Jack O'Connell wasn't intimidated by his 'Money Monster' co-star George Clooney

There aren't many young actors who wouldn't be intimidated by costarring in a film with George Clooney and Julia Roberts and directed by Jodie Foster.

Except maybe for one who's just finished working with Angelina Jolie.

When Jack O'Connell put himself on tape for Foster's financial thriller "Money Monster," he'd recently completed filming Jolie's WWII movie "Unbroken." The British actor was the lead in the 2014 film about Louis Zamperini, an Olympian who was captured as a prisoner of war. And after the movie came out, O'Connell found himself bombarded by questions about Jolie.

"The one I can't really hack is, 'What's it like to be with said famous person?' because I'm not sure what that is as a question. It's not very specific," the actor recalled by phone from London. "But that movie did help me promote myself in the States with work that I'm genuinely proud of."

His pedigree impressed Foster, who said she auditioned hundreds of twentysomethings to act alongside Clooney and Roberts. She was looking to fill the part of Kyle Budwell, a blue-collar worker who takes financial advice from a popular television personality named Lee Gates (Clooney). When one of the TV host's stock picks turns out to be a bust, Kyle loses $60,000 and, in a rage, he turns up on Gates' set with a gun to take the production hostage.

"At first, I was concerned Jack might be too young," Foster said of the actor, now 25. "But he has a face that's lived and this amazing combination of someone who can be threatening and primitive but is also really lovable."

"Money Monster" — which will debut at the Cannes Film Festival next month before it hits theaters on May 13 — marks the first film O'Connell has made in the United States. To prepare himself for the role, he spent time in Brooklyn, hanging out with firemen, riding on their truck and listening to their strong accents. He spent less time researching the stock market, which he said he has never dabbled in on his personal time.

"This was a guy who was promised some version of an American dream and the pot of gold, and he doesn't get that," said O'Connell. "There were certain crew members, including Jodie, who were rooting for Kyle and believed in his situation. That helped me to understand his reasoning."

On set, Foster said, Clooney took O'Connell "under his wing." "I don't think Jack is impressed particularly by movie stars," the filmmaker noted. "But George has a lot to impart to somebody like him, and Jack was open to listening."

So what advice did Clooney offer to his young costar? O'Connell wouldn't reveal any secret nuggets of wisdom but said he took the most away from learning that the 54-year-old still wrestles with insecurities at work.

"When you see an actor like George Clooney making the same mistakes that you do and asking the same questions you might ask," said O'Connell, "it's very reassuring to know that you don't stand out as being difficult."

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

Twitter: @AmyKinLA

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A version of this article appeared in print on May 01, 2016, in the Arts + Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "O'Connell: Star amid megastars - CELEBRITIES" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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