Killing Bono Interview
Killing Bono Interview
Inspired by the biography of Neil McCormick, Killing Bono tells the story of two brothers who are determined to become just as successful as their childhood friend’s band, U2. Author Neil McCormick, director Nick Hamm, and actors Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan and spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about their experiences on the set of Killing Bono, working with the late, great Pete Postlethwaite and what rejection really feels like.

What was the experience of watching the final, finished cut of the film for the first time?

Neil McCormick

Deeply traumatic! This is a depiction of my failings and then it’s exaggerated to the Nth degree and sometimes looking at yourself in real life on a TV screen can make you want to crawl out the room, but seeing an actor magnifying your failings was really humiliating. And then also my head was exploding because you’re kind of looking at it, saying: “Well, I kind of recognise that room but what’s that? Who’s that person? And what’s this person going to think of that scene?” You can’t really follow the story at all and something that you think is going to be your great glory, which is that your life is somehow being celebrated in a movie, just turns out to be the final insult! But I’ve got over that now, the second time I saw it I realised it’s actually pretty funny and they’ve done an amazing job.
U2 did do the audition in Larry’s mum’s kitchen, put the notice on the notice board and play in the school disco...
So, you weren’t present for much of the shoot?

Neil McCormick

No. I’ve been around the process, hovering in the background but I got out of the way of it pretty quickly. You know, in the ‘80s I got in the way a lot of my own things and it’s been a long time since then and I’ve learned not to obstruct my own opportunities. Nick was determined to get it made and I sort of gave him my blessing. But every time I would see a script and see something that made me cringe deeply inside I would just take deep breath and say this is somebody else’s thing. It made me laugh, which was enough encouragement to keep it going. So, when I went to the set it was just as a guest. Writers are the least important person on a film set; they’re less important than the clapper board guy.
You do get to cameo though ...

Neil McCormick

Yeah, when we were shooting the strip club scene. So, I’m in the strip club, right at the front. I spent an entire day with a naked girl shoving her butt in my face!
I think this has taken about five years to bring to the screen since you first set about preparing it. So, what was the appeal for you?

Nick Hamm

I think the most interesting thing for me was the fact that it was an everyman story. In a sense most music movies deal with the journey towards stardom, so the third act after the second act breakdown is full of the concert, the signing to the label and then ultimate success. But this was a complete reversal; this was a complete downward spiral towards total failure and rejection. That, to me, seemed to be a great story and great raw material for a comedy. Comedies are best told when the character is as much an everyman and people can see themselves in him or her. And I think a lot of people wake up in the morning, stand in front of that mirror and pretend they want to be a rock star. That journey to failing in that achievement can be quite funny, so that’s really where I came from in it.

Ben Barnes

I think what was also interesting was that it’s also a story about how sometimes success doesn’t come in the way that you’ve imagined it, because the real Neil now is in the blossoming, blooming third act of his own actual life. Nick rang Neil up before we started and said: “The problem with your life is that it doesn’t have a third act, so we’re going to give you one!” So, that’s where that kind of story comes from.

Nick Hamm

Look, the movie takes fact and makes it fiction and it takes fiction and makes it fact. So, certain authentic things happened. U2 did do the audition in Larry’s mum’s kitchen, they did put the notice on the notice board and they did play in the school disco. They did do those things. So, as filmmakers we all sat down and said we need to represent that correctly and accurately and with a sense of authenticity because that’s not fictional; that’s actually rock and roll history and you want to get that right.

However, the rest of the story – the extrapolation of that – yes, Ivan did go to that interview but he was told at that moment that he didn’t get the gig. Well, there’s no tension in that, there’s no fiction in that, there’s no drama in that, so we suspended that decision and had his brother not tell him. Therefore, we took elements of the book and condensed them and made them into a much more dramatic through-line.

Ben Barnes

And no one knows what’s real anymore. Neil got in trouble with the real-life actual Gloria, for having a fictional affair, which I did on his behalf in the film.

Neil McCormick

Yes, we went out for dinner after the first screening and she was being really horrible to me. I said: “Is this because you’ve just seen me betray you with another woman who didn’t even exist?! And you were there! So, if you don’t believe me, what hope is there for anyone else?” But she replied: “It’s just exactly like something you would have done!”
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Content updated: 14/12/2019 03:09

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