Exclusive: Bono on "Spiderman", Mitt Romney, U2, Ireland, the undocumented, and more
U2 rocker gives Irish Voice an exclusive interview for 25th anniversary special
“The U.S. should be proud, extremely proud. You’ve led the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and it’s really a monumental achievement – 6.6 million people are alive thanks in large part to American investments and leadership.”
Is Bono keeping an eye on the race for the White House this fall?“Well, it’s interesting".
The ONE campaign (the movement Bono co-founded to fight poverty and disease) is probably the only thing that the two sides of the aisle agree on,” he says.Bono speaks about meeting a bi-partisan group of senators in Ghana earlier this year who visited the African nation to see exactly how U.S. funds were being used.“These are tough senators. Senator Lindsey Graham, tough guy, asking hard questions about where taxpayer money was going to be spent. And that’s great. The conviction that he could come with, that he had been fighting for these people,”
Bono says.“Then we have had Democrats like Senator Patrick Lahey leading the charge for years. They’ve all been fighting to save lives. And it’s a small percentage of the overall budget. People think it’s like 10%, but really it’s less than 1%.“So America can be very proud of that. And Ireland, by the way, on hunger Ireland has been at the top. (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has retained his commitment, and the Labor Party has retained its commitment.”
Bono has met Obama’s Republican challenger for the White House, Mitt Romney. “Yes, we’ve met. He was very interested in what we are doing, and he understood the sort of dimension of the United States involvement with the developing world,”
Bono says. “On a security level, on a commercial level, Africa will be nearly twice the population of China by 2050. Which is the future really.”Whoever wins the White House may – or may not – finally tackle the country’s immigration problems, particularly as they relate to the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the U.S.“Indeed,” Bono said. “And I might say, where would America be without the Irish?”
HIS fellow countrymen and women are enduring rough times thanks to the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. Bono is a citizen of the world in many ways, but at the end of the day there’s no place like home, and he’s determined to do his part to help Ireland move forward.“Irish people are incredible,” Bono offers. “You know, we live on a small rock in the North Atlantic, where the weather is shite. But the people are brilliant!”
Bono talks up Ireland and its attributes at any opportunity. He spoke at the Global Economic Forum hosted by the Irish government last year, and though he readily admits that as a wealthy rock star he can’t truly feel people’s pain, he’s more than willing to try and help solve their problems.“We can attract investment and create jobs”.
Bono says.“We’re smart. We’ve got a very educated work force. Creativity is our strong suit. Creating something out of nothing. We’ve got creativity in everything – business, technology. “There was a company recently founded by Irish students during the middle of the recession. They won a Microsoft competition, a worldwide competition. They created a little app that when you give your kids the car, you can tell what speed they are going at. It’s genius.”Bono compares the current Irish downturn to the depressed 1970s, when people were leaving in droves and hopelessness abounded.
This time, he says, it’s different.“I remember when things were really rough in the 1970s,” he says. “You know, I can’t imagine what people are going through in Ireland now. How could I hope to understand the difficulties of being made unemployed in my position?
“But I will say this – in comparison to the ‘70s, when there was a lot of melancholy about, this generation of Irish is much more defiant. There is a time for anger, but there’s also a time to be smart and strategic, and I think that’s where Irish people are at right now. And I’m amazed at that. Because they have a reason to be really mad. We’ve had a private sector problem that’s become a public sector solution.
“And that’s just unfair, but you know, there’s a sort of sophisticated thinking. The country is being kicked, but it hasn’t lost its dignity or its self-confidence.
“Let’s face it – our island, whatever you say about it, we’re having more fun. There’s more craic on our wee island than anywhere else in the euro zone!”
BONO and Edge stepped out of their comfort zone some years back. Their new goal? Write the music for an epic Broadway show unlike anything ever seen or heard before.They dreamed big with Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. With a script by Julie Taymor, a Tony Award winner who brought The Lion King to life on Broadway, lots of technical wizardry and millions in backing from confident producers, Spider-Man certainly seemed like it had all the ingredients necessary for success. But the show was plagued with serious problems when it debuted in November of 2010. Malfunctioning sets led to serious cast injuries, and Taymor was raked through the coals by gleeful pundits contemptuous of her script and her alleged behind-the-scenes diva antics.
Critics hated the show, ridiculed all of its canceled openings (Spider-Man played 182 preview performances before it officially opened last June, the most previews of any Broadway show in history), and slated Bono and Edge for supposedly creating music that simply wasn’t up to Broadway’s lofty standards.
In short, Spider-Man became a late night TV punchline that would soon close and become Broadway’s most expensive ever flop at $70 million and counting – or so the story went.But something happened on the way to the bitter ending that so many joyful critics predicted – even wanted. The ticket-buying public didn’t give a damn about what they thought and went on to make Spider-Man a big commercial hit.
The show celebrates its one-year anniversary on June 14. It consistently grosses well over $1 million at the box office each week and broke a record the last week of 2011 when it earned nearly $3 million, beating an old mark set by Wicked. More than one million people have seen Spider-Man, and business shows no sign of slowing down.It’s been a rocky road to Broadway success, Bono readily admits.
Taymor was fired from the production before its opening and a lawsuit is still pending. But he’s feeling immensely gratified that the show is still standing strong after taking so many vicious shots.“I’m thrilled with it,” a clearly proud Bono offers.
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