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"I grew up with Frank Sinatra and it has taken me a long time to get to a place where I really enjoy [U2's] music." — Ali Hewson

Killing Bono star Ben Barnes: U2 weren't that cool when I was younger

Perfectly formed British actor Ben Barnes tells Metro about escaping Narnia for the passionate indie comedy of Killing Bono.

'I've probably had the worst review of any actor in anything, ever,' declares a bruised Ben Barnes, gamely. 'People say: "Don't read them" but I don't want to be one of those actors walking around thinking I'm the dog's bollocks when actually everyone is laughing at me behind my back thinking: "He's pretty, but..."'

And Benjamin Thomas Barnes is, undoubtedly, pretty. A blessing that led to his being typecast as the ideal of male beauty in Dorian Gray (for which he was also cruelly dubbed 'Britain's drippiest leading actor') as well as the Londoner's highest profile role to date: Prince Caspian, the chocolate-eyed, tweenage pin-up of the Chronicles Of Narnia franchise.

'I had hair extensions, orange make-up and enormous armour to bulk me up,' insists Barnes, who, far from being the 'aren't I handsome?' swaggerer I'd imagined is, in fact, endearingly anxious to be liked and nervously keeps spilling tea on himself. 'The skinny, pasty fool – that's my natural habitat.'

It's certainly how you'd describe his role in his latest film, Killing Bono, an indie comedy based on rock critic Neil McCormick's memoirs of trying, unsuccessfully, to become a global rock god, while being constantly tormented by the global success of his old school mate, Bono.

'They wanted very much that Withnail doggedness and blind, flawed passion,' says Barnes, for whom the part fulfilled his own teen dreams of music stardom – he was in an urban boy band called Hyrise (cringe!) at Kingston University 'for about three minutes' before they were knocked out of the early Eurovision heats in 2004.

'I was never very into U2 at school, though,' he admits. 'They weren't really that cool.'

More scary than performing his own glam punk numbers – live – in Killing Bono was mastering the Irish accent. 'The Irish have been burned a few times by your Gerard Butlers, plus TC – Tom Cruise – In Far And Away. But we couldn't really afford a dialect coach, so I decided to stay in the accent from the moment I landed in Ireland to the moment I left. Which I did. It was very confusing when I rang my mum – she's a psychotherapist, so I'm sure she was very concerned.'

It paid off, though, Barnes proudly tells me, in a way that almost suggests I should reach out to pat his ridiculously glossy hair and say: 'Good boy.' He is now second only to Cate Blanchett in a Dublin newspaper's recent list of the 'ten best Irish accents on screen'.

Accents have, peculiarly, become Barnes's trademark – he played a Russian immigrant to cracking effect in Bigga Than Ben and adopted a sort of Spanish accent for Prince Caspian.

'I did start to wonder – do they not like my accent? Is middle class too boring? Whatever I've just done, I want to do the opposite. So, as soon as I'd done Killing Bono I did a three-hour World War I play.' That was an adaptation of Sebastian Faulks's novel, Birdsong, at the Comedy Theatre for which, incidentally, he got some 'brilliant' reviews.

'In Hollywood they're used to that American brand of acting, which is "come into a room with your natural charisma and we'll give you a slightly different outfit and haircut for each film, but you're basically playing the same part and we'll build you into a massive star,"' he says.

'Whereas I think English, Irish and, to some extent, Australian actors want to prove their versatility. I would much rather do that than be a massive celebrity, but you have to work much harder for the things that people don't know you for. I mean, I keep being offered earnest, period boy-to-man parts on a weekly basis.'

Still, at the age of 29, that should dry up soon enough, something Barnes is sweetly revealing about.

'You do wonder how long you can be an up-and-comer for. I've started now to be included on those lists of "bright young things" and I'm just about to not be allowed on those "30 under 30" lists as well – which is quite scary.

'Still I've got a good skin care regime,' he jokes self-consciously, seemingly oblivious to a complimentary cookie on his saucer that I'd have chomped in two seconds. 'And, you know, I've still got that picture in the attic...'.

Killing Bono is in cinemas from Friday.

(c) Metro, 2011.