Ben Barnes Talks SEVENTH SON, Working with Jeff Bridges, Release Delays and More

     February 7, 2015

seventh-son-ben-barnes

It’s been a little over two years since we got our very first look at Ben Barnes in Seventh Son, but the full feature is finally hitting theaters this weekend. Barnes leads as Tom Ward, an average farmhand who comes to realize that he’s so much more. Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son and that means he could become a member of the Falcon Knights. But first, he must train with Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a demon slayer who’s got no problem throwing Tom to the wolves – or in Seventh Son’s case, witches, warlocks, giant bears or the variety of other evil creatures roaming the land.

With Seventh Son due for a February 6th release, I got to sit down with Barnes to talk about his experience making the film including his first impression of Bridges, how they shot his boggart fight sequence, the unused footage he’d like to see on the Blu-ray special features menu, his personal thoughts on the release date delays and more. Catch it all in the interview below.

seventh-son-posterQuestion: Can you tell me about getting cast in this? Did you have to audition or was it an offer?

BEN BARNES: No, no, I auditioned for it, very much so. I think these big studio things, they don’t like to take too many risks. I think they actually had cast the film at a time when I was doing something else and I wasn’t even available to audition on anything. What was I working on? I can’t remember. Either the third Narnia or something. So I wasn’t even available and they cast it, and I hadn’t even heard about it or anything and then they had some problems with, I don’t know exactly what, but then I got an opportunity to audition so I made an audition tape, which I sent and then I met with Sergey [Bodrov] and we talked about things for a few hours and after a couple of hours he just went, ‘I don’t understand you. I can’t get in. This is why I will cast you.’ I still don’t know exactly what he meant and I don’t even know if I delivered what he wanted at all. Then I did a sort of little chemistry read with Alicia [Vikander] who had already been cast, quite rightly so. She’s the perfect witch. It was a bit of a drawn out process, but worked out really well in the end.

It’s funny you say that about Sergey’s first impression of you because it’s so important in the movie. Tom does all of these things to push the mission along, but you need to be in his head to understand why he’s making those decisions.

BARNES: Yeah.

You actually wind up delivering what he said he couldn’t get access to at the time.

BARNES: Yeah, that is exactly right! I think because he’s the character through whose eyes you experience the story, so you kind of do want to be in his head a little bit. But I think he was just talking about an otherness, just something that wasn’t the same as everyone else, I suppose.

seventh-son-ben-barnesSomething that every movie and every actor needs.

BARNES: I think that little quality of what you find out about Tom, about his true nature, about who he really is, I think it was that element that he wanted to see.

Did the character stay consistent from where you started to what we see on screen?

BARNES: No, not at all.  Not at all.  It was different even from where we started shooting at the beginning to near the end, honestly.  It was quite a dry character on paper, actually, not much to him.  He’s just a kind of tool for the story, really, and I wanted to give him a level of some kind of history from these visions, something that was kind of like something you wanted to escape from, just something he was embarrassed about a little bit, and then just give him a bit of a sarcastic sense of humor a little bit in terms of his suspicion of people.  I didn’t want him to be too earnest.  But that sort of came through the story once I saw what Jeff was doing and my reactions to him.  I think they’re kind of funny sometimes.

Did you get to shoot in order?

BARNES: A little bit. We shot the farm at the beginning and then we shot the end with the end fight, and then we sort of did all the pieces in the middle. It was quite nice to bookend it like that. We had the farm set and then they tore that down, and then we had the lair at the end with all the fighting, we had that big set. And then a lot of the stuff in between was obviously outside so we’d go on tour.

seventh-son-ben-barnes-jeff-bridgesHow much of what we see in the movie on screen did you actually see on set?

BARNES: All of it except for all the sort of big, huge, wide, epic, helicopter type shots of deserts and forests and mountains. And the transitions between them I think are absolutely something extraordinary. You see them in some films like that, but not quite so visually tempting as some of these images. Dante Ferretti is an amazing set builder. Mother Malkin’s lair obviously is incredible with all those destructed columns.

Is all of that hand painted?

BARNES: Yeah. It’s all beautiful. It was the size of a football field. And then Gregory’s underground lair with the lava flowing through it, all the weapons on the wall and tapestries with writing in Latin. You just walk onto a set like that and it’s just totally enchanting.

How about some of the monsters? What are your visual cues for things like that?

BARNES: The one that I remember mostly was the bear because I was standing there kind of looking scared at an empty cage, and I just heard on the microphone, the first AD was like, ‘Ben, the bear is bigger than that.’ ‘What?’ ‘Look higher for the bear.’ I was like, ‘Okay, sorry.’ ‘Yeah, it’s a giant bear. Higher than that.’ ‘Like here?’ ‘Yeah. That’s good.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ ‘Yeah, but look scared.’  ’m like, ’Okay.’ Sometimes it’s sort of acting by numbers a little bit because you’re looking at a cardboard cutout or a stick with a tennis ball on it or something, but generally, there wasn’t too much of that.

What about the waterfall sequence? How’d you pull that off?

BARNES: They threw me in a waterfall. [Laughs]

seventh-son-image-ben-barnesAs in a tank waterfall?

BARNES: Yeah, there was a big tank and it had a huge metal gimbal arm, which was like the size of – I mean, huge. It was like the boggart’s arm and there was a belt which went around my waist made of metal that they tie onto a harness so that the arm could move like this and then dunk me in the tank and pull me out and when it dunked me, the cameras would be underwater for me to fight the boggart and stuff.

Sounds like a good time!

BARNES: It was actually really fun. The first couple times it was a bit like, ‘I’m gonna die. I’m definitely gonna drown.’ It’s like a drowning machine, but after a while I got into it and I wanted to just keep doing it because then you could go back and watch the playback of you underwater and you think, ‘Oh, I can see how this would be cool.’ So that was actually really fun.

Can you tell me about working with Jeff? What happened the first time you met him?

BARNES: It was at the read-through and I was really nervous because he was kind of my hero from Fabulous Baker Boys and Big Lebowski and everything. He kind of was looking at me like, ‘Really, this? This kid? This is what you bring me?’ And I just thought, ‘I’m gonna be such a disappointment to him.’ That’s a natural feeling, I think.

It’s kind of appropriate for the story though.

BARNES: Yeah! Well, that’s the thing, and then we started at the beginning and he was still a bit like that with me and then as our characters kind of came together, he was unbelievably just warm and kind and generous. He would play me songs on his guitar and I would sit in his reclining chair. I was like, ‘Ah, this is the most comfortable chair ever.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, it’s from the EZ Back store. It’s great for your back.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s great.’  And then like a week later it was my birthday and there was another chair exactly like it next to it and he goes, ‘Me and that’s you jammin’.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, you’re so cool. You’re so cool. I will never be as cool as you.’

seventh-son-jeff-bridges-sergey-bodrovIs there anything about his way of working that surprised you?

BARNES: People expect him to come across like The Dude and just so chill and zen about everything and he is. He’s very at peace with himself in the world, I think. That’s just the impression I get from him. I was surprised and very reassured by how many questions he asks and what kind of questions he asks because they felt like the same kind of questions I ask a lot like, you know, about particular moments and about what they mean in the context of the scene, and about what relevance they have to the rest of the story. He’s very inquisitive and very determined to make each moment as engaging as it can be and that’s reassuring to see somebody so great working in a similar way to you.

Can you tell me a little bit about the move from Warner Bros. to Universal from your perspective? How’d you handle it? There are a lot of moviegoers who might not know that things can get delayed when arrangements like that happen and just come to their own conclusions instead.

BARNES: I mean, it was a shame from our perspective in terms of this film because you want to deliver something fresh off the shelf. Having said that, I think it’s acquired a sort of vintage, retro feeling, fantasy film. It reminds me of the kid films I saw in the 80s, sort of these very eternal themes, a very kind of simple zero to hero kind of fanboy to warrior story with these themes about love and destiny and fate, this sort of good and evil inside of everyone, and these are themes which could have been a film made in the 80s or could have been set in space or set in a desert. So I think that the delay doesn’t really affect how the film comes across, from my perspective. Obviously the guys at Legendary were very, very involved in this film. They made the film from start to finish and they were on set every day, and the guys at Thunder Road, and then Legendary made a bunch of films with Warner Bros., all fantastic, extraordinary films, but then they partnered with Universal and went there, but Universal had their slate for the year set up so we just had to wait for an opening and that’s as simple as that. It’s just business and it’s got nothing really to do with me or the film, or anything else. I’m glad we can finally share it with everyone, but, yeah, it’s just the way of things.

Did the cut stay the same while you waited?

BARNES: We did one series of re-shoots a few months later, but that was prior to the move.

seventh-son-ben-barnes-alicia-vikanderHow about deleted scenes? Is there anything you shot that you would be really excited for people to see on a Blu-ray special features menu?

BARNES: Good question, really good question. Yeah, I think there was some more beats, moments, scenes with Alice which I think were quite fun for that characterization, but obviously you can’t keep everything in the movie. It would be too long. Some of that stuff I thought was quite fun.

I read in the notes that Julianne Moore’s character, in the book, has to drink blood from babies to give herself power. I was kind of hoping you’d say something like that.

BARNES: They’re pretty dark some of the books! There’s one point in the books where I think Tom is buried in a grave when he’s a kid and his dead best friend is clawing his way through his grave to get him. There’s some terrifying imagery in the books.

Solid prequel material right there. I would watch that!

BARNES: As a 13-year-old boy, Tom beats a witch to death with a stick in a river at one point. It’s pretty dark.

Why bother with a sequel when you’ve got all this great stuff for a prequel?

BARNES: No, because then I’d have to be 13. I can’t be in it.

That is true.

BARNES: The sequel’s gonna be badass.

You can make a flashback/flashforward thing work.

BARNES: We can have some flashbacks as long as we flashforward to him happy.

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