Jamie Bell on His Neo-Nazi in ‘Skin’ and How Trump’s ‘Send Her Back’ Rally Reminded Him of Nazi Germany
The actor opens up about his riveting turn as a tattooed neo-Nazi in “Skin,” why we should deplatform white nationalists, and making the film under Trump.
When it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in May, Skin—Oscar-winning director Guy Nattiv’s blistering based-on-real-events drama about a neo-Nazi who turns his back on hate—immediately took its place alongside American History X and The Believer as a preeminent cinematic portrait of white nationalism. And thanks to the escalating rhetoric of President Donald Trump, the film has only become more timely since that auspicious debut.
It’s also a thrilling showcase for one of the year’s finest performances courtesy of Jamie Bell, whose radical transformation into Bryon “Babs” Widner comes partly via a collection of tattoos covering his arms, hands, torso, neck and—most terrifying of all—face.
A walking billboard for bigotry, Widner lives his life according to an ugly ethos inherited from his gang leaders and surrogate parents, played by Bill Camp and Vera Farmiga. And yet in Bell’s deft hands, he proves to be more than merely a one-dimensional monster. Through a romantic relationship with single mother Julie (Patti Cake$’s Danielle Macdonald), as well as the aid of African-American activist Daryle Lamont Jenkins (Mike Coulter), Widner discovers an unlikely path to redemption—albeit one marked by arduous sacrifice and pain.