Ben Barnes, best known for his portrayal of Prince Caspian in the Narnia franchise, is no stranger to mythical beasts and dangerous swordplay. While this might not be a useful trait for the world you or I live in, such talents are necessary when hunting medieval monsters, which made Barnes a perfect fit for Sergey Bodrov’s Seventh Son. Although the film was finished a few years ago, audiences are just now getting the opportunity to watch Barnes fight witches alongside the likes of Jeff Bridges and a loveable ogre, as they rush to stop Julianne Moore before she harnesses an impending Blood Moon for all of its evil power.
I had the chance to sit down with Ben Barnes last weekend when he was in New York City to promote Seventh Son alongside his fellow cast members, and we chatted at length about his role as Spook apprentice Tom Ward. Since the fantasy landscape is familiar ground for Barnes, we talked about his early love of childhood literature (that eventually translated into a specialist study at university), as well as his experience working closely with Jeff Bridges.
Barnes also dished on his wishes for a possible sequel, thinking about the ways his character Tom could grow as a monster hunter – but that green light will depend on how Seventh Son performs at the box office this weekend. Oh, and Barnes loves The Karate Kid – that’ll make more sense once you read a bit further.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
WGTC: I want to start by addressing the few years that passed between filming Seventh Son and its actual release. Does anxious energy build as you wait around, not knowing when audiences will see your performance?
Ben Barnes: It does build, then it dissipates and goes away. You want it to be fresh. What’s something everyone can relate to? Doing an assignment at school? You just want to hand it in and get it marked, you know what I mean? “Do you like it? Is it good?” You don’t want to have to wait three years to express yourself, but at the same time, during that period, they do the 3D conversion and the magnificent effects, building [the film] into this huge thing that you didn’t see coming. It feels different.
When I saw [Seventh Son] a few years ago, it felt very retro. I had this feeling that it felt very vintage, or like an 80s fantasy movie – Sinbad, Jason And The Argonauts. They had these simple hearts to them – the zero to hero, farm boy stories – but with undertones of destiny, or good versus evil inside of everyone. These eternal themes, that are simple in some ways but not trying to be too cool, too 300-y, just simple storytelling but with unbelievable visual impacts. That’s why the waiting doesn’t really matter.
WGTC: Was it hard not talking about the film and avoiding spoilers for so long?
Ben Barnes: You don’t want to give away the ending, but if audiences wanted to discover the world we built, there are books about the world that our story manipulates. I like the ambiguity of our story, because there are some things – especially towards the end – that might surprise you about what you think characters will say or do. They almost do the opposite. There are a couple of things. What Jeff Bridges says about what he’s taught me, some of the romantic elements – I like that it’s a little bit different from what you’d expect.
WGTC: Was it a challenge to work with so much green screen? There are so many visual effects, dragons, gigantic set pieces…
Ben Barnes: Well, they don’t really need to use anything for that anymore – they just edit digital things in afterwards. You can seamlessly have a dragon land and have it continuously walk into the form of a human being, and I think that’s astounding. There were bits of green screen, but set designer Dante Ferretti, who built Mother Malkin’s castle and Master Gregory’s fiery furnace pit…
WGTC: His dungeon dojo…
Ben Barnes: Exactly [laughs], his dungeon dojo. “Yes Sansei, sweep the leg!” [Goes off on tangent] I love that movie so much. As much as I’m proud of this film, our montages have nothing on the montages in The Karate Kid. They’re just the best – they’re untouchable.
WGTC: You were talking about vintage before – doesn’t get more vintage than that.
Ben Barnes: That’s serious.
WGTC: Alright, I can’t go any farther without asking about Jeff Bridge’s accent in Seventh Son. Do you know where he got his inspiration?
Ben Barnes: I asked him, and I think he wanted to have this archaic sounding voice, something ageless, and he certainly achieved that. He wanted these false bottom teeth, because he thought in the dark ages everyone had crooked teeth. You don’t ever see them, but he put them in and that immediately altered his voice. He just started with that, but he always talks about channeling a character like a psychic – he just waits for the character to come to him with a facial expression or sound. This was the character that came to him, and I think that’s pretty badass.
WGTC: Was he method on set? Did he keep the voice going when not in a scene?
Ben Barnes: Not all the time. Not really. It was funny though, if we had a scene where we were arguing, he’d ignore me more, and if we were close, he’d be very buddy-buddy with me. It’s an interesting experience with him. He’s astounding. So generous, and so fascinating to watch as an actor, just hearing the questions he’d ask. Just the little things I find fascinating that most people probably find boring. We’re talking about one of my heroes. The Fabulous Baker Boys – talk about brooding charm, no one has ever been that charming since.