Dorian gray is a story of a handsome young man in Victorian high society London who is encouraged to pursue a hedonistic lifestyle by family friend, Lord Henry Wotton. Blinded by narcissism after he sees an exceptionally beautiful portrait of himself, Dorian sells his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. He was described as handsome, finely curved lips. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once.
Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was already filmed more than a dozen time. “Dorian Gray telling Wilde’s morality tale about eternal youth, ageless beauty, self-indulgent, pleasure seeking and the pitfall you might fall into if you pursued them so relentlessly”, said the British-blood actor, Ben Barnes. “And it’s a greatest story ever told and hasn’t been told in a very long time. It deserved to be told”.
To portray Dorian Gray into a film would require an actor who has indisputably handsome face but able to convince a journey from a naive young man who sells his soul in return for remaining as beautiful as his painted image, to a man who jaded by a lecherously pleasure – seeking without happiness and return to his society, looks as young as he left 25 years before, finally repents his terrible behavior and looking for redemption.
But Barnaby Thompson’s – the producer of Dorian Gray – interest in Ben was more than just on his looks. It happened by chance one day between scenes on Easy Virtue. He saw in a moment, Ben’s expression switched. His brown eyed charm imperceptibly turning to something blacker, something deadly. “It was the Dorian Gray journey in a single look. He has matinee idol looks, he’s utterly charming, but he can go from sweet charm to steel in just a flick of head”.
Olivia Cole wrote on her report for London Evening Standard that, Ben Barnes’s Dorian Gray has a glint in his eyes that’s half charming and half psychotic. It starts to make Rolling Stones look like a kind of boys you’d like to take home for tea. And Francesca Scorcucchi confirmed it. “Ben Barnes has the looks as if he has done himself pact with the devil. Long hair, 3 days beard, light shadow under his eyes that made him even more charming. He has a face whom you can’t deny anything”.
Tall and aristocratic looking, Ben Barnes exudes an almost supernatural beauty and grace and being cast as Dorian Gray is like being told that he’s the ultimate in beauty, that people should sell their grandmothers to look like him. But that fact doesn’t give him so much confidence. “I don’t know. You still get these waves of doubt that come over you, for example, when you get a bad review or you accept a part and think, “Oh, God, what have I just accepted? I can’t do that.” I don’t think that’s something that will ever go away in me”. Though Barnes was worried about making a “hash” of it, but Dorian Gray “is still a great role that you can not refuse as an actor”, he said.
And that was what Oliver Parker was worry about. He wasn’t entirely convinced Ben Barnes could do the role of Dorian Gray until after Ben impressed him in the audition. Ben might be just a little too good looking to convince as a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and the undeniable pleasure of the flesh. “I thought, yeah he’s great looking guy, but is it boy band or is it a real talent? And the delight for me was to find that there is a real talent there. He could do the sweet, charming, innocent thing but believe me, there is a very bad boy in there. I’ve noticed a certain relish when he contributes ideas to his murkier scenes”.
Collin Firth, played as Lord Henry Wotton, Ben’s on-screen mentor, adds, “I didn’t have any concerns about him. My concerns for Ben are that there’s a rather Dorian-esque thing about being as beautiful as he is. He actually might get hired because he’s beautiful, but he’s got a lot to prove, because the world is skeptical of it. I think he has a real battle with public perception. I think he is a person of great substance. I think he’s an actor of great talent. He’s very, very bright. The assumption that I had when I met him was, “You’re just a pretty boy.” I think I did catch myself being surprised at how talented he was. He’s far than just a pretty boy, he’s not to be underestimated. He’s shaping up to be a rather formidable actor”.
For someone as handsome as Ben Barnes, he may be would have liked to remaining young and handsome before he took a part in the movie. But after having watching what happened to his character “I understood that it’s not so pleasant. We all live in a society that’s crazy about youth – all these Botox and cosmetic surgery, “yes-I-always-look-like-I’m-25” – but it leads to no good. At the end Dorian wants to kill himself to get rid of fake youth. “Pleasure has nothing in common with happiness”. Wilde’s novel is quite able to explain what one shouldn’t do to be happy – one should quit paying much attention to appearance”.
Ben Barnes has an analytical approach to create a required character for his role. This ability made him, the boy who never get a scratch, drinks and never looks hungover and generally lives a life of consequence free-debauchery, able to portray Dorian Gray convincingly. Ben Barnes, with his indisputably handsome look and real talent, was the perfect choice for Dorian Gray.
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