Ben Barnes was born in Cambridge, England to Tricia Barnes, a relationship therapist, and Thomas Barnes, a professor of psychiatry. He has a younger brother, Jack, and is an alumnus of both Homefield Preparatory School and King’s College School, where he was a contemporary of film actor Khalid Abdalla and comedian Tom Basden. He studied Drama and English literature at Kingston University.
Barnes began his career in musical theatre. As a teenager, he spent a few years as part of the National Youth Music Theatre, whose famous alumni also include Jude Law and Jamie Bell. At 15 years old, Barnes landed his first professional job as a drummer in the West End musical adaptation of Bugsy Malone. He was briefly a singer in the pop boyband Hyrise, which was in the running to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004. Barnes began working in television in 2006, including a guest appearance on the U.K. series Doctors. That same year, he joined the ensemble cast of a West End production of The History Boys, in which he starred as the sexually provocative Dakin, a role originally played by Dominic Cooper on stage and in the The History Boys movie.
Barnes made his feature-film debut as Young Dunstan in 2007’s Stardust, directed by Matthew Vaughn and based on the Neil Gaiman graphic novel of the same name. Barnes then starred as a Russian hoodlum named Cobakka in Suzie Halewood’s Bigga Than Ben, which was released in 2008 in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
In February 2007, it was announced Barnes would play the role of Caspian in the film adaption of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, directed by Andrew Adamson. Adamson said “Caspian is a coming of age and, to some degree, a loss of innocence story, with Caspian starting out quite naïve, then craving revenge and finally letting go of the vengeance.” While many readers interpret Caspian as a child, a passage in the novel mentions his age to be near that of Peter’s, so an older actor was sought to match William Moseley. Barnes had read the novel as a child, and was cast in two-and-a-half weeks after meeting with the filmmakers. He spent two months in New Zealand horse riding and stunt training to prepare for shooting. Barnes modelled his Spanish accent on Mandy Patinkin’s performance as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. Adamson did not expect to cast a British actor as Caspian, and said Barnes fit well into the surrogate family of Adamson and the four actors playing the Pevensies. When cast, Barnes was appearing in the National Theatre’s West End production of The History Boys: producer Mark Johnson joked Barnes “probably isn’t the National (Theatre)’s favorite actor right now”, although Barnes has stated in interviews that he gave the theatre good notice.
In the spring of 2008, he finished filming the role of John Whittaker for Noël Coward’s romantic comedy, Easy Virtue opposite Jessica Biel. Written and directed by Australian Stephan Elliott, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2008. The film has screened at the Rio, Rome, Abu Dhabi, London and Adelaide Film Festivals. It also screened at the Tribeca Film Festival prior to its U.S. release on May 22, 2009.
Barnes next starred in the title role in a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, directed by Oliver Parker for Ealing Studios. The film was released on September 9, 2009, in the United Kingdom, and had its world premiere that month at the Toronto International Film Festival. For the remainder of 2009, Dorian Gray was released in Spain, Australia, Italy, Finland and Portugal. Dorian Gray had a 2010 release in Russia, Greece, Germany and Spain. In the United States, the film was released on August 24, 2010, as a direct-to-video DVD and Blu-ray.
In June 2009, Barnes filmed the pyschological thriller Locked In, directed by Suri Krishnamma, on location in Boston. In the movie, Barnes plays an American father named Josh whose daughter seems to be in a coma after being in a car accident.
Barnes starred as King Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third installment in the Narnia movie series. Directed by Michael Apted, the movie was filmed from July to November 2009 in Brisbane, Australia, and released in December 2010.
In January 2010, Barnes began filming Killing Bono, a comedy based on the Neil McCormick memoir Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelgänger, in which McCormick recounts his youth in Ireland as an aspiring rock star who is overshadowed by his friend Bono, the lead singer of U2. Barnes plays McCormick in Killing Bono, which is directed by Nick Hamm. Filming started at the beginning of January in the city of Lisburn. Killing Bono was released on April 1, 2011, in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Barnes returned to the West End stage in London, with a starring role as World War I soldier Stephen Wraysford in Birdsong, a drama based on the Sebastian Faulks novel of the same title. The play, directed by Trevor Nunn and adapted for the West End stage by writer Rachel Wagstaff, began previews at the Comedy Theatre in London on September 18, 2010, and opened on September 28, 2010. The play closed on January 15, 2011.
He was then cast alongside Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana in The Words. He played the younger version of Jeremy Irons character whose manuscript, based on his life in France, has been found by Bradley Cooper. The film was released on September 7, 2012.
In 2013 Barnes had one film released, The Big Wedding, a remake of the original 2006 French film Mon frère se marie (My brother is getting married). The movie starred an ensemble cast which included Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams. He played Alejandro Griffin, the adopted son of Don Griffin (played by Robert De Niro) and Ellie Griffin (played by Diane Keaton), who is getting married to Melissa “Missy” O’Connor (played by Amanda Seyfried). He asks his divorced parents to get along for the duration of his marriage as his biological mother, Madonna Soto (Patricia Rae), believes divorce to be a sin. The movie was released on the April 26, 2013.
Barnes was also cast as Tom Ward in the film Seventh Son, an adaptation of the book The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney. Filming began in March 2012 in Vancouver, Canada. In December 2012, Barnes began filming the modern day crime drama By The Gun with co-stars Harvey Keitel and Leighton Meester. The film was released on December 5, 2014. Seventh Son was released on February 6, 2015.
In 2015, he also starred as Sam Adams in the History Channel’s three-part fictional mini-series Sons of Liberty, which aired on History in January 2015. His latest film Jackie & Ryan, a romantic drama co-starring Kathering Heigl, was released on July 3, 2015.
On July 20, 2015 it was announced that Barnes would replace Eion Bailey as Logan in HBO’s upcoming science fiction thriller Westworld. Described as “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin,” the series tells the story of a futuristic theme park called Westworld. Season One premiered on October 2, 2016.
In September 2016, Barnes was cast as Billy Russo in the upcoming Netflix / Marvel series The Punisher, a spin-off of Marvel’s Daredevil, and co-starring Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Deborah Ann Woll. Season One premiered on November 17, 2017 on Netflix.
In November 2016, HBO announced that Westworld had been renewed for second season. Filming began in October 2017 in California and Utah. Season Two premiered on April 22, 2018 on HBO.
On December 12, 2017, it was announced that The Punisher had also been renewed for a second season. Filming of Season Two began in February 2018, in and around New York City. Season Two of The Punisher premiered on January 18, 2019. Netflix cancelled the series on February 18, 2019.
In August 2018, Barnes was cast as Benjamin Greene in Gold Digger, a six-part drama mini-series created and written by Marnie Dickens and co-starring Julia Ormond, Alex Jennings, Jemima Rooper and Sebastian Armesto. The series has been described by BBC as a contemporary relationship thriller about second chances, family and betrayal. Filming began in Devon and London, England in September 2018. Gold Digger premiered on November 12, 2019 on BBC One.
In September 2019, Barnes was cast as General Kirigan (aka The Darkling) in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, an upcoming fantasy TV series based on the Grisha Trilogy (beginning with Shadow and Bone and the Six of Crows duology) by author Leigh Bardugo. Filming began in October 2019 in Budapest, Hungary, and wrapped in February 2020.
Shadow and Bone premiered on April 23, 2021 on Netflix. On June 7, 2021 it was announced that Shadow and Bone had been renewed for a second season.
On August 20, 2021 Barnes announced that he had recorded his debut EP, Songs For You. His first single, 11:11, was released on September 17, 2021, followed by the full EP on October 15, 2021, which consisted of 5 songs – 11:11, Rise Up, Pirate Song, Not The End and Ordinary Day. Barnes’ first single, 11:11, was also included on the NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 80 CD, which was released on November 30, 2021.
In September 2021, Barnes was cast in Netflix’s anthology series, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Filming began in early September 2021 in Toronto, Canada.
In January 2022, Season Two of Shadow and Bone began filming in Budapest, Hungary, and wrapped in June 2022. No release date for Season Two has been announced.
In June 2022, it was also announced that Barnes had joined the cast of the period thriller The Critic, a story of ambition, blackmail and desire with a dazzling anti-hero at its dark heart, based on the novel, Curtain Call, by Anthony Quinn. Barnes’ co-stars in The Critic include Sir Ian McKellen, Gemma Arterton, Mark Strong and Alfred Enoch.
The Critic began filming in and around London in June 2022, and is expected to premiere in 2023.
Last updated on November 2, 2022