The latest narrative feature from Kiwi film-maker Toa Fraser (No. 2, The Dead Lands) is the celebrated director's most international movie yet, with a high-profile cast to match. Premiering at this year's International Film Festival, 6 Days stars Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as three people caught up in the real-life hostage crisis that took place at the Iranian Embassy in London across April and May of 1980.

Some filming took place in London, but much of the film was shot at a West Auckland warehouse, inside which a huge replica of the Iranian Embassy was constructed. It was on this amazing set that TimeOut got a chance to talk to Bell while the film was in production.

"I play Rusty Firmin," Bell told TimeOut. "A guy who's still alive today, a lot of them aren't alive anymore. A lot of them passed on."

"Them" are the elite SAS soldiers who entered the Iranian Embassy in an effort to rescue 26 civilians taken hostage by six armed gunmen. It was a real-life incident that played like an action thriller, and Bell said that the role made him look at movie violence in a new light.

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6 Days was filmed in London and Auckland in 2015.
6 Days was filmed in London and Auckland in 2015.

"I'm not a violent person, at all. And my character - and the rest of the boys - represent the violence in this story. I haven't had that military training, and I'm an actor and I'm a little bit more sensitive to things like that and I felt I would be shortchanging the audience if I didn't at least explore that responsibility of being told to kill, and how you're going to feel about it. I felt like I should maybe explore those areas a little bit more."

Fraser's background in theatre gave Bell the freedom to conduct that exploration.

"When discussing a scene, he just watches the actor," Bell said of Fraser. "It's very rare, especially in movies, where someone hands it over to an actor. It's much more of a theatrical kind of thing. Because what happens is, you come up with options for him, and usually that's much more of a rehearsal space thing. So that's been really great."

Following Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), and parts of the Jackson-produced The Adventures of Tintin (2011), 6 Days marks the third time Bell has shot a movie in New Zealand. The actor said he considered time away from home when accepting jobs.

Mark Strong stars in 6 Days, filmed in New Zealand.
Mark Strong stars in 6 Days, filmed in New Zealand.

"I do these days because I have a son now, and being away from family isn't as fun as it used to be. But this was an easy choice - New Zealand, yep, got it, no problem. And also just the people here are so great, in terms of the crews and stuff. Everyone's so on it. It really ranks with a lot of the other premiere location places in the world."

Although Bell is an accomplished actor in a variety of genres, there's a strain of pure physicality running through his roles, from his star-making turn in Billy Elliot to doing motion-capture work as the title character in Tintin through to the SAS man-of-action he's playing in 6 Days. Bell said he relishes the chance to use his whole body.

"I always get kind of excited by it. I like running around and jumping around. I think the less that I can do talking and the more I can do physically, I enjoy, especially on this movie. I think that's also what film is kind of about, the less you say..."

Most of the other SAS agents are played by Kiwi actors, and Bell said his relatively diminutive size informed his approach to Firmin.

"I used that for my character because all the other guys are from New Zealand, they're all strapping All Blacks, basically, rugby forwards. And I'm not that."

LOWDOWN:
Who: Jamie Bell
What: 6 Days
When: For screening times, see nziff.co.nz