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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Andrew Adamson interview

Howard Berger and Andrew Adamson

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ANDREW Adamson (pictured right) talks about directing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the sequel to The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe, as well as some of the controversies surrounding it and why he doesn’t necessarily think it’s a darker film.

He also talks about casting Ben Barnes in the pivotal role of Prince Caspian and moving on from directing the Narnia films to just producing them…

Q. How was going back to direct Narnia a second time?
Andrew Adamson: It was great. It was hard in some ways to commit to it a second time because I knew what I was getting into. The first time, you have that naivety and a blissful ignorance, but the second time it’s more like: “OK, I know what the problems are going to be but I’m going to do it anyway.” But in the end it was a very similar experience and I had a really great crew. I got to work with a lot of the same people again, a lot of the same cast and a lot of really great new people.

Q. How easy was it to find the darker tone of Prince Caspian without getting too dark and attracting a higher certificate?
Andrew Adamson: For me, I don’t actually find the movie to have what I’d call a darker tone. The last film, for me, went to the darkest place in all the Narnia Chronicles, which is Aslan’s death. I do think this film is a little grittier, that it has a lot more depth in the characters and the evil in this film is human-based, which makes it more relatable. The last one was more symbolic. But I really just tried to let the tone of the book come through as the tone of the film and that has meant it’s a bit more epic, a bit more adventurous and there’s a bit more action. But I also think it has a lot of the same lyrical moments. I saw the relationship between Trumpkin and Lucy as being the same as that between Tumnus and Lucy. It has the same appeal. Also, the first time Lucy sees Aslan has the same magic as before.

Q. But you’ve also had to flesh the screenplay out a little bit and bring the Pevensie children into the story a little earlier than the book?
Andrew Adamson: Yes. The story is a little more meandering in the book and it’s told in retrospect. Trumpkin tells all of Caspian’s back story effectively off-screen and if I did it exactly as it was in the book, it would be 40 minutes of screentime with Trumpkin sitting and telling the story. Ironically, with Peter Dinklage in the role it probably would have worked [laughs]! But I did want to make it a bit more of a linear experience and a bit more exciting in that way. So, I really kind of came upon this idea of having these three stories that slowly weaved together, so you get to experience each of the stories at the same time and get the sense of it accelerating towards the final battle.

Q. Were you at all nervous that such a move might upset some fans who were expecting you to remain utterly faithful to the source text?
Andrew Adamson: It’s always a nervous thing to change something that’s a classic piece of literature and has a lot of fans. When I got to the end of it and was going to New York for the premiere there I thought I’d better re-read the book. Because when you’re working on something for two and a half years you can’t really remember what was your idea, what was somebody else’s idea and what was in the original book. But I was pleased to find that I felt like I was reading the same story, just told differently. What I’d set out to do in both cases was to make a movie of a real event of which CS Lewis wrote a children’s book about. He told it differently because he was writing it specifically for a young audience and I was going to go a bit deeper into the characters for a bigger scale and try and treat it as a real event that happened.

Q. You’ve also steered clear of any religious allegory that was a criticism of both the books and the first film…
Andrew Adamson: Yeah, but I think CS Lewis would have hated the term allegory. He never intended the book to be allegorical. Certainly, he wrote from his own beliefs and he was a Christian. But he never intended it to be a direct allegory. And I didn’t steer clear of anything. I think everything that’s in the book thematically is in the movie. I just think it’s up to people to interpret it however they want – and that’ll be differently for people in different countries, from different cultures and different generations. You know, I read the book when I was eight-years-old and I didn’t know what allegory meant. I just thought it was a great adventure. Obviously, I look at it now and I get much more of the mythology and the other things that are going on and, as a filmmaker, you want to tap into all of those. But I think the movies are really reflective of what the books are.

Q. That’s part of what makes the books and the films so enduring. You can watch or read them at different ages and get more from them…
Andrew Adamson: Yes, CS Lewis was a mythologist. He studied Greek, Roman, Nordic… Tolkien criticised him for the fact he combined all these myths. But the interesting thing about it is that these myths have existed for all these years because they’re dealing with universal human conditions and these are conditions that existed 2,000 years ago and exist today. There’s issues of environmental things… such as the trees fighting back. Both Lewis and Tolkien wrote about that because they were concerned about the environment. So, those were as apt today as they were 60 years ago.

Q. Even more so…
Andrew Adamson: [Laughs] Exactly! We didn’t listen 60 years ago and now they’re even more important.

Q. Ben Barnes makes an immediate impression as Prince Caspian. How hard was the search to find him?
Andrew Adamson: Well, we’d been looking for a long time and I was actually about to make some decisions when Gail, our casting director, saw him on stage here in London [in The History Boys] and said: “You just have to see this guy; he’s wonderful, he looks the part and he’s a mature, experienced actor who still looks 12-years-old… [Laughs] Well, 16 actually.” So, I met with him and found all those things to be true but also found he was a really great guy and somebody that I could imagine fitting into our cast.

Q. Peter Dinklage, I’d imagine, was a much easier choice for the role of Trumpkin?
Andrew Adamson: Peter Dinklage was somebody I decided on before I even started working on the script. I loved The Station Agent and I knew from common friends what a great guy he was and pretty much approached him before I even had a script. I wrote the part for him.

Q. Is it a relief for you to come to the end of the directing phase of Narnia? You’re remaining on board as a producer of the next ones, aren’t you?
Andrew Adamson: Yeah but it’s a double-edged sword. There’s a relief and there’s a certain amount of letting go and loss, much like the Pevensie’s go through in letting go of Narnia. I think for all of us when we shot the movie’s farewell scene it was actually quite an emotional moment. But at the same time there are other things that I want to do in my life. I’ve got a family I want to spend some time with. I need to have a little break. With this and Shrek, I’ve made some really difficult films and I’m ready to have a rest. But the nice thing about staying involved as a producer is that I can kind of protect what I have done and come and go as I please, but stay involved enough to feel like I’m not completely letting go.

Q. Do you also find that you’ve developed something of a paternal role in dealing with the younger members of the cast?
Andrew Adamson: Well, I don’t have to completely let go of it, to be honest. I’ll stay involved in their lives and have done throughout. They were a long way from home. We took four young British kids and shipped them off about as far as you can get from the UK to New Zealand for six or seven months and they really did form a family. If you look at them inter-acting now they really do inter-act as siblings and they’ve stayed very close throughout. And they did let me become a surrogate father. The nice thing is that I’m really proud of what they’ve done in the film but I’m really proud of how they’ve stayed who they are and what they’ve accomplished in their real life.

Q. What would you like to do next? Something smaller?
Andrew Adamson: Very [Laughs]. I’d love to do something I can shoot in eight weeks instead of eight months. Obviously, it’s nice to have the big budgets and to have all the toys to play with but it would be nice to do something you could make in the garage.

Q. Looking back, what’s your proudest achievement across the two films?
Andrew Adamson: I think it’s the experience of actually making the films. We did a cast and crew screening in the Czech Republic before we did one in New Zealand and we have a lot of the cast and crew from London coming to see it as the O2 Centre [for the UK premiere] and the thing that I’ve got back from those is just how proud people feel about their achievements. So, what I’m most proud of is that they’ve enjoyed the experience. We all got together as a travelling circus, went around the world with a common love for the stories and went ahead and did it. When I find that people want to work with me again, that’s what I’m most proud of.

Read our review of Prince Caspian or our interview with special effects legend Howard Berger