Interview: Ben Barnes Of Prince Caspian
You may be sick of seeing Ben Barnes’ face all over posters, billboards and your television, but you probably don’t feel nearly as weird about it as he does. The 25-year-old British actor, whose biggest movie role before this was in 2006’s little-seen The History Boys, is the star of one of May’s biggest movies, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. With a Mediterranean accent, a hairpiece and a big ol’ sword, Caspian in the movie isn’t a whole lot like Barnes himself—in fact, Barnes is much more fun to be around. After the interview you’ll read below, the collected journalists found him out in the hallway, playing with a plastic version of the sword he himself carries in the movie. Call me crazy, but it seems that Prince Caspian himself should not have to ask for a version of his own sword—it should be handed to him on a platter.
Read below for our interview with Barnes, who lied his way into the part by saying he could ride horses, pretended a wire on a stick was his hero Eddie Izzard, and thinks he might have a future in dandruff commercials thanks to his breakout role.
Were you pleased seeing yourself in the completed film?
I can’t believe they made a film out of it. It’s been so long since we finished, I was wondering what they were doing. Now I see, because it’s so different from what we actually were making.
Is it surreal to see yourself on all these billboards? They’re using your face as the selling point.
L.A. is a really dangerous place to be this week if you’re me. Just don’t drive down Sunset Boulevard, because it’s dangerous. They just leave me completely breathless. You get this slight tingle of nerves, and you’re not quite sure why, because it’s this 8-story man on a building looking down at you. You know that it’s you, and you know that it’s a character you’ve played, and yet there’s a part of you that just refuses to acknowledge that. It’s a very, very difficult emotion to explain. It’s almost quite confusing to see yourself on those things. Yes, it’s very surreal. Someone says there’s going to be an action figure, and you think, ‘Amazing, I played with He-Man and Transformers.’ And then you realize what you did with your He-Man and Transformers, which was smash them against each other, and chew their arms off. You think, it’s cool to have an action figure if it’s a collector in a box, but what they’re really there for is for people to smash them up.
You’re doing this movie with the four kids who grew up together working on the film. Did they make it easy for you?
Oh, completely. When I got the part, I got the DVD and watched all the DVD extras. I listened to Georgie sit there, like, ‘Oh yeah, Will’s like my brother, and Andrew’s like the dad when dad’s not there, and it’s all lovely and it’s really nice.’ And I just thought, ‘Oh, get me a bucket. I don’t believe you.’ And then I walked into the production office on the first day, and they were playing table tennis with each other, and they were sitting on each others laps and sharing ice cream. It was like something out of a Disney film. [We all pause for a moment and remember that Prince Caspian is, in fact, a Disney film]. Right. It really was like that. There was a family atmosphere on set, and they were all very welcoming. Anna and Will were a little emotional last night, knowing it was their last one. What people don’t realize is that Anna is now 19, and Will’s 21, and they were 13 and 15 when they first auditioned for these movies. It’s a big part of your childhood to give up to a project of this size. I think it’s 100% worth it, they’ve got something to really show for it. But it’s emotional for them. It’s hard for him to give me that sword at the end of the movie, you can see.
Did the scenes all remain intact from the way you shot them?
I’m not sure any scene remained intact, to be honest. Most of the dialogue changed, from what I can remember, because the animated characters you can change up to the last minute. Reepicheep’s dialogue was nothing like what it was in the script. But it was brilliant, I mean, Eddie Izzard is one of my heroes. I’ve seen him countless times onstage. To have done scenes with him that he wasn’t even there for is a great treat.
How did you do scenes with him? Did they play back audio on the set?
No, it was somebody reading from a script over there [he gestures to a far corner]. And a really long pole over there with a wire—you know, when he jumps on me, that’s what scene I’m talking about. You’re talking to a wire with a little orange dot on the top. I found that hard to get used to. As Andrew said, before he showed us the film yesterday, it’s about trust. We have to trust that he’s going to make it look awesome, and I think he delivered.
What are some of the other differences between making the movie and what you see on the screen?
The scale of things, like the castle, as well. I remember one day on set Andrew came up to me—I was staring at one of the turrets with my mouth agape, and he came up to me and went ‘Shut your mouth’ or something. And I said, ‘I just can’t get over the scale of it. You built a castle. Thanks. I appreciate it.’ And he went, ‘Yeah. This will be three times bigger when we’re done with it.’ And it was! You wonder when you’re shooting, and you’re filming against the backdrop of the How, and you’ve got a tiny bit of green screen at the top of the How, and it’s just there and you kind of ignore it. And then you go back, and you see it when we come out, and it’s three times bigger. They’ve got that little bracket, and they can build anything they want above that. I thought it was really impressive, and kind of overwhelming. I need to see it again, really, because I feel like I missed most of it. What I was most pleased about, I think, was the relationship between myself and Peter and Susan Pevensie. I thought they were a lot of more subtle than they felt when we were filming, and a lot more borne out of the situations that they found themselves in, rather than just hate each others’ characters or just having a bit of an eye for each other.
Are you a master swordsman and horseman now?
Well, talk about that training and how you’ll be using it in the future.
Winning the hearts of damsels in distress, I think, is how I’ll be using it on the street… yo. But no, I did some very solid horse training when I got there, because I hadn’t got any horse experience even though I might have suggested that I did. So I was literally five or six hours a day, I bought some padded cycling shorts to ease the comfort, and I had these great Spanish teachers who went through everything with me. After a couple of weeks it just clicks into place. As you can see, I’m going through rivers and riding with flaming torches up and down ramps and through trees. It was amazing. It’s totally exhilarating. It’s like a ride at Disneyland.
And sword skills?
The sword fighting is just as much fun as it looks. And I can’t lose, because I’m in the next one.
Will you have any time between now and the start of Dawn Treader to film anything else? Have you done anything else?
I shot a film with Colin Firth and Jessica Biel called Easy Virtue, a Noel Coward play adaptation. A very different British farce, kind of Meet the Very Posh British Parents. Then I hope to be doing something in the summer.
In Spanish, “caspa” means “dandruff.” Like “Caspian.” So my son is asking me, ‘Does he really have dandruff?’
Oh, no! Really?! Well, that’s a Head and Shoulders campaign coming my way.
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