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English actor Ben Barnes landed in hot water when he abruptly departed a London stage production of "The History Boys" in 2007 to take a role in a Disney film shooting in New Zealand. The decision may have not won him any accolades among the theater community, but it did wonders for his career - the role was that of Prince Caspian, the titular hero of the 2008 sequel to "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005), and the blizzard of publicity that preceded its early summer released virtually papered the globe with pictures of his face. The exposure catapulted the actor into worldwide attention, and generated more work in major motion pictures, including the third "Narnia" feature and an opportunity to romance Jessica Biel in a big-screen version of Noel Coward's "Easy Virtue" (2009).
Born Aug. 20, 1981 in London, England, Barnes made his theatrical debut at 15 as a member of the National Youth Music Theatre in "The Ballad of Solomon Peavy" and appeared in several other productions with the company until 2003. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Drama and English in 2004, and began making the rounds on British and American television. Among his credits during this period was "Split Decision" (2006), an unsold pilot about high school life that was shot in Canada for The CW Network. Barnes was also featured in a supporting role as the younger version of Nathaniel Parker's character in Matthew Vaughn's fantasy feature "Stardust" (2007), which was met with much derision by critics.
Barnes enjoyed a substantial career on the London stage in a variety of plays, which culminated in a turn as the manipulative Dakin in the 2006-07 production of the Tony Award-winning "History Boys." However, Barnes received an offer in 2007 from the producers of "The Chronicles of Narnia" to essay Prince Caspian in the 2008 sequel and two subsequent films based on the C.S. Lewis fantasy series. He subsequently departed the tour prior to the end of his contract, which generated some harsh criticism in the press from his employers at the National Theatre. Regardless, Barnes headed to New Zealand to begin filming "Prince Caspian" for director Andrew Adamson. As Caspian, the Narnian prince who summons the Pevensie children (the heroes of the "Narnia" series) to return to the mythical land to aid him in preventing an evil king from usurping his throne, Barnes was central to the film's massive advertising campaign, and his appearance resulted in a small army of devoted fan sites.
"Caspian" wasn't Barnes' only film for 2008 - he was also top-billed as a Russian who falls in with bad company after arriving in London in "Bigga Than Ben." It was soon followed by another leading role, this time in Stephan Elliot's film version of the Noel Coward comedy "Easy Virtue." Barnes played a young Englishman who introduces his parents to the American girl (Jessica Biel) he has married on a whim in France. The year ended with Barnes returning to New Zealand to begin work on the third Narnia film, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which was expected for a 2010 release.
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