The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Ben Barnes interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
BEN Barnes talks about taking on the pivotal role of Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the sequel to The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and why he had to survive the odd prank from existing cast members…
Q. I gather you have an embarrassing story regarding your early fondness for the Narnia books?
Ben Barnes: Well, I found my old copy of the book when I found out I’d got the part. It was the copy that accompanied the 1989 BBC TV series which I was a huge fan of and on the inside front cover I found a sticker which I’d put in there which was a picture of a bear which said: “I can’t bear to be without my book.” And underneath I’d written “Benjamin Barnes” in handwriting that you can’t imagine, the worst eight-year-old’s handwriting you’ve ever seen, not even joined up or anything.
Q. How are you coping with seeing you image around on buses and billboards etc?
Ben Barnes: It’s a bit embarrassing. I remember when Mark [producer Mark Johnson] first showed me the poster and I just looked it and said to him: “Is that sensible? No one knows who I am so they’re not going to go and see it.” But he just said the book is called Prince Caspian, the film is called Prince Caspian, so we have to have Prince Caspian on the poster! It’s very embarrassing… it was particularly embarrassing when I was in Los Angeles and driving down Sunset Boulevard and we passed poster of Harrison Ford and Robert Downey Jnr and Will Smith and then there you are staring down at yourself. I got an accusatory text from Colin Firth, who I’ve just finished a film with, who took a picture of the poster and sent it to me and said: “Is that a real pout?!” And also my brother, when he was with me in New York, we were pointing out various posters and he said: “Alright, alright, I get it, it’s Prince Caspian, it’s not you, look at the tan.” So there’s enough grounding forces around me to keep me sane.
Q. How did you cope with doing the Spanish accent in front of so many Latin members of the cast?
Ben Barnes: I don’t know why but the parts I’ve played have usually had an accent. I’ve played Russians, Americans, Yorkshiremen, all sorts of different accents. I think it’s important to hear how a character sounds before you play them, for some people it’s the walk, or the costume, but I think the accent is quite important. The night before the audition I saw that it said please prepare with a Spanish accent, so I rummaged through my DVD collection looking for something with Antonio Banderas. It eventually worked with a dialect coach but then Andrew [Adamson, director] asked me to do a Spanish accent and then cast two Italians, a Mexican, a Spaniard and a Belgian actor as his companions and asked me to do something vaguely assimilate them all! I gave it my best shot. I just wanted to avoid it being too irritating basically.
Q. Were there any group initiations for you as the new member of the cast?
Ben Barnes: I think I was, honestly, I little bit cynical about how the atmosphere would be because I’d watched the DVD extras, I wanted to know exactly what I was in for, and I watched Georgie being interviewed and she was saying: “Skandar and Will are like my brothers, and Andrew is like dad when dad’s not around.” I thought: “That can’t be real, she must be being fed those answers…” And then I got on set and the very first day that I met them they were playing table tennis and eating ice cream and climbing all over one another and it was just so affectionate. So, I think it was just a fantastic family environment to make a film in. However, there were a few pranks played in the first few weeks, certainly. Will drenched me in orange juice on the third day and Andrew played a few tricks on me while I was trying to work. But I think when they realised I wouldn’t react too violently I was hopefully embraced as part of the family.
Q. I gather you had to keep your casting quiet initially because you were still on stage in The History Boys?
Ben Barnes: It was a very difficult period for me, to be honest. I’m a huge fan of the National Theatre, it’s the best theatre company in the world and I’ve been going there since I was 10 and it was always my dream to work there and it came true. I’d been doing The History Boys for about six months when this came along and we thought we’d be able to work out the timing but unfortunately they had to go on it, so I gave them as much notice as I could and explained to them that I didn’t think it was an opportunity that I could pass up. It was obviously frustrating but I wanted to do everything I could to make the transition as easy as possible and they felt that was the best way to do that was for me to keep quiet about it. I had an understudy and I thought that hopefully I wouldn’t be letting down the production as they had other options. But they didn’t even use the understudy in the end to fill the part.
So, while I was happy to have got the role of Prince Caspian, it was also a very distressing time for me because it was so unfortunate that pretty much these two lifelong dreams of mine came true at the same time and I was very torn up about it because I consider myself a loyal guy.
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