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"Killing Bono" tribute to rock's hall of failures

Reuters, March 28, 2011
By: Mike Collett-White

 

New film "Killing Bono" is a tragi-comic tribute to rock'n'roll's countless flops, and tells the true story of two brothers who began as U2's friends and rivals but ended up on the scrapheap of musical history.

The movie, which has a gala screening in London on Monday and hits theatres on Friday, is based on music journalist Neil McCormick's memoirs of the same name, although its makers took considerable liberties with the source material.

Unlike in the movie, for example, McCormick never did pull a gun on his school friend and nemesis Bono, even if much of his youth was consumed with an unhealthy obsession for U2's staggering success and his own failure as a singer.

"The script takes whatever liberties it wants from the book," McCormick, rock critic of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, told Reuters. "The beginning is quite similar to mine and then it launches into its own version in a kind of parallel universe."

Another fictional twist in the film, directed by Nick Hamm, is how Neil hid the fact that U2 had asked his bandmate and brother Ivan to join them, so sure was he that his group Shook Up! would eventually eclipse its rivals.

He said he was less dogmatic than his character in the movie, but actor Ben Barnes, best known for his lead role in Narnia blockbuster "Prince Caspian", did capture some key traits that contributed to his downfall as a musician.

"Back in the 1980s I counted all my chickens before they hatched and none of them actually hatched," he said.

"I messed a lot of things up. We made a lot of mistakes and I was driven by the kind of ambition that leads to mistakes."

According to the film, those mistakes included rejecting the help Bono offered in U2's early days and putting too much faith in slippery music executives.

MUSIC BUSINESS IS TOUGH

As well as being about personal failings and professional downfall, McCormick said Killing Bono had a wider message.

"In fact the book is really about how hard it is in the music business," he explained. "The difference between us and U2 was about 10 percent and that 10 percent was luck."

U2 members have seen the film, and, while not vouching for its accuracy, a source close to the band said they enjoyed the comedy and its portrayal of the early days in 1970s Dublin.

Drummer Larry Mullen founded the group when, as a teenager at school, he posted an advertisement for people to form a band, and Ivan McCormick took part in the first practice sessions in Mullen's home.

"Those early scenes are very close to the truth of the life we lived," McCormick said. "I see Larry's kitchen and feel the intense nostalgia of a time of life that wasn't recorded."

The official soundtrack, released as an album on Monday by Sony Music, includes a previously unreleased track by The Hype, as U2 used to be called. "Street Mission" is included alongside U2 classic "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".

"U2 allowed us to use that (Street Mission) and it is an indication of their support for the film," said McCormick, who is still in contact with his old school friend Bono. "They are very picky about where they allow their songs to go."

The movie also features the last screen performance of British actor Pete Postlethwaite, who died in January aged 64.

The frail-looking Oscar nominee played the McCormicks' camp landlord, rather than the original role he was offered of a criminal gangster who funds the brothers' first concerts.

"The part of the gay landlord was slightly reinvented. They wrote it especially for him as a farewell part," McCormick said. "He was really only able to do the takes and then would retire."  

(c) Reuters, 2011.

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