Ben Barnes is the star of Netflix’s new number one show, Shadow & Bone, and in a new interview, he opened up about his career ups and downs.
The 39-year-old actor first broke onto the scene as the title character in the 2008 movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The movie was expected to be a big hit after the franchise’s first film grossed $745 million worldwide, but it ended up being a disappointment.
Ben talked to Variety about what it was like to be declared “the new prince of Hollywood” and to then find his career opportunities disappear.
Click inside to find out what he said…
“Naively, it felt like a mark of things to come,” Ben said about being cast in the movie. “Princes become kings, you know? You get on the escalator and if you work hard and you commit to your characters and do it in good faith, DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are at the top and that’s where you end up.”
Ben now views Hollywood in a different way and doesn’t see a clear path to achieving that DiCaprio or Pitt status. He added, “It’s not an escalator. It’s not even stairs. There’s no up.”
“It took me a little time to understand that these are waves,” he said. “I’ve found that this particular metaphor has — oh no, I’m going to say this water metaphor has held water, that’s bad! But you’re going to have to learn to surf.”
Following his work in the Chronicles of Narnia franchise, Ben starred in movies like Dorian Gray and Seventh Son, none of which were hits. He also had some success with supporting roles in TV shows like HBO’s Westworld and Netflix’s The Punisher.
“It’s impossible not to get caught up in the game of your name is worth this after having done Narnia,” he said. “And then you do it a little indie film that you think has an interesting ending, and nobody sees it. And then your name is worth this, and therefore, this job that you’ve auditioned hard for and met with the director of and felt like you’ve got on famously with is going to go to this other person who didn’t audition. I think there are only two options at that point. One is to play the game better or to change what the prize is — and that’s what I ended up doing.”
Ben now has a specific way of choosing his projects. He said, “I made myself a promise, from now on, let’s simplify how we choose what we’re going to do. Let’s do projects that you would want to watch.”
This selection process would’ve come in handy when he was reading the Seventh Son script, but he says how it led to more clarity with Shadow & Bone.
“Despite me not having utter faith in the script of [Seventh Son], there is nothing that would have stopped me working with that cast — on that scale, nothing,” Ben said. “So it didn’t matter to me that I didn’t fully understand the tone of it. But that’s why it was so important for me when we came to Shadow and Bone to feel like I really understood the tone and I had a seat in the table.”
See what Ben has said about his Shadow & Bone character General Kirigan.