There's no escaping destiny in Seventh Son, Legendary Pictures’ adaptation of Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice novels.
In the fantasy-adventure, mystical warrior Gregory (Jeff Bridges) must find and train the last remaining seventh son of the seventh son to stop an evil about to be unleashed upon the land. These chosen ones possess untapped supernatural powers, allowing them to fight dark forces. Now farmhand Tom Ward, played by Ben Barnes, must accept his calling and prepare for the battle of his young life.
Best known for his role in The Chronicles of Narnia, Barnes spoke with SPINOFF about his character's journey, working with Bridges, and what superhero he might like to play.
Spinoff Online: Seventh Son was originally slated for a February 2013 release date. How does it feel to finally be seeing it on the big screen?
Ben Barnes: I'm not one for trying to see something beforehand because I feel it's always hard to watch a sequence of scenes without music or effects. You can't help but be disheartened at that stage. It's incredible what directors, editors and effects houses can do, so I like to wait until it's finished. I didn't see it until probably six months ago.
I think what they've done in post-production is extraordinary with the CGI and the monsters and the ghosts made out of wisps of dark smoke. It's great to finally see these things visualized, these things that I had in my head when we were filming in a cold forest, on my own at 3 o'clock in the morning. The delays are just sometimes the politics of Hollywoodland.
I was surprised it had a bit of a retro feel, like the films I liked when I was a kid, such as Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. It has these themes of destiny, love, heroism and the fight between good and evil. Those themes are eternally relatable, so I don't think it matters that it's coming out now.
Most people probably recognize you from the Chronicle of Narnia films. Was Seventh Son like fantasy déjà vu?
Yeah, a little bit in the terms of the sword fighting, certainly, but I got to learn new things like the staff fighting, some of the underwater stuff and the carriage fighting.
The main draw was obviously working with Jeff Bridges, which was not part of Narnia. To have him as a scene partner, to have somebody who could mentor me through the process, in and out of character, was pretty thrilling.
But, I was talking to somebody about the sets. I remember in 2007 when I walked on to the set of Miraz's castle in Prince Caspian, I literally had trouble catching my breath because I immediately thought of the hundreds of people that had been working on this castle courtyard for weeks. When I walked on to Mother Malkin's lair or Master Gregory's dungeon/man cave with all the weapons and lava flowing through it in this film, I had exactly the same kind of staggered reaction of awe. That's the thrill of working in the fantasy genre. Anything you can conjure in your mind is possible to film on screen.
As the seventh son of the seventh son, Tom wields certain supernatural abilities. What is his reaction when he finds out about his destiny?
It's a multi-layered learning curve for him. Tom has these visions, which he sees as a disability. He shakes and passes out with these scary nightmarish visions. He definitely sees that as an impediment and something he was embarrassed of, even though he knows this means there's a plan for him beyond pig farming. He then learns about the nature of what those visions are. Gregory tries to teach him those could be a useful tool rather than a hindrance. Tom learns why he has these visions and what it is that is special about him and what power that might allow him to assert in predicting the future or altering it.
At the beginning, Tom gets asked, "Can you change these events or do they play out in your head?" He says, "I don't know. I never tried." I guess that's one of the smaller lessons of the film. If you don’t try, you never know.
He gets mentored by Master Gregory. What kind of apprentice does Tom make?
I'm not really sure Tom is the dream apprentice Gregory is hoping for. His other apprentice, Billy Bradley, played by Kit Harington, was the perfect apprentice. Gregory loses him and then gets Tom, who is more awkward and confused to why he's there. He doesn't really know what his job is supposed to be. Tom doesn't write anything down and he talks back and is sarcastic. Then he goes ahead and falls in love with a witch almost instantaneously. Tom isn't the ideal apprentice until he comes to terms with who he really is.
There's plenty of action and visual eye candy in Seventh Son. What scenes are you most excited for moviegoers to see?
There's a really exciting sequence where Tom gets chased by a boggart, which also has some nice humor to it in terms of what they know about the science of boggarts and what their patterns might be. That's a fun water sequence which came together nicely. It's a great blend of the relationship between me and Jeff, the stunt team, the location scouts and the CGI team, who created the monster. It's all the people working on the movie coming together.
Personally, there's a couple of little scenes between me and Jeff around a fireplace talking about what they are going through and what it could potentially mean for them that I enjoyed.
Is there a trick to mastering sword fighting? Did you go through rigorous training for the film?
I trained with the swords and then the staff, which was a new weapon for me to learn. It's tricky to get a hang of because it has two ends. You end up hitting yourself in the shins an awful lot when you start. There was also training in little things like hanging upside down, or being dunked in water tanks, or the right way to land when you fall. There was a bit of weight training so I could bulk up a little bit. The seventh son is supposed to be stronger than normal men, even though I'm a scrawny one, so I had to put on a few pounds.
Seventh Son has a stellar cast. What did you take away from working alongside acting heavy-weights Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore?
They both have such a charming presence in the world. Even aside from anything to do with acting, they walk through the world with such humor and grace. I was just doing a press conference with them and I'm still in awe with the way they answer questions and the way they treat everybody. Also, how determined they are to make every moment as engaging as it possibly can be. That blend of being so comfortable with who you are, and then focusing on the project, and then having that passion for telling stories, is reassuring and something to aspire to.
After doing features like The Words and The Big Wedding, did it feel strange stepping back into the realm of creatures and green screens?
It's nice to fall into different genres. The Big Wedding was my first time doing that comedy drama. The Words is more dramatic and emotional. The job is the same in trying to deliver each moment. In terms of life adventure, it's extraordinary to work on fantasy projects. You get to go to these extraordinary places or the harder-to-reach places in Northern Canada to find these waterfalls. There's nobody there. You'd have to get a secret adventure guide to find any of these places.
Lastly, Seventh Son is based on a series of books, so this movie could potentially spawn sequels. What other franchises are you dying to be involved in?
Obviously, I watched all the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potters. His Dark Materials was one of my favorite series and they only made one of those films. I guess it didn't turn out quite how they wanted. I was a big fan of those stories. I can't really think of any franchises I want to be part of.
That would be cool. I constantly sit around wondering what kind of superhero I would be. Somebody said I should be Iron Fist, but I haven't heard of him. I would take whatever superhero I could get. Every boy wants to be a superhero.
Seventh Son opens Friday nationwide.