It was first reported in January that there were about a dozen young actors in the running for the highly sought-after gig, with the shortlist including names like Miles Teller, Dave Franco, Taron Egerton, Ansel Elgort, Jack Reynor, and Logan Lerman. In March that list was reportedly whittled to three — Reynor, Egerton, and Ehrenreich, though Variety reporter Justin Kroll tweeted that O'Connell and Blake Jenner were also still in contention to land the lead in the 2018 film, about the early days of the scoundrel made famous by Harrison Ford in 1977’s Star Wars and helmed by 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miler.
O’Connell with George Clooney in ‘Money Monster’ (Sony)
O'Connell confirmed to us that he auditioned — once — and that was part of the problem in his eyes. “The most frustrating thing is when you feel like your full potential hasn’t been recognized,” he said. “Or, the imagination required for your potential to be recognized, isn’t necessarily there. And it’s very hard to convey all these things in one audition. But that’s the process, and I don’t think one individual will change that.”
It was only one audition, but the experience was nonetheless grueling, O'Connell explained. “That process kind of contributes to the overall exhaustion that you have to face as an actor. It’s part and parcel of the job, and the roles that are worth getting are the ones that you’ve got to fight for. As the way I see it, it’s only so often that you’re given a role that you’ve always wanted to play.”
As O'Connell admitted even before the Ehrenreich news was announced, “That ship sailed.” But the actor probably won’t have to worry about too much more disappointment along the way. After two highly acclaimed performances in the war films ‘71 and Unbroken, O'Connell will undoubtedly earn more praise and attention for his role in Money Monster. The Brit nails the outer-boroughs New York accent as Kyle Budwell, a blue-collar man who takes a financial talk show host (George Clooney) hostage after a bad stock tip decimates his life savings. And in a raw and intense performance, he pretty much steals the movie from not his Oscar-winning co-stars Clooney and Julia Roberts.
Money Monster opens May 13. Look for our full Q&A with Jack O’Connell next week.