British actor Ben Barnes is most
well known for his work so indelibly and wonderfully portraying the
dashing, heroic Caspian X in the second and third films in the
beloved, blockbuster The Chronicles Of Narnia
film franchise. Barnes’ first foray in the role was playing the
young Prince Caspian, in 2008’s The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince
Caspian. He then returned to reprise the role as the mature and
wise King Caspian, in 2010’s The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage
Of The Dawn Treader.
Barnes is also a multi-faceted actor of immense emotional depth and
range who has immersed himself in a diversity of roles and genres
encompassing drama, comedies, and musicals on both stage and
screen. His esteemed film canon includes working with such
prestigious, indie art house directors as Nick Hamm in the biopic
comedy musical 2011’s Killing Bono, and Brian Klugman and Lee
Sternthal in 2012’s heart wrenching drama The Words.
The gifted Barnes began his career
in London’s prestigious National Youth Music Theater honing his
acting and musical talents for several years.
He then enjoyed a successful run as a singer and member of the
British pop boy band Hyrise. Barnes went on to garner raves on the
London West End Theater stage for portraying Stuart Dakin in the
acclaimed The History Boys where Narnia’s casting
director noticed and auditioned him. Narnia Director Andrew
Adamson cast Barnes as Caspian and from there, Ben’s career
On a late August day, a month after his wonderfully received guest
appearance at San Diego Comic-Con International 2013, Ben graciously
talked with me about his two new upcoming films. Ben stars in the
supernatural sword and sorcery film, Seventh Son co-starring
Jeff Bridges, and he also plays the lead role in the Boston set
mafia crime thriller God Only Knows. Ben also expounds about
Narnia, the craft of acting, and how he would love to work
with Star Trek and Star Wars VII Director J.J.
Hi Ben, how are you. I want to congratulate you on the upcoming
Seventh Son. I saw the trailer and also filmed footage of the
panel that you and the cast held at San Diego Comic-Con
International 2013 and it looks amazing! For folks who haven’t yet
seen the footage, what can you tell people about the film’s
storyline and especially about your character Tom Ward, and his
relationship to Jeff Bridges’ character Master John Gregory?
Thank you. Seventh Son is a story about a grizzly Spook or
fighter of witches and the dark side, played by Jeff Bridges. I am
apprenticed to him early in the film and he must train me to aid him
in defeating the evil Mother Malkin played by Julianne Moore, and
her gathering horde. As we train and take on warlocks and boggarts,
our relationship develops from mistrustful and antagonistic into a
How did you become involved with the project? How did you first
come to the attention of director Sergei Bodrov and how did he
approach you for the title role of hero Tom Ward? What’s it like
working with Sergei?
I was originally not seen for the role on account of being
unavailable and too old, but eventually the film pushed its dates
and Sergei met with me and I loved his vision for the stories. After
that I auditioned with actress Alicia Vikander but was nervous and
didn't do a great job. Sergei saw something in me however, as he
gave me another opportunity on my own and then after the traditional
agonizing wait, I was offered the job.
film is based on
The Spook’s Apprentice, the first book in the series of books
The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney. Have you read the
books to gain a better understanding of the role, and how did you
prepare for and immerse yourself in the character?
I have read about six of the series. The books are terrific and
creepy stories about a young boy struggling to be something
important and to make good decisions, set in the north of England in
a fantasy setting. The world of the film feels more visually
international and vast with villains and witches from distant lands,
and my character has been aged up to make more of the action and
romance which is more subtle in the stories but perhaps not as
cinematic. The studio and director are not pretending to faithfully
film the novels. As wonderful as the books are, the intention is
to make something new and hopefully exciting inspired by the
situations and characters in the books.
The film is a phenomenal mash-up of genres, sword and sorcery,
fantasy, the supernatural. Are you a fan of those genres and how
exciting is it to be playing a heroic character saving the world
from ghosts and witches?
I love fantasy films for exactly that reason of the absolute
escapism. With this film though there is an opportunity to explore
themes of morality and the darkness inside all of us underneath the
more obvious battle of good versus evil.
There’s some incredible CGI in the film. What are your experiences
working in green screen, interacting with imaginary creatures,
backdrops, and places that you have to stay in character to relate
to? What steps do you take, how do you stay in character, for
what both you and audiences won't see until the completed film,
(which you also did for your role in the two
Chronicles Of Narnia films)?
Green screen can always be tricky as there is very little to react
to, but I am fortunate to have had considerate crews who do
everything to make the situations as realistic as possible with
actors in suits, Assistant Directors with megaphones screaming
instructions, and beautiful landscapes as backdrops!
What was the training like for your sword fights? Did you do your
I always attempt my own stunts if at all possible but my wonderful
duke, [stunt performer] Jeff Robinson did a few dangerous, bordering
on stupid, falls on my behalf and I am very glad that he did! I
trained hard for the staff fights as that was a new skill for me. I
had an easier time with the sword as I had had more extensive
training with that weapon on the Narnia films. For Seventh
Son I was dunked in water tanks, thrown in freezing rivers, hung
upside down by my ankles, pulled off cliff faces and knocked down by
Jeff more times than I can remember... Maybe that's WHY I can't
You also have the starring role in the upcoming crime thriller,
God Only Knows starring alongside Harvey Keitel and Toby
Jones. It sounds really exciting, sort of The Departed meets
The Godfather! What can you tell me about the storyline and
your character, Nick Tortano? After
playing period piece heroes what’s it like playing a modern day,
ruthless mafia gangster and such a dark, gritty role, and how did
you prepare for and immerse yourself in playing such a questionable
I am so proud of this film. It’s not complete yet, it is being
edited as we speak but the role was such a departure for me and the
gritty underworld of Boston so compelling and intriguing to me. I
immersed myself in it with incredible access to the people of
Boston's north end and the drama flowed from that. The story follows
Nick, a young Boston Italian, trying to find purpose in the ideology
of the mafia and finding his world turned upside down.
How did you get the role of Caspian? Your role as young Dunstan
Thorn in the 2007 film
Stardust seemed like a precursor to The Chronicles Of Narnia. You
also were playing Stuart Dakin in the Royal National Theater
production of the acclaimed The History Boys at the time. Did
Director Andrew Adamson first learn about you from your work in
The casting director saw me playing Dakin in the West End and
auditioned me for Caspian. I then did a screen test for Andrew and
the producers and was offered the job after an agonizing wait...
Chronicles Of Narnia films, much like the Star Wars or
The Lord Of The Rings films have taken on a life of their own
among fans all over the world, and in the public consciousness. If
the two other novels that feature Caspian in The
Chronicles Of Narnia novel series, The Silver Chair
and The Last Battle, are also made into films, would you
consider returning to reprise your role as Caspian?
I would do it of course but I think Caspian is only briefly in the
Silver Chair as an old man and in The Last Battle too,
so I think they would be cameos at best.
You are so gifted at creating unforgettable and beloved characters
in so many films….dramas, comedies, musicals, and especially in epic
fantasy and sword and sorcery storytelling films, and genres. I
would love to see you cast in the new
Star Wars film trilogy and Star Wars VII. You would be
perfect as a swashbuckling space hero! Hopefully George Lucas and
Director J.J. Abrams will see this! How would you feel about being
offered a role in Star Wars VII if you got the call from
George or J.J.?
I do love variety. I am a fan of gritty drama and comedy and
musicals so it's natural that I should harbor ambitions in all those
areas to push myself as a performer. I would love to work with J.J.
Abrams. I met him once and he couldn't have been kinder and he is
obviously a naturally gifted story teller.
How did the blockbuster success of
The Chronicles Of Narnia films affect your career? Have you
found yourself on the shortlist of more challenging films,
directors, and roles? You’ve had roles in some amazing independent
and art house films of emotional depth, portraying especially well
drawn characters, such as 2009’s Dorian Gray, 2011’s
Killing Bono, and 2012’s The Words, how did those
experiences evolve and shape you as an actor?
All the jobs I have done have stayed with me and added to my
skill-set and to my personal character. Working with all the great
actors I've been fortunate to meet has also affected me hugely.
It's fascinating to watch the different approaches of Bridges and
De Niro or Robin Williams, (Ben starred with Robert De Niro and
Robin Williams in the 2013 romantic comedy The Big Wedding)
or Colin Firth (Colin
was Ben's co-star in 2008's Easy Virtue and 2009's Dorian
Your emotionally complex role as the young intense author in
The Words is wonderful. And I am still absolutely blown away by
your mesmerizing, charismatic performance as real life musician Neil
McCormick in Killing Bono, my favorite role and film of
yours. It’s such an affectionate portrait and paean to the spirit
of rock and roll and especially to pursuing one's dreams. You're
just wonderful at portraying the film's most ironically comedic and
dramatically poignant moments. You also did all your own singing and
live performances which are also featured on the film’s
soundtrack. How did you get the role as Neil in Killing Bono?
I read the script in my trailer in full armor on the set of The
Chronicles Of Narnia 3, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. I
was pretending my prop sword was a guitar and speaking loudly in an
Irish accent for hours and having a brilliant time on my own. I knew
by page ten, I HAD to play Neil.
They should have released "Where
We Wanna Be," what a killer song and you’re on fire belting that
They almost did... They even made a video cut from film moments and
I was up for performing some of the songs in character like my
Spinal Tap heroes but it never happened.
Your career started out in acting, and in music, as you are also a
gifted singer and musician. First you were in the prestigious
National Youth Music Theater doing musical theater in London’s West
End, and then you were a member of the acclaimed band Hyrise. What
first inspired you to want to become a singer, a musician, and an
It was mostly the National Youth Music Theater. It's a wonderful
company that searches for talented eleven to nineteen year olds and
rehearses them like professionals for new musical theatre, and the
results over the years have been inspiring. I consider my years with
that company and my five productions across the country with them to
be my training as a stage actor.
Do you remember your first audition and acting role?
My first audition in the U.S. was to play a lifeguard in a movie
which never got made. The breakdown called for buff, tanned types,
neither of which I was or am, but I broke down in tears in the
audition as I was being eaten by a shark! They obviously liked it
because I was offered the job... after an agonizing wait!
What kind of acting roles and films would you most like to do, and
what directors are on your wish list to work with, to evolve and
stretch in your craft?
I find it impossible to be pragmatic in this industry as you never
know which scripts will capture your imagination, which directors
will find you interesting, or which roles you feel you can inhabit
until you come across them. I have enjoyed the work of Darren
Aronofsky, David Fincher, Gavin O'Connor, and Derek Cianfrance over
the last few years though.
You received much acclaim for starring in London’s 2010 West End
Theater production of
Birdsong. How artistically fulfilling and challenging was that
experience, as well as doing theater again, and do you have plans to
do more theater?
was an extremely fulfilling experience. It was one of my favorite
novels so it was very special to originate the role of Stephen
Wraysford. The novel was certainly a challenge to stage but some of
the reactions of the audience members to the play were extremely
moving. Telling that story eight times a week for five months was
exhilarating and exhausting in the best and most cathartic way. I
would love to do more stage work but because of the time commitment
it just has to be something I truly believe in.