Jamie Campbell Bower
Fashion shoots are by definition concerned with the surface of things. Styles precisely timed for release and executed on the day to coincide with the seasons and to capitalize to the fullest on the actor’s upcoming projects. It’s a synecdoche of opportunity and effort, scored by a frenetic pace that leaves the images oftentimes errant to the day’s experiences. This begs mention because much like how we perceive editorials far removed from their inception and maturity, Jamie Campbell Bower’s images and body of work only goes so far toward illustrating a composite character. Conversation concerning his career provides little parallel to the aroma of ordered activity ordaining the day’s shoot. Jamie explains at length about the laissez-faire approach to fate and opportunity, while transversely revealing himself as an artist fully aware of the artistic responsibilities at hand. Questions of the past are met with a balanced and introspective perception, the present with a wide-eyed regard for that which yields such circumstance, and the future with open and anticipatory arms. Sifting between all three periods, Jamie delves into the circumstances of his definitive years, and the prospects of those yet to come.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in any sort of capacity.” Jamie reflects when posited about his adolescent inclinations. “I wanted to do music or drama in any way. In any sort of capacity.” The background of his career established itself innocuously in his youth as a broad albeit deep interest with art in general: music, theatre, and acting. His expansive interest eventually took him to the forefront of the industry, getting his break with a turn in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd that was the catalyst for his steady rise to prominence. Acting in the context of films, like music or theatre was as natural a direction as anything else. A connection reared through the cathartic virtue that comes secondhand. “My connection to acting is like therapy. You know when you feel that you want to say something and you can’t get it out? Or you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re feeling? Acting for me is embracing all those things I want to say and saying them in someone else’s words but making them true to how I’m feeling. It’s incredibly therapeutic. At the end of the day of shooting when I come home and its been an emotional day, I get into bed and I laugh because its like there’s this weight that’s lifted.” Upon getting his break in Sweeney Todd he followed up with supporting appearances in two of the seminal franchises of the 21st century, the pillars of fantasy literature and film: Twilight and Harry Potter. Now, starring in The Mortal Instruments series as Jace Wayland, he finds himself in a far more prominent position within the framework of another potential franchise.
Discussing the common thread throughout his career: projects, characters; Jamie surmises, “I only really want to take projects that I’m super psyched about because otherwise you just get bored. I have to find out what exactly speaks to me in each character and I have to find out what it is that draws me to that and what I really want to get out of it and what I want to display. And that’s what I love about work and the characters I play, I find they just get under my skin all of a sudden. For instance, with Jace, he can be quite sarcastic and he can be quite funny but there’s also a vulnerability and a darkness, and I embraced the darkness more because I felt like it showed his vulnerability more. I suppose to every character there’s always been a bit of a vulnerability to them, there’s always been a sort of otherworldly quality in a weird way, and I find that quite interesting, an inner depth to them.”
Jamie’s own inner depths are best capitulated through the conversations regarding his philosophies about his career. Rather than a personal life guided and defined by the template of a professional one, Jamie’s motivations are clearly dictated by the amorphousness of his life’s philosophy. “What I do is fly by the seat of my pants. A spontaneity. I think a lot of people try and work all the time just for the sake of working, and I don’t want to work just for the sake of working. I want to work because I want to work and it’s a good project, and because it inspires me to do things. I mean as far as I’m concerned if I can continue to do this for the rest of my life that’s great-- but it may not be the case. I mean you never know. I could fall out of love with it, something could come along and completely change my life and I could move to India and be a fucking- I dunno. Having a template for your life limits you, or would limit me. I mean its funny because on a strictly ground level basis I suppose, after I did Sweeney Todd, I hadn’t done anything else, and I hadn’t put any money aside for the tax man, and my dad goes ‘Jamie, you’ve got a tax bill coming up have you got any money put aside?’ And I hadn’t, I’d spent all my money because you know you’re a kid, and I was like, ‘You know what dad? Something will come along,’ and he was like ‘You’re a moron,’ and I was like ‘No something will come along.’ And it did, something always does. Life goes on, something always happens and if you’re more open to that, then I find more opportunities come your way. Life is so chaotic.”
The thematic thread throughout much of Jamie’s observations about life and its chaos, about his past and present, is one of ambiguity and wonderment. Ambiguity in that he is anchored by the knowledge of how fast things can change, not simply as an actor shifting from a supporting role such as his brief turns in the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises to the shift as a leading figure in a potential one of his own, but as loaded and corny as it may sound, as a human being. It must be said that despite the trite-like timbre of these sentiments when punctuated through the polished gloss of print and paper they are victim to a dulling effect rendered hollow when remote from Jamie’s diction and enthusiasm. The wonderment, or rather, a kind of bewilderment with his position in the industry is evident from his bemusement in the very act of being the subject of an interview or photo shoot, or the focus of a film. “It sounds really fucking wanky and up its own ass but its true. I still find it shocking and hilarious to be paid to be dressed up in clothes that aren’t mine and that I’m told where to stand every day. I love it but it’s such a mind trip. And it's hilarious that anyone even wants to talk to me in a weird way because in my mind I’m just a 24-year-old kid from London, that’s what I am, that is really what I am. The fact that somebody is really interested in what I have to say, or wants to put in a magazine is mind-boggling.”
Sitting on the curb, proficiently rolling a cigarette, he reflects on his past conceptions of success, “I never really imagined a level of success I suppose. I wasn’t expecting success in any way shape or form, and to even think about entertaining the notion of if I am possibly successful now is kind of a scary thought for me. Its funny I always think about this, but occasionally as a person and as an actor as you progress in an industry you can occasionally forget what you originally started doing this for, and I have to remind myself I would have been happy being fourth chorus boy on stage in the West End. I’m so grateful and so lucky to be in the position I am now and I have to keep reminding myself that. In my eyes as long as I can do one or two jobs a year be an artist and survive off of being an artist that’s success. That’s all I really want to do.”
At this stage of his career-- of his life, Jamie is on the forefront of an indelible period. With an ever-growing and progressively more prominent body of work that looks to carry its momentum into the following year with The Mortal Instruments set for release and its second installment already in the pre-production stages, the anarchic quality that he attributed to life will most assuredly hold true. Confronting the loaded idea of success, and finding it fulfilled in the context of Jamie’s own modest projections, as well as to those with a grander design of the concept, the question beckons instead as to how it will impact the individuality that contributes so critically to the craft. The films through which he defines himself as an artist, and the photo shoots and interviews that still maintain a sense of novelty will inevitably become a fixture of his life and his profession. By virtue of that success and fame, it goes without saying that Jamie’s personal life, his outlook, will be inevitably shaped by the trajectory of his career. Returning to the notion of surfaces, of depths, it’s interesting to contemplate how the projected images of him that will undoubtedly continue on-screen and in print will match or mask the development of his own character. How much and how willingly his personal life and outlook will run oppositional or parallel to his professional one. Whether he lives a life inspired by, or in spite of the obligations that his exposure provokes. What requires no contemplation or theorization, however, is the intrigue that Jamie Campbell Bower poses, as the actor, or simply as the 24-year-old kid from London. Who once upon a time would have been content in the chorus but now finds himself under the spotlight, propelled by the chaos of life’s circumstances and the talents that have yielded them.
Photography: Matthew Brookes
Styling: Steven Westgarth
Text: Paul Craig
Stylist: Steven Westgarth C/O Caitlin Curran @ D&V Management
Grooming: Soichi Inagaki – C/O Unti-Tled Artists London Using Bumble & Bumble
Photographer Assistant: Marlene Boulad
Stylist Assistant: Safiya Yekwai
Digi-Op: Hazel Gaskin C/O Erik Winterstam (Artmedia)
Videographer: Joseph Connor
Producer: Seona Taylor-Bell Location 33 Portland Place,
Special Thanks: Alex At Gem Locations
Donna Mills And Emma Scott At Premier And Pixi Pixel