Film Preview: Killing Bono, the story of the band U2 could have been February 9, 2011
Every journalist secretly wants their life turned into a movie. Even if it’s the story of how, through a combination of pride and self-delusion, they missed out on becoming the world biggest rock star.
Beehive sat with Neil McCormick, the Daily Telegraph’s chief rock critic, at a preview screening, as he watched the story of his Dublin youth played out in the feature film, Killing Bono.
It must have been a little uncomfortable for McCormick. As played by Ben Barnes, it is Neil’s lies and concealment in pursuit of his rock god dream that prevent his guitarist brother Ivan joining up with a bunch of hopefuls who eventually become U2.
With a script co-written by comedy veterans Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, Killing Bono is a fine coming-of-age tale mixed with the traditional rock biopic – except without the bit where our protagonists get money, fame and number one hits.
The film begins with the fateful notice placed on the noticeboard of the Mount Temple School by 15 year-old Larry Mullen, seeking compatriots to form a rock band.
Ivan auditions for Larry, Adam Clayton Jr and the mouthy singer and guitarist duo who will adopt the names Bono and The Edge. But Neil has already got Ivan signed up to his nascent punk band The McCormick Brothers and tells Bono to leave his brother out of the rival outfit.
From then on it’s a tale of soaring success – for Bono’s boys, renamed U2 – whilst Neil and his long-suffering brother pursue their parallel dream through a series of unwise hairstyles, withdrawn record deals and musical cul-de-sacs.
The film clearly has the approval of the Irish megastars. At each step a generous Bono, played with the right swagger by Martin McCann, offers his old pals a leg up but Neil always bites the outstretched hand. When Neil gets a sock in the chops from his brother as the sibling betrayal becomes clear, it’s thoroughly well-deserved.
U2 fans can be assured – no Bonos were harmed in the making of this movie. Highlights include Peter Serafinowicz’s whacked-out A&R man.
Pete Postlethwaite, gives a poignant final performance as Karl, the flamboyantly gay landlord who takes pity upon Neil and urges his band to enjoy the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll lifestyle to the fullest.
Postlethewaite’s role was rewritten to allow him to appear in the film, despite his terminal illness.
Shot in Belfast (to recreate Dublin’s grungey 70s look), the low-budget film recreates the charm of an early Bill Forsyth movie and features engaging performances from the leads.
It’s a little long and the final scenes strain to provide some drama to justify the film’s title. But it’s a witty, well-made tale that asks, ‘would you sacrifice the bonds of family for unimaginable fame’?
Directed by Nick Hamm, Killing Bono is based on McCormick’s memoirs and the demands of Hollywood means a little artistic licence has been taken. Neil says he didn’t smoke and would certainly never have called Bono a “fanny magnet”.
Still there’s every chance that the McCormick Brothers will reunite for the premiere party when the Paramount film is released in April.