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Essential Ben Barnes Performances From Prince Caspian to The Darkling

Before he officially picked up the baton for playing shadowy villain figures, Ben Barnes was most beloved for his role as Narnia’s Prince Caspian, the handsome and exiled Telmarine prince who was introduced to the Pevensies in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Since those days, Barnes has appeared in everything from action fantasies to gothic period dramas to Marvel productions. His most recent role is as General Kirigan aka The Darkling in the Netflix series Shadow and Bone, which just completed its filming of Season 2. The actor has also returned to music (after a brief stint in a boy band many years ago) by releasing his EP Songs for You late last year. Barnes has a varied list of performances, but we gathered the most essential performances to watch, including the obvious and one or two deeper cuts. If you need something to tide you over before his appearance in Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, look no further.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
It’s the performance we all know and likely the one that introduced us all to Barnes. Yes, his appearance in Stardust came first chronologically, but it was his appearance as the charming and noble Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian that launched Ben Barnes into the zeitgeist of the time. Your mileage may vary on the Chronicles of Narnia series and its overt religious allegories, but it’s hard to argue that Barnes stole the show in his role as Caspian. Aside from an eyebrow-raising Inigo Montoya impression, Caspian’s story was far more interesting than the Pevensies and gave us a look at the Telmarines, a distinctly human group that had invaded Narnia, and conflict beyond the fantastical. Of course, Caspian’s blossoming romance with Susan (Anna Popplewell) offered fans a taste of romance that we didn’t get in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, even if it was ultimately a brief one. With Narnia and Stardust under his belt, the actor was already beginning to carve out a niche for himself in genre storytelling.

Watch on Disney+
Prince Caspian is all grown up in Dorian Gray. Oliver Parker’s interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s most iconic novel might not satisfy the literary loyalists with its ending (which is a far cry from the novel’s) but Barnes’ portrayal of the titular protagonist was undoubtedly a more grown-up character than the straight-laced Caspian. Taking part in veritable bacchanalias, Dorian Gray sees Barnes take on a darker role. While most might remember this film as the one that launched Barnes firmly into the category of “Actor Most Likely to Be Fancasted as Sirius Black,” it was also an early showcase of Barnes dabbling in the territory of an antihero.

While Dorian was very much led down the road of self-destruction by Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth), his unexpected redemption at the end of the film turns an unlikable villain into someone we pity and perhaps even mourn when he’s gone. One of Barnes’ few forays into period drama – surprising given the fact that most British actors have at least a dozen portrayals under their belt – Dorian Gray didn’t perform well back in 2009. But after raunchy period shows like Bridgerton that aren’t afraid to dabble in the sexy, perhaps it’s time to revive interest in this gothic tale.

Killing Bono (2011)
On this list of IP goliaths, Killing Bono might be a deep cut unless you happen to also be a Robert Sheehan or Krysten Ritter superfan. But given Barnes’ return to music, it’s a fine movie to look back on when it comes to his performances. Barnes plays the younger version of the real-life journalist Neil McCormick, who was a young aspiring rock star who just happened to come from the same town as U2’s Bono. Constantly living in Bono’s shadow and chasing after his lifestyle, Killing Bono is a story about ego and self-sabotage but also one that has a rather ironic ending.

U2 is in most people’s rear windows, spending more time in headlines for their music randomly appearing in everyone’s iTunes library, while the real-life McCormick is still an active music critic for The Daily Telegraph. Barnes plays Neil with all the greedy ambition and desperation of an almost-rockstar, eager to be adored but unwilling to be associated with his old, famous school chum. His chemistry with Sheehan, who plays his brother, is playful and makes you wish the two actors would collaborate again on a project. Constantly on the edge of his big break, Neil is his and his brother’s worst enemy. On top of a manic performance, Barnes and Sheehan also perform the surprisingly catchy “Where We Want To Be.” for the official soundtrack.

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