A tour bus pulls up in Belfast’s Lower Donegall Street with a big-haired band on board. Screaming teenage girls, in neon brights and leather jackets, greet the denim-clad rockers as they disembark. Nearby a market stallholder in pink pixie boots rubs her hands to fend off the cold.
Visitors to the Cathedral Quarter yesterday could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped back in time to the late 1970s/early 1980s, when new wave groups, red double-deckers, Ford Cortinas and pleated trousers were de rigeur.
Instead, it’s a scene from music-comedy Killing Bono, being filmed in the city.
Starring Chronicles Of Narnia’s Ben Barnes, the movie is set during U2’s formative years in Dublin and London.
Based on the book by Neil McCormick, I Was Bono’s Doppelganger, it tells the story of the less-than-successful rival band which he set up with his brother Ivan in the late 1970s.
U2 frontman Bono was a schoolfriend of McCormick’s and while the young brothers struggled to find success Bono and his friends went on to achieve superstar status.
Barnes, better known as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles Of Narnia, plays Neil McCormick, and Irish actor Robert Sheehan plays his brother Ivan.
American Krysten Ritter plays McCormick’s girlfriend and Belfast actor Marty McCann takes the role of Bono. The film also stars Pete Postlethwaite.
Yesterday much of Lower Donegall Street was sealed off. for filming. Heartthrob Barnes was instantly recognisable despite the dodgy wig.
Also sporting flamboyant outfits and Adam Ant hair were local musicians Ciaran Gribbin (Joe Echo) and Paul ‘Hammy’ Hamilton, who have provided the soundtrack for the film.
The pair double up as extras, playing buskers.
Ciaran said: “The songs range from punk to new romantic to a stadium rock vibe and U2 have also given clearance for an unreleased song of theirs, Street Mission, to be included. It’s been freezing standing alround all day but it’s a great experience.”
Grammy-nominee Ciaran was surprised at how well the main characters could sing.
“Ben and Robert are really good singers and Marty McCann is brilliant as Bono.”
Producer Mark Huffman who, like the film’s director Nick Hamm, comes from Northern Ireland, said: “We’re delighted to be filming in Belfast.
“This city lends itself better to period pieces and budget restrictions made it easier to film here than in London or Dublin.
“We’ve got a brilliant cast and director, so we’re confident the finished product will be really good.”
Filming will continue in and around Belfast for four weeks. Killing Bono, funded by Northern Ireland Screen, will be released later this year.