The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader – Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
SKANDAR Keynes and Georgie Henley talk about the latest Chronicles of Narnia film, Voyage of The Dawn Treader, and how life is shaping up for them away from the film world.
Skandar talks about university and student fees, as well as accidentally stabbing co-star Ben Barnes, and Georgie discusses how she would like to continue working in the movie industry.
Q. What was it like working with Michael Apted rather than Andrew Adamson on this third film?
Georgie Henley: Andrew was great. We were filming in Australia and Andrew lives in New Zealand so he flew over about five times during filming which was great. It was quite good that he didn’t stay for very long because it would be difficult for Michael to have him on set all the time because he’s almost like a presence there, you don’t want to upset him or think is he watching what I’m doing. Michael’s just… we were so happy to have such a talented and experienced guy to work with. I always think you learn more from working with directors than you do from other actors. Directors have worked with a huge amount of actors and cinematographers, especially if they are experienced like Michael. He had a really great vision too. He had already been involved in the film for two years before we started filming so he knew exactly what he wanted. So it was a completely different experience to working with Andrew.
Q. With Edmund’s character, you have the hardest role to play. You have to show weakness and temptation much more than the others. So, how do you feel about portraying someone who has a lot more vulnerability than the others?
Skandar Keynes: Yeah, Edmund does have a real vulnerability, which we sort of established in the first film. And that’s what’s been haunting him and what will always haunt him. I think that the decision to bring Tilda [Swinton] back, while not necessarily in the books, was a really good decision in that she symbolises his fears and temptations and his past, when he made wrong decisions. I really enjoyed that about Edmund. Lucy, in this film, has to deal with her temptations but, for her, that’s a relatively new experience because she’s been sort of the goodie goodie.
Q. Why do you think the books are so popular after all this time and what’s your favourite book?
Georgie Henley: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is probably good for publicity reasons but it’s true. It’s my favourite one and always has been. They’re classics first of all because the writing is great and timeless, the descriptions are minimalist and it’s easy to put your own interpretation on everything, all the characters and the settings, because CS Lewis doesn’t go into detail, which is wonderful for children who are developing their imagination. And there are so many elements of escapism. Everyone wants to swap lives with someone for the day or experience something new, go to an oasis of calm. Those themes are so apparent because these are just children who are going through tough times in the war. That CS Lewis could get into their mindsets and create these books that still appeal, 50 years later, to a huge audience.
Q. And Skandar, why do you think the original books have survived and people still love to read them? And which is your favourite?
Skandar Keynes: My favourite book will always be The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe because it has a real innocence and that’s the first book. It’s really well written and it’s about the initial discovery, which I really enjoyed. I know we’re publicising the film, and I’ll admit it, but as a film crew I think we’ve succeeded most in this final film. I think that so many things really work about it and so many things were pulled off. I think the effects are seamless, it’s visually stunning and I’m so happy it’s in 3D – it looks really amazing and captivating. It has a really good pace, it’s really enjoyable, it’s got lots of heart, and really good messages, so watching this film I had the most fun and I enjoyed it the most. And for that reason, I can say that this is my favourite film.
Q. Skandar, what’s your favourite scene to shoot either technically or emotionally? And does that differ from the finished film?
Skandar Keynes: I’d say my least favourite to film was the… the scenes I like the most on film were my least favourite to actually film. First of all, the sword-fight with Ben [Barnes]… I hadn’t had enough practice at it, because I’d been completely busy, and I stabbed him a couple of times, which was a horrible feeling. It was one of the worst days of my life.
Q. Did he give you a hard time for doing it?
Skandar Keynes: Well, I’ll forgive him for it because I stabbed him in the face [laughs]!
Q. Did you have to stop filming?
Skandar Keynes: Well, the first time we were doing something and I stabbed him in the leg. The blades basically had a metal core and a rubber [lining] outside but the speed we were going at meant they would give you a bruise without piercing the skin. So, the first time I stabbed him in the leg I was like: “Don’t do that again!” And then I hit him in the cheek and I thought: “Oh God, that could have gone so wrong [gesturing towards his eye].” And then I got him right in the lip! I just remember the moment it happened, he screamed out loud. He was sort of crouched over and everyone is standing around in that scene. I was like: “Oh my God!” And looked around at everyone and everyone was looking back as if to say: “What have you done?” One of the stunt-men was actually going [shakes his head].
Q. Georgie, do you feel lucky to have had this in your childhood?
Georgie Henley: I was definitely thrown into the deep end. Now it’s strange because I’ve almost got to go backwards to everyone else. Everyone works their way up the ladder and I kind of flew in at the top. Now I’ll have to work my way down because I’ve finished with Narnia now and I don’t have those ties. It’s crazy. I’ve always thought I’ve had a really great childhood with just bits added on. I haven’t really had stuff taken away. I’ve missed stuff. It’s always hard at school when everyone starts laughing at an inside joke, but that happens with everything, you can’t have everything. I always think you miss one person’s birthday but you’re there the next year, so so what? I always think I’ve had bits added on instead of so much taken away.
Q. Are you going to carry on acting?
Georgie Henley: I hope so. When I had my gap between Lion, W and the W and Prince Caspian that was when tons of scripts came in and I was saying no I just want to be at school, with my friends. I’d just literally come into secondary school so why would I want to be filming before Caspian. Ironically, now that I’ve decided that I want to be working while still at school and pursuing it as a career the scripts are just trickling in. I’ve got to concentrate on my GCSEs but I really hope I’ll be working in the near future. Good stuff, that’s the thing. You have to be more picky when you’re at school because you can’t miss crucial times and put your education in jeopardy for things that aren’t worth it at the time.
Q. Are you keeping an eye on Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson to see how they’re making the leap from franchise into a career of their own?
Georgie Henley: They’ve both taken very different paths. Dan Radcliffe was tutored even when he wasn’t filming and now he’s doing Woman in Black and things like that, he’s definitely got into the filming aspect of it and he’s making a career for himself. While Emma Watson is studying and pursuing her education. They are polar opposites. I would take her approach more because I would like to go to university. But he’s doing great. It was a real pivotal moment for him when he came out of Harry Potter, he couldn’t be typecast, he had to break out of that. It’s so great he’s doing that Arthur Kip story now, it’s going to be great. I can’t watch it, it will be too scary for me, but I love the book.
Q. Skandar, how has your life changed since the first Narnia up to now?
Skandar Keynes: Since the first one? Between the ages of 12 and 19… I don’t how to start that! [Laughs] I’ve grown up. People like to say that I’ve grown up through these films but I think I’ve grown up alongside them. They’ve sort of come across almost as if Narnia has been my life… A lot of people draw comparisons between us and the Harry Potter kids but you’ve got to realise that, for them, they’ve been doing a film every year for almost eight years or so, whereas for us we’ve had seven years and made three films. So, it’s been a very different experience and so what people say about them doesn’t necessarily apply for us. So, we’ll go for six months, have an amazing experience that we absolutely love, but then we go back to our normal life and for the majority of the time we spend having a normal life.
Q. Is Liam Neeson been a bit of a father figure to you all?
Georgie Henley: It’s interesting because we’ve only met him a few times. I met him for the first time at the Prince Caspian premiere which was crazy because I’ve been in two films with him. The thing about Liam is he’s the kind of person where you meet him for the first time and it’s like you’ve known him all your life. He’s an extremely warm and welcoming person but also very internal so you understand he’s not like this with everyone, he saves it for those he believes are kind of special or deserve it. I’m very lucky, very happy that I do feel like I have a close relationship with him which is strange because I’ve only met him four, five times but he’s wonderful.
Q. Georgie, your character has insecurities about her looks. How about you?
Georgie Henley: I’m very glad I’ve got a make-up artist. I have trouble going to school when I’ve got bad spots and things like that so I still don’t understand how I got up in front of a camera and did it. I almost had a moment of madness every time I did that. It’s difficult and it’s scary and you hope that people won’t be looking at your flaws, especially when you’re in 3D as well. I brought a lot of my own experiences to Lucy’s role because that’s the best thing you can do, make a character you can relate to and that other people can relate to and it had to be real experiences. I am insecure about my looks but it just comes with the territory of being a teenager. That was also something I wanted to get across to other people that it passes. I’m waiting for it to pass. I know it will, and I wanted it to come alive in Lucy as well.
Q. Is it frightening to think you are now out of the Narnia films?
Georgie Henley: I’m glad that I’m leaving Narnia at the age of 15 and not 25 because at least I’ve got school. If I’d left Narnia now and I didn’t have school I’d be very scared. I miss that security of thinking I’m going to be working next year. I find it hard to act unprofessionally because I can’t do drama at school, it’s hard for me to do drama out of school, I don’t have time any more. I dance as well. I don’t have time to work and dance and still have a good social life. I miss that security but I’m hoping that this is a good time for me. I’m trying to do as much as possible to get myself out there and hopefully it will work out.
Q. And Skandar, is this the last Narnia for you and, if so, what are you going to do next? Are you going to go off to education?
Skandar Keynes: Right now I’m at university. My master plan is that I have a four year course and I’m really enjoying that for the moment, and am really getting my teeth stuck into it. I’m reading Arabic and Middle Eastern history. I’m really enjoying that, so I’ll do four years of that… I’m basically just taking it as it comes. So far, I’ve made one big decision, which was to apply for that, and I’m now just enjoying that decision and I’m going to see, next time I’m faced with another decision what I’m going to do.
Q. It’s an interesting choice…. What made you choose it?
Skandar Keynes: Well, it’s sort of two-fold. On the one hand, it’s sort of personal in that the other side of my family… my mum’s Lebanese and I was never brought up to speak in the language, so I want to learn it because we’ve got a family house in Lebanon… so, overcoming that barrier within a region that I really want to explore. But also, academically, I just find it a really interesting area historically and politically. There are so many aspects about it that I’m really enjoying the academic study of.
Q. Can we get your opinion on the way students are rising up against school fees?
Skandar Keynes: I think in principal it’s great and I think that absolutely people should be going out and protesting and everything. It’s a shame it’s being hijacked by certain people. Actually, The Telegraph did some photographs asking: “Do you know who this person is?” It concerned the Milbank buildings, where people were destroying stuff, and there was one person there who I did know and he was the last person who had the right to be talking about the sanctity of education. He went to my school. So, I definitely agree with the principal that education should be protected and also I think this generation feels that this wasn’t our problem, that we didn’t create this, and that the people who did are now still out there with their bonuses.
But at the same time, to be able to take the position of the sanctity of education as a right, everyone has to really take advantage of it and take advantage of everything that’s given to them. I also slightly disagree with the idea that all of these [protests] are being done on weekdays… if you do it on the weekend then surely that gets the point across a bit more – that you’re willing to go out rather than merely bunking school! But I know a lot of people that really believe in this [issue] and it’s a shame that it’s being hijacked by people. Hopefully, it will stop. I think the best thing that can come out of this, is that if they can get a groundswell of grass roots movements and to maybe unseat the Liberal Democrats…
I think that’s maybe the best way for things to proceed and I hope that that happens rather than people saying: “Let’s throw stuff at police, let’s go and trash buildings.” If they do, it gets away from the people who are really saying: “No, education is what’s really important and we need to make sure that’s protected.” It’s one of those things, like a lot of the taxes, in that it’s very difficult to then go backwards once you’ve put something like that in place; it becomes a natural that you then rely on it. So, I think it’s really important that people act now, so long as they do it in the right and responsible way.
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