From Clash's Film Issue

Once the dashing King of Narnia, Ben Barnes is about to hit the big screen as a wannabe rock god competing with Ireland’s finest. Clash met the rising Brit star to discuss his role in the new movie 'Killing Bono'.

King Caspian X, Dorian Gray… Neil McCormick? Those are three names that you’re unlikely to hear listed together anywhere outside of the filmography of actor Ben Barnes. Not least because at this moment in time, the successful music journalist and author Neil McCormick isn’t the household name that his teenage self predicted he would be.

That could all be about to change with the release of the new movie 'Killing Bono', which is loosely based on McCormick’s autobiographical book 'Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger'. Together with his brother Ivan, the McCormicks strove desperately to become rock superstars while their classmates U2 took the fast lane to the very top.

As McCormick himself explains: “I went to school with Bono. In mid-Seventies Dublin, we formed rock bands, blew the lid off the school disco and set off together to conquer the world. U2 made it all the way to Wembley Stadium. I got about as far as Wembley Coach And Horses. Bono became a rock star, and I had to settle for being a rock critic.”

McCormick’s compensation for what he calls “being played for laughs as a geeky loser” is being portrayed on screen by Barnes, best known for his lead roles in two of the three The Chronicles Of Narnia films. As Barnes joins Clash in a sprawling suite in The Dorchester, it’s immediately apparent why he has become the focus of scores of fan sites and Facebook profiles. Even prior to styling, he’s tall, slim and his teeth gleam like pearls: his heartthrob status is without question. Sporting a vintage Mott The Hoople T-shirt and a Tamla Motown man-bag, he’s just an immaculately coiffured whisker away from looking like a rock star on his own merit.

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Killing Bono’s journey from page to screen was a lengthy one, and Barnes himself came to the process late. “I think they were waiting for me,” he smiles self-deprecatingly. When he was first sent the script he decided not to even read it. As the film’s schedule clashed with his own he chose to ignore it knowing that if he loved it, he wouldn’t be able to do it. But while working in Australia on the third Narnia film The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, the opportunity arose again. Barnes called on the help of fellow Narnia cast member Will Poulter to practise his lines, while another actor Shane Rangi (who plays Aslan, the minotaur and others) was enlisted on guitar for an impromptu recorded screen test. “He came and played ‘Satisfaction’ by the Stones and played guitar for me off screen. I stood there and sang and it looked like crap,” sighs Barnes. Undefeated, for his second attempt he held his laptop (complete with an internal webcam) to his face and hollered the lyrics at the screen. A rudimentary method it may have been but “it worked. You never know where the jobs will come from.”

Barnes credits much of his initial interest in the role to the script that was crafted by The Commitments writers Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement. “It’s the first script I ever read that made me laugh on every single page,” he states. In his enthusiasm, he often delivers huge flourishes of speech: “I’m a huge Motown and soul fan so The Commitments was always a big film to me. This came along, and I saw the same writers, it was set in Ireland, it had rock music in it; it was set in the Eighties so the costumes were going to be amazing and the hair would be ridiculous. And then I started reading it, praying it was good and it was really, really funny.”

Words by Ben Hopkins

Read Clash's full interview with Ben Barnes in the latest issue of Clash Magazine out now. Subscribe to Clash magazine HERE.

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