Bell was raised in the Northern England town of Billingham by his mother, Eileen. Coming from a long line of dancers, Bell began to take tap and ballet dance lessons at the age of six after watching his mother and older sister Kathryn during dance recitals. He attended the Stagecoach Theatre School as a young boy and was also a member of the National Youth Music Theatre group before studying dance at London's Royal School of Ballet. Bell made his theater debut in London's West End production of "Bugsy Malone" at the age of 12. Soon afterwards, he beat out over 2,000 other young hopefuls, landing the career-breaking lead in Stephen Daldry's "Billy Elliot" (2000). Set against the 1984 miner's strike in Northern England, "Elliot" told the story of a young boy who becomes the protégé of a local ballet teacher and is constantly berated for his love of dance - something Bell had experienced in his own town, where classmates nicknamed him "ballet boy." Bell's captivating performance earned a British Independent Film Award for Best Newcomer and the coveted BAFTA Award for Best Actor.In a strong follow-up role, Bell co-starred in the 2002 film "Nicholas Nickleby," based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens. Bell again managed to avoid turning a young sympathetic character into a d -eyed cliché, impressing audiences with his portrayal of crippled servant, Smike. In further displays of unexpected versatility, Bell starred as a young soldier in the dark World War I-set thriller, "Deathwatch" (2002) and adopted a southern accent in his first American feature, "Undertow" (2004), in which he co-starred with Josh Lucas and Dermot Mulroney. His second thriller was met with mostly positive reviews and earned Bell a Young Artist Award. The independent film "The Chumscrubber" (2005), cast Bell in a new light, with his starring role as a disaffected suburban American teenager. He stayed close to the "outsider" adolescent indie genre with the Thomas Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier collaboration, "Dear Wendy" (2005), which was the actor's first effort to be roundly dismissed.Peter Jackson's epic remake, "King Kong" (2005) marked Bell's entry into big budget Hollywood blockbusters, and he fared well in a supporting role as a young seaman. In 2006, Bell co-starred in Clint Eastwood's World War II drama "Flags of Our Fathers," based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers. The powerful and significant film adaptation chronicled the experiences of the men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, and examined the aftermath of their wartime service and their roles as icons. The same year, Bell earned a Best Actor nomination from the British Independent Film Awards for the Scottish feature "Hallam F " (2006), where he essayed a dark, teen loner and voyeur. Returning to big budget outings, Bell had a co-starring role in Doug Liman's adaptation of Steven Gould's sci-fi time travel book, "Jumper" (2008). The actioner packed movie houses but took a critical drubbing for an underdeveloped plot. Along with Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, Bell co-starred in "Defiance" (2008), based on the true story of Jewish brothers during World War II who escape the Nazi occupation of Belarus and build a refugee camp to rescue others. Bell next appeared with Channing Tatum in the historical drama "The Eagle" (2011) and had a supporting role in Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Jane Eyre" (2011) before starring in Steven Spielberg's comic strip adaptation "The Adventures of Tintin" (2011). After co-starring in the thrillers "Man on a Ledge" (2012) and "Snowpiercer" (2013), Bell starred opposite James McAvoy in the Scottish crime comedy-drama "Filth," based on the novel by "Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh. Bell next appeared in a small role in Lars von Trier's controversial drama "Nymphomaniac" (2013) starring Charlotte Gainsbourg. Moving to television for the first time, Bell starred in the American Revolution drama "Turn: Washington's Spies" (AMC 2014-). His next appearance on the big screen came with his co-starring role as Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, in Josh Trank's "Fantastic Four" (2015) reboot.