British actor was already winning raves before being cast in Angelina Jolie‘s WWII drama about the life of the late Louis Zamperini
Before he becomes Louis Zamperini in
O’Connell plays Eric, a juvenile delinquent whose violent outbursts have the authorities “upgrading” him to the adult prison, where he’s in for a tense family reunion with his father (Ben Mendelsohn), also an inmate. Rupert Friend also stars as a concerned prison psychologist who tries to help Eric control his temper and turn his life around before he ends up like his dad.
O’Connell takes the film personally, having gone through his own youthful indiscretions. At one point, he couldn’t even get a visa to work in the U.S. “I really, really had to dig deep to get a second chance,” the actor told TheWrap. “I had to spend a lot of time doing drug tests and alcohol tests and even after doing that, I was denied once. It’s just been a case of letting my actions do the talking. I know I’m not a liability to myself, I’m not violent either. My life isn’t a struggle anymore.”
David Mackenzie directed “Starred Up,” which will be released first in New York City on August 29.