And Barnes has some history with this kind of thing, having starred in the "Chronicles of Narnia" movies (with far more benevolent beasts). When we got to speak to Barnes about "Seventh Son," we asked him about how he came aboard the project, what it was like working with Bridges and his comely costar Alicia Vikander (don't worry – if you don't know who she is, you will), his academic background with fantasy literature and why "The Fabulous Baker Boys" is his favorite Jeff Bridges movie.
Moviefone: How did you initially become involved in the film?
Barnes: I auditioned. I believe that the film was already cast, long before I was involved. I was off working on other projects and then something changed and had to recast and that's when I first heard about it. I auditioned on tape. I like to make my first audition at home, if at all possible, because it's a more relaxed environment. And then if I have to go audition in front of a room full of people, I will... Which I did for this. I had to have a chemistry read with Alicia, which I think was a good ploy.
What was the appeal of this material? Did you know who else was going to be in it?
I was the last piece. So I knew they would all be in it, with the exception of Djimon. But I knew that my scene partners would be Jeff Bridges and Alicia, which I was up for. Jeff Bridges has been one of my heroes since "Fabulous Baker Boys," which I saw when I was a teenager. I loved his charisma. And Alicia is obviously very beguiling; she's so compelling and intriguing and very witch-like. I thought, if there's one person I can see as a mentor, it's Jeff, and Alicia was obviously a great romantic interest. It made my job much easier.
Wait. Rewind. "Fabulous Baker Boys" was what drew you into the Jeff Bridges mystique?
Well, I love "The Big Lebowski" and I love "True Grit" and I love "Crazy Heart." But "Fabulous Baker Boys" is my favorite. He's got such a brooding charm to him. He's so cool.
What about "Starman?"
I haven't seen that in a really long time.
Do yourself a favor, and watch it again.
I will. But it's not going to be "Fabulous Baker Boys" because it's just so fabulous.
So you had all these expectations about how cool he was – did working with him live up to those expectations?
Yes. Initially it was confusing because I found him quite intimidating. Initially, our characters start off on the wrong foot with each other and are mistrustful of each other. And I felt like he was a little mistrustful of me. But maybe that was just my projecting onto his legacy. But as our characters grew closer, he would bring me into his world. He would play me Bob Dylan songs on his guitar. One time he said, "Sit in my chair Jamin." He calls me Jamin, which I think is a cool nickname. Like Benjamin. But just Jamin. Nobody ever gives you a cool nickname when you're an adult. But he did. But he had this lazy chair thing and I thought, Man this is the most comfortable chair ever. And a week or two later, there were two chairs, the same, next to each other. And he said, "I got you one Jamin." So we'd print out lyrics to songs and sing them in between shots and he carries himself with such humor and grace and is so charming.
Did Bridges take any photos of you?
They're famous! I've got the "Seventh Son" book on my coffee table at home. He's put one or two books out. It's pretty cool.
The movie had an insanely protracted release over the past few years. Were you nervous that it would never come out?
No. I didn't expect it to take this long. You want to deliver things hot, fresh out of the oven. It was all political, behind-the-scenes stuff. The effects house that we were using went out of business. And then Legendary partnered with Warner Bros successfully on things like "Inception" and "42" and "300" and they split with them and partnered with Universal. And I don't know anything about that, but if we were moving with them, we had to wait for a slot in Universal's schedule. That's all I really know. But it didn't have anything to do with us. We didn't make any changes or re-edit or redo the effects or reshoot or anything. It was just a matter of timing.
Speaking of effects – you were in the "Narnia" movies, but these creatures are much more fearsome – what was that process like?
Yes, it's a little bit more involved than having tea with badgers. This experience is more about escaping the clutches of an angry Siberian bear or a fire-breathing dragon. But they really don't do almost anything on set anymore, which has it's own challenges since you're just listening to an assistant director yell at you – "The ghosts are moving around you and around you and now it's moving through you. Now you're scared." And you're thinking, This isn't creative. Then they put the ghosts in after the fact and it's pretty cool. It can be really rewarding.
What appeals to you about these fantasy movies?
Well I studied children's literature in school. So from an adult's perspective, I was looking at the "Harry Potter" movies and "The Hobbit" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," so I had an affinity for this kind of material even before I started acting.
And now look at you, being chased by imaginary ghosts!
It's destiny! It all came back around!
This is based on a series of fantasy novels.
There's about a dozen of the books. I read four or five of them, just to have the world be present in my system. There was actually a guidebook to the book, about the creatures and how to defeat them. And Jeff gave me a copy early on and said, "Study this. Study this book. This will teach you how to defeat such creatures." It was pretty cool.
When you made it, were you talking about a franchise?
Not me personally. But I think the ending of the film certainly lends itself to further exploration of the relationship between Tom and Alice and it would be certainly cool to see the Spook he becomes.
They didn't say, "You'll be doing this for the next 30 years?"
No. But while we were filming, it was certainly like, "Well you could go like that..." I'd like to pick it up a few years and see what he's become.
Is there a franchise you'd love to be a part of?
I think I've bitten off more of my fair share of fantasy world stuff. But I've never done a sci-fi. I'd love to be involved in a sci-fi. That would be cool.
Centuries ago, a supernatural champion named Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) defeated Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), a malevolent witch. Now, she has escaped imprisonment and thirsts for vengeance. She summons her followers and prepares to unleash her wrath on humanity. Only one thing stands in her way: Master Gregory. Gregory takes Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) as his new apprentice, but he has only until the next full moon to teach Tom what usually takes years: how to prevail against dark magic. Read More