Catching Up with Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo Star Ben Barnes

Image: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Salvatore Ferragamo.


Last week, Salvatore Ferragamo fêted its fall-favorite fragrance turned year-round champ Uomo—a woody, masculine interplay of Italian aromas—at New York City’s Rose Bar with an intimate party hosted by friend of the family Ben Barnes. Most known for his roles in “The Chronicles of Narnia” films, “Westworld,” and the forthcoming “The Punisher” series, the actor stars in the scent’s Emmy Award-nominated film director Francesco Carrozzini. In advance of the aperitivo, EH sat down with Barnes to speak about the art of living and the wonderment of having fun.


ESSENTIAL HOMME: Congrats on the Ferragamo campaign! You’ve been an ambassador for the house for a little over a year now. How did the relationship begin and how has the experience been so far?

BEN BARNES: I’ve never wanted to do campaigns or endorsement just for the sake of being a salesperson. I want to represent, and I want [each opportunity] to represent me. It’s all been so wonderful, but there have been two main highlights in the experience so far. The first was shooting our TV commercial. Francesco Carrozzini, the director, is this outrageously passionate Italian man who drives a red Ferrari around Los Angeles. What more of a template do you need for this kind of Uomo Italian man lifestyle? He’s always got one button too many undone. He was so much fun that we’ve become pals since; we just goofed off on set! I think that’s the main thing Ferragamo wanted from me—in terms of my input—to breathe a sense of fun into the scene. It’s a very elegant, stylish brand—and that wasn’t going to go away—but there tends to be a shortage of “funness” in these things. If you want to represent a cologne, it’s almost as if you have to be afraid to enjoy yourself; you have to stand on a rock with your shirt off and stare into the camera with the look of death on your face. So I really enjoyed bring a bit of humanity to it. I also really loved announcing the fragrance in Florence.

EH: What was the launch in Italy like?

BB: It was amazing. I had never been to Florence before, and I can personally guarantee you that there’s no better way to see it then to be invited there by Ferragamo, because they have their own hotels and amazing restaurants and it felt like a cultural mafia—they can get you into anywhere. We were in the Boboli Gardens, which was amazing. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Dan Brown’s [“Inferno”], which is set in the city, and I had all these places and characters in my head. We were there at night, when no one else was, at this amazing dinner with music by Nicola Piovani, the composer from the film “Life is Beautiful.” He came on and played some strings in the middle of the garden and it was great. I mean, “great” is not the right word for this experience at all, but it certainly was a magical evening.

EH:  Salvatore Ferragamo is an Italian house defined by codes of Florentine history. Coming from outside that as a Brit, what did you find in the brand or lifestyle to relate to?

BB: I approached the campaign a little like I would an acting role in terms of the absorption of the attitude. Luckily for me, we were surrounded by a very loud Italian crew, who were very inspiringly passionate about making our film in the same sort of way Italians approach everything. If they’re eating, it’s mindful. If they’re smelling something, they’re really absorbing the smell—trying to define what it is like one would with notes of wine. Approaching life with a little bit of wonder is something that we can all do a bit more of. Especially in England, where we stereotypically are closed off to new experiences.


Image: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Salvatore Ferragamo.


EH: Fragrance campaigns can mark a significant point in an actor’s career. This being your first, how does it feel?

BB: I find it very flattering that somebody wants me to represent them. But I also feel that way every time I get a job. Every time I audition and someone chooses me, there’s a real high and a real thrill. There’s a lot of rejection in this job at every level. People think, “Once you’ve been the lead in a film that must be where that rejection stops.” And it’s not. It’s all the way up to the very top. Even the top A-listers don’t get a job, because another one gets it. Anything that counteracts that balances it out, because it’s hard to stay stable and in the middle. There’s always very dramatic highs and lows.

EH:  Billy Russo in Netflix’s serial “The Punisher” is the next role we’ll see you in. Can you share what we can expect from the highly anticipated franchise later this year?

BB: There have been a couple of films about “The Punisher” before, but no real proper exploration of the characters and themes. I think we’re delving on a real human level into that story, and I think [Frank Castle] is a really important character to a lot of people, especially in the armed forces. This series is interesting because it explores a lot of the different sides of men, particularly those who’ve suffered from traumas and abuse. It’s a really important thing to make a series about, and it just so happens to have a very iconic symbol on the vest of one of the main characters. But it’s not really a superhero show, because nobody has any superhero powers. It’s not going to be what people expect, and I’m very excited about that.

Uomo Salvatore Ferragamo is available online now.