Read Shockya.com's exclusive interview with director Nick Hamm, who helmed the new comedy film ‘Killing Bono,’ which is now playing in select theaters. The movie, which is based on musician and music critic Neil McCormick’s acclaimed 2003 memoir, ‘I Was Bono’s Doppelganger,’ follows him and his brother Ivan as they strive to achieve fame as a rock ‘n’ roll band. The only problem is that Neil, played by Ben Barnes, and his brother Ivan, portrayed by Robert Sheehan, are competing against Bono, played by Martin McCann, and the rest of the members of U2, who they attended school with. While Ivan has come to terms with U2′s achievements, and doesn’t mind accepting help from Bono, Neil refuses to garner success off of someone he perceives to be his greatest rival. Hamm discusses with us, among other things, what he found compelling about Neil and Ivan’s story, and how closely he worked with them and U2 while filming the movie.
Written by: Karen Benardello
ShockYa (SY): ‘Killing Bono’ follows Neil and Ivan as they compete with their old classmate, Bono, and the success of his band, U2. What was it about the story that you found compelling, and convinced you to direct the movie?
Nick Hamm (NH): The story was compelling because it’s an everyman’s story. The main character is an everyman. Fundamentally, the story is about failure, and the notion of failure. So I was very interested in doing a music movie that didn’t end with success, but ended with the protagonist basically failing, and not succeeding. I thought the character of Neil would be representative of quite a lot of people, in the sense that which one of us, in our teenager years, hadn’t stood in front of our bathroom mirror, and said “I want to be a rock star.” So it was a movie that dealt with hubris and ambition, and the idea of really achieving fame over talent, and I just thought it was all a very, very interesting subject matter. I thought they had great comedic potential.
SY: ‘Killing Bono’ is based on Neil’s 2003 memoir, ‘I Was Bono’s Doppelganger.’ Before you began shooting the movie, how much knowledge did you have of the story, and did you read the book first, before you began filming?
NH: I read the book myself, five years ago, optioned the book and then employed the writers to write the screenplay. So it was something that I produced from the beginning. When I first read the book, I realized that this story needed good cinematic treatment. So I involved the writers in that. The script took about two or three years to get right. I was very involved. The book is a sprawling account of Neil’s journey through the rock business in the ’80s. So what we did was focus on that in a much more character (driven) way.
SY: Since ‘Killing Bono is based on Neil’s memoir, how closely did you work with him while shooting? Did he have any say in the filming process?
NH: No. He didn’t have any say, but he was very close to the project. He read all the drafts of the screenplay. He was very instrumental in helping us through, and navigated certain issues. He became a very close colleague during the process of making the movie, and was very, very happy in seeing the movie being made. He wasn’t on set until the last couple of weeks of the film. In a sense, he wanted to let the actors settle, and get it right. But he was a total supporter, and has remained since then. He has been gracious in the fact that we have treated his life in this way.
SY: Since the film focuses on Neil’s rivalry with Bono and U2, did you have any contact with the band while you were filming the movie?
NH: Yeah, we had to have quite a bit of contact with the band, because in the movie, we use quite of bit of their original artwork, some of their songs they gave us. We were interested in showing certain early moments of when the band was formed.
In the movie, there were two scenes that were part of rock history. The band did put a notice, (U2 founder and drummer) Larry Mulln did put a notice up in the school corridor, and asked for signatures for anyone who wanted to join. They were going to join U2. At that moment, they were called The Hype.
There was also another scene in the movie that was an audition scene, and it takes place in Larry’s mom’s kitchen, which is the first audition that U2 ever did for their members. It was the first time they actually got together to play.
So we talked to The Edge, we talked to their manager, Paul McGuinness. We talked with (bass guitarist) Adam (Clayton). We talked with one of the producers on the movie, who was their ex-agent. We wanted to make sure we got those early things in, those early records of U2 correct, that we got them right. So from that point of view, we had a lot of communication with the band, all the way through the process.
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