Jack O'Connell left school with two GCSEs and has gone on to become Britain's most promising new dramatic talent by picking up the EE Rising Star award at Sunday night's Baftas. Just how did he do it?
O'Connell grew up in the Midlands city with his parents. His father was Irish and worked on the railways and his mum worked for airline British Midland. He described his comprehensive school as "brutal" and "rough as f**k" and, aged 12, he was sent to boxing and army cadets. O'Connell wanted to be a professional footballer, but a knee injury aged 16 killed that dream.
O'Connell got two GCSEs - a C in English and a B in drama - and left school aged 16. He told the Guardian that starring in 2014 prison drama in Starred Up wasn't "much of a stretch". Talking of how he nearly ended up with a jail term, O'Connell said: "When I was younger, I got into a lot of trouble and was made to feel guilty for a long time. I was in and out of court, and then I had a young offender’s referral order for a year.
"And that was at the time when I was trying to be an actor at the Royal Court," O'Connell added. "I was in real court the day I was starting a play called Scarborough at the Royal Court in London – waiting to find out if I was getting a custodial sentence."
He didn't get a sentence and said that the alleged crime, which he hasn't discussed in detail, was for "defence purposes".
Baftas 2015 red carpet
Baftas 2015 red carpet
1/21 Amy Adams in Lanvin
Icy white with a touch of sparkle, this is a slick look from best actress nominee Amy Adams. From the bright white colour and the column silhouette to the sleek hairdo, Amy has nailed this look. The only exception is the tied-up belt which detract somewhat from the overall effect.
2/21 Julianne Moore in Tom Ford
Julianne Moore's Givenchy haute couture gown at the Golden Globes is still our favourite look of awards season so far, however she is not far behind in this plunging neckline Tom Ford number. All the drama of an award season gown in fiery red with the addition of a good dose of sex appeal thanks to the daring neckline.
3/21 Rosamund Pike in Roland Mouret
Considering some of Rosamund Pike’s previous choices this awards season, this gown by Roland Mouret is well a little dull. The form fitting black halter neck dress is a classic look but won’t be winning any awards in the innovation department.
4/21 Patricia Arquette in Pamella Roland
Nominee Patricia Arquette has been a consistent appearance on best dressed lists. This plum red number is another great look, we are particularly fond of the Patricia’s choice of a quiff updo that gives the look a more modern feel.
Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
5/21 Alice Eve in Schiaparelli
Fans of Alice Eve may remember the flame dress the actress opted to wear to the 2013 BAFTAs. Unlike that, this black number was a rather safe choice; the only slight reprieve comes with the thigh high split, otherwise the dress and pulled back hair is rather ageing on Alice.
David M. Benett/Getty Images
6/21 Olivia Grant in Jenny Packham
We do feel for Olivia Grant who looks positively frozen in her slinky beaded gown by Jenny Packham. A striking look no doubt, if a little daring in the middle of a freezing cold February.
7/21 Kristin Scott Thomas in vintage Balmain
The actress showed off her veteran red carpet status in a vintage design by Balmain. Kristin looks poised and stylish in this classic design artfully accessorised with whopping great diamond earrings.
8/21 Holliday Grainger in Antonio Beradi
Monochrome is the most timeless of all colour combinations so a faultless choice for Holliday Grainger whose black and white gown with plunging neckline has something of a vintage feel to it.
9/21 Dianna Agron in Lanvin
Glee star Dianna Agron opted for a red gown by Lanvin. The structural shapes on the bodice and wraparound skirt give it an extra edge that stops it becoming just another strapless dress.
10/21 Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Prada
British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw makes a very impressive BAFTA red carpet appearance in this lavender gown by Prada.
11/21 Lea Seydoux in Prada
Lea Seydoux provides a breath of fresh air in this show-stopping pleated gown by Prada. The capped sleeves and pleating are pretty editions whilst the cut-out sections on the midriff ensure it doesn't look old fashioned.
12/21 Felicity Jones in Dior haute couture
The young actress was lucky enough to wear this very special dress from the spring 2013 haute couture collection by Raf Simons for Christian Dior. The colour-block black and purple is a nice contrast from one-colour gowns and the flower embellishment is a pretty detail.
13/21 Reese Witherspoon in Stella McCartney
A real coup for designer Stella McCartney dressing one of the biggest stars of tonight's red carpets. Unfortunately, Reese’s purple number while nice in theory seems a little ahem ill-fitting shall we say on the bust area.
14/21 Keira Knightley in Giambattista Valli haute couture
It’s not easy to dress for formal occasions when you are expecting, however Keira Knightley has taken it in her stride with nothing less than a haute couture creation by Giambattista Valli. Extra points awarded for modern midi-length hemline and the leather jacket she arrived in.
15/21 Imelda Staunton in Vivienne Westwood
Whilst we have a lot of love for Imelda Staunton, we can’t quite extend that to her choice of dress for the evening. The ruffled green number in shiny satin bares quite the resemblance to an 80s prom dress, and not in a good way.
David M. Benett/Getty Images
16/21 Natalie Domer in Sophie Kah
Perhaps Natalie Dormer has been borrowing from the Game of Thrones’ costume department - it would go some way to explain the gloves she’s chosen to team with what is otherwise a perfectly lovely dress.
Ian Gavan/Getty Images
17/21 Laura Haddock in Ashlii Couture
Laura Haddock looks every inch the fairytale princess in this tulle layered gown. However pretty the dress is, it's undeniably slightly bridal.
18/21 Jenna Coleman in Rochas
The fabric may have an unfortunate likeness to curtains you might see at your Gran's, but the Rochas design complete with cut-out detail in the middle somehow still wins us over.
19/21 Monica Belluci in Alaia
The model and actress brought a large dose of Italian glamour to the ceremony in this simple but effortlessly stylish black dress by Alaia.
20/21 Kara Tointon in Julien Macdonald
It seems Kara Tointon is not yet ready to relinquish her Strictly Come Dancing crown, or at least this dress suggests she's clinging on to the costumes.
21/21 Laura Bailey in Emilia Wickstead
Brides-to-be looking for something modern take note of this Emilia Wickstead artfully modelled by Laura Bailey.
While his school might have been "rough", it sent him to the Television Workshop in Nottingham - a highly regarded institution that trains young people for stage and screen work. He won his first screen role on Doctors aged 15, then The Bill, This is England, and Skins.
Looking at Britain's upper-middle-class, Eton-and-Harrow dominated acting scene, O'Connell's rough, gutsy performances are a blessed relief. O'Connell's sheer lack of a cut-glass accent makes him a pretty thrilling addition to Britain's roster of talent.
He talks passionately about the edgier elements of film-making. Speaking to The Telegraph about Starred Up, he explained why shooting on-set in a prison meant so much to him. "Having access to this prison meant we could film sequentially. So however much [conditions filming in a real prison] took their toll, it was made up for by the fact that we could just let the story unfold."
Unlike so many young actors, O'Connell's not been bowled over by the novelty of his new-found fame. He moved to London in 2014, and says that a big night out for him is more likely to be down his local pub.
His friendship and working relationship with Angelina Jolie has undoubtedly given his career a leg-up. She cast him in the lead of World War Two drama Unbroken, in which he plays an athlete taken prisoner by the Japanese. Jolie described O'Connell as the "least Hollywood person I've ever met" and her seal of approval has brought him to a global audience.
O'Connell has said that her influence has been enormous. He said she "taught me a lot". He added: "The main thing I’ve taken from working with her is how genuinely selfless she is. That’s what I want to be. Being on call all day, every day – I feel really determined off the back of it. And I feel really fulfilled. Now I’ve got this sense of belonging. And thankfully I’ve been able to flirt with Hollywood a little bit without having to compromise at all."Reuse content