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The O-Zone: Murder mission

Eighties’ style with Ben Barnes and Bono, George Lee’s rapid departure and the over-heated headshop debate

Monday

Monday bloody Monday! While OZone has absolutely no intention of holding/thrilling/kissing him beforehand, your columnist is off to Belfast to kill Bono. Now there's a sentence that's definitely never appeared anywhere before in the history of the printed word . . .

Needless to say, I'm not actually in Mark Chapman mode. I'm off to spend a day reporting from the set of the movie, Killing Bono. Directed by Nick Hamm, the film is loosely based on former Hot Press writer Neil McCormick's hilarious 2004 memoir, I Was Bono's Doppleganger, and stars Ben Barnes, Robert Sheehan, Pete Postlethwaite and Krysten Ritter.

McCormick went to Mount Temple Comprehensive with U2 and, having exactly the same ambitions as they did, didn't find it easy watching his old school friends conquering the world as his own musical ambitions were thwarted at every turn.

Despite his seething resentment, somehow their friendship survived. Although U2 have no financial stake in the movie (which has a €3m budget), it was Paul Hewson himself, apparently, who suggested the title Killing Bono.

OZone arrives on set -- a Belfast nightclub called Cafe Vaudeville -- shortly after midday. Four weeks into the shoot, they're filming a scene set at the Joshua Tree album launch. There's more than 100 extras hanging around, all dressed up in the styles of 1987 (ie badly).

I chat for a while with Ben Barnes (best-known as the star of Prince Caspian), who's playing McCormick. Although a Londoner, he speaks in a totally convincing Dublin accent.

"I kind of have to stay in the accent while I'm shooting, because otherwise it just goes out the window," he explains. "I did find it hard at first. I had a couple of sessions with a dialect coach, and then I was kind of panicking a little bit, and then I just made a decision to stay in the accent for six weeks. And it has helped too, no end, because now if they change a line, or whatever, I don't have to go up to someone and say, 'How would I say that?' because I've been talking like that all day."

Late in the afternoon, having just flown in from London, the real Neil McCormick arrives on set for the very first time. He tells me that he's delighted to be portrayed onscreen by an actor as handsome as Barnes. Unfortunately, the producers wouldn't grant him his biggest casting request. "I wanted them to cast Colm Meaney as Bono," he laughs. "That would've been the ultimate revenge!"

Tuesday

If they haven't done so already, Fianna Fail should have a whip-round and present George Lee with a brown envelope full of cash. By resigning so quickly from Fine Gael, and being so critical of them in the process, he's done more damage to the party than FF's most Machiavellian minds could ever have achieved.

Wednesday

OZone turns 39 today. Beelzebub! If I'd known I was going to survive this long, I'd have taken much better care of myself. George Bernard Shaw once declared, "Every man over 40 is a scoundrel!" I guess I was always an early developer.

Afternoon meeting with documentary maker Justin McCarthy.

"Forty is the age when you really feel different," he tells me. "That was the age I finally started acting the way I'd been thinking."

Thursday

Dublin's last surviving punk band, Paranoid Visions, get in touch to ask me to plug their new Strobelight and Torture EP. The title song is about the horrific Stardust fire in 1981, and its lyrics refer to the fact that the families of the deceased have been denied closure, and that there has been an apparent official unwillingness to hold anybody accountable.

The EP is available on FOAD Musick as a six-track CD, three-track seven-inch vinyl, and on download via iTunes.

Friday

"Can't talk now, Flanders, I've got a class to teach!"

To NUI Galway to deliver a talk about journalism. The organisers had told me that there'd be "at least four or five there". Naturally, given OZone's international fame and notoriety, I'd presumed they were talking hundreds. Instead, I'm led to a small classroom with six chairs.

The make-up, security and lighting personnel I've employed for the occasion are mightily pissed off when informed I won't be requiring their services after all.

Saturday

Blazing Buddha! The Nirvana headshop on Capel Street burnt fragrantly to the ground last night. Its owner, Jim Bellamy, maintains that it was arson, saying that he has been targeted following the hysterical media debate over headshops in recent weeks.

"I know there is foul play," he said. "Somebody has taken the law into their own hands by the disgusting media coverage of the last month or so. We have been tried by the media, found guilty, and this is the sentence. It is disgraceful. Now I am concerned . . . that whoever did this will not stop."

OZone stopped experimenting with mind-bending chemicals some time ago (around my 39th birthday, if memory serves correctly) so the headshop debate hasn't been of as much interest to me as it once would've been.

However, if the Nirvana fire was arson, the most likely culprits possibly aren't vigilantes worried about the availability of legal highs; rather, they're the street drug dealers whose business has effectively been ruined in recent weeks because of all the publicity about the legal wares available in headshops.

Whoever did it, it's worth remembering: most drugs aren't prohibited because they're dangerous; they're dangerous because they're prohibited.

Sunday

Valentine's Day. He can f**kin' have it!


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