Chronicles of Narnia Director Q&A

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.Andrew
Adamson Q&A

What was the most important thing you wanted to bring from
the books to the screen?

Andrew: – It was
important to me to stay true to the story and to create a believable world.
Both in London before they enter Narnia, and in Narnia itself. I really wanted
to bring the world of Narnia to life how I imagined it as a child. I found it
interesting though, that when I went back and re-read the books as an adult
they were actually a lot simpler than I imagined. I realized that to me, as a child,
Narnia was an absolutely believable world. I really saw it as a place where all
of these creatures existed.

Question: – Do you think that,
for the cinematic adaptation of fantasy novels as well known as the Chronicles
of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, the director has to be a fan of the books to
make a faithful translation to film?

Andrew: – Ultimately
I don? know that they have to be long-time fans, but obviously a director has
to love any material that he works with if he? going to be true to it. In my
case this was never a question because I had been a fan of the books since
childhood. I think that it definitely helped to have that childhood love of the
stories to draw on.

Question: – Has adapting the
Chronicles of Narnia always been a dream of yours or is it just a project like
any other?

Andrew: – I never
really dared to dream that I would one day adapt any of these stories, so no it
is not ?ust another project like any other? Then again, I hope that I never
feel that about any project I work on. I think you have to love what you?e doing
and make a movie that is first and foremost for yourself. I certainly wouldn?
have engaged in this mammoth task if I didn? feel that it was something that I
loved.

Question: – What is the main
target group for this movie? How does the picture reward adult movie goers?

Andrew: – The main
target is me! I don? mean that in any way other than that you can only make a
movie that appeals to your own sensibilities. When you start to try and second
guessing what an audience wants then you stop being truthful. That being said I
think it? a universal story that can translate to both kids and adults, boys
and girls. It is a story that takes sibling rivalry and disagreements to epic
levels of betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness and does so with great heart,
scope and visual spectacle.

Andrew: – I?e been
very lucky so far that my films have appealed to a wide audience and I think
this one will too.

Question: – How hard was it to
turn the world of Narnia into a motion picture and what kind of compromises did
you have to make as far as the story is concerned?

Andrew: – It was
hard! I have been lucky to be surrounded by a great team and a studio that
believed in the material and in that team. I don? feel that we?e had to make
any significant compromises in making this film. I think it ultimately lives up
to what people imagine Narnia to be.

Do you fear Narnia fans?reactions to your interpretation of
the book?

Andrew -: It? very intimidating to take on the making of a
book into a movie when you know how many people love the property. Because
you?e not just making the books, you?e also making their memory of the books.
My goal was always to stay truthful to the world C.S. Lewis created. Having
nearly finished the three year journey of making this film I no longer fear the
fans?reactions, I think we?e made a film that will leave them more than
satisfied.

Question: – Would you have liked
to meet CS Lewis in person? What would you have told him put him at ease
before the filming?

Andrew: – I would
love to have met C.S. Lewis in person, particularly as a child. I?e read many
of his letters to children about the Narnia books and would have relished the
opportunity to ask him questions of my own. I think to put him at ease I would
have shown him my love of his books in the same way I did Doug Gresham, his
stepson.

Question: –
Can you describe what it is like to work with four children
as your main-cast members?

“Times New Roman”;color:red’>I was initially a little intimidated at the idea
of working with kids, largely because I just hadn? spent that much time around
teenagers lately. In fact I found it better than I could have imagined.
Children are just so open to their imaginations and that makes them such
wonderful actors, they?e willing to go where you want the story to take them.

Question: – What is your
favourite story from working with the child actors?

Andrew: – There are
so many favourite moments it? impossible to pick any one.

Question: – What is the first
question you asked in casting the actors for the four leading roles?

Andrew: – I was
largely looking for children that were ?ike?the characters rather than just
actors who would play them. I generally would just spend time with the kids and
get to know them a little to see if they were like the characters I imagined.

Question: – What qualities were
you looking for?

Andrew: – Honestly, I
was looking for kids who basically were those characters so they wouldn? have
to worry about acting, they could just be themselves. In Lucy, we found an
adorable child who was empathetic and imaginative. In Edmund, we found a boy
whose natural curiosity and tendency toward mischief, was a big part of his
personality (Skandar would agree), in Susan we found a beautiful girl who is
very smart and together, in Peter we found a boy on the midst of becoming a
man, who was also good at being a caring and nurturing older brother, which
William is.

Question: – Even for adults,
certain scenes in the book are pretty dark.
How did you tackle those for/with the children?

Andrew: – C.S. Lewis
could write something like ? can? tell you how bad it was or your parents
wouldn? let you read this part?In the movie we had to deal with visualizing
those moments. There are dark moments, there are scary moments, emotional
moments, tragic moments. I wanted to bring these to life in a way that dealt
with the reality of life and death situations but in a way that wouldn?
prohibit younger children from enjoying the film. Kids like being scared as
long as there is relief at some point, there is no need to be traumatizing or
graphic to get the emotional effect that the book reached for.

Question: – If you could be one
of the Pevensie children, which would you choose?

Andrew: – That?
pretty easy, Peter gets the cool sword from Father Christmas. Of course I would
probably much more likely be Edmund!

Question: – What is the biggest
difference for you between directing an animation movie and live-action movie?

Andrew: – It? story telling.
In some ways it? very similar. You figure out the best way to tell the story
and then you work to get the performances. The whole time you are working to
create the visual world for them to exist in. I found a lot of similarities, in
different environments. The biggest difference is that in live action, you
don? have to tell your characters when to blink, and in CG animation you don?
have to worry about the weather, extend that metaphor out and it pretty much
covers everything!

In which way was the experience of making “Shrek”
helpful for creating a fantastical world like “Narnia” and working
with an enormous amount of complex special effects?

Andrew :- We story boarded and did a lot of
pre-visualization of the movie before we ever shot footage. That is something I
learned from the way animated movies are made. I consider this more of a
writing tool than a production tool because you get a chance to watch the movie
before you make it, but it also helps with the complex effects.

Obviously the other similarity was the CG
characters. Narnia is populated with mythological creatures and talking
animals. Although I wanted them to be photo-real in this film we employed a lot
of similar animation techniques.

Question: – Are there any CGI
pioneers who’ve influenced your work, do you exchange know-how with any of them
or does everyone in this field more or less work on his/her own?

Andrew: – Every CGI
intensive film stands on the shoulders of the work that? been done before,
it? a rapidly evolving field. When you work with many CGI houses there has to
be a constant exchange of know-how, sometimes we would have three different
companies working on one shot. Aslan from Rhythm &Hues, Mr. Beaver from
Sony and some other creatures from ILM.

Andrew: – I have been
very lucky to work with many VFX pioneers, I consider my close working with
John Dykstra in particular to have been a huge privilege.

Question : –
Were you intimidated by the fact that your first live action
movie was to be such a gigantic project?

Andrew:- Sure. I thought my first live action would be a
simple character piece, maybe a nice little independent film?not so. But when
this opportunity presented itself, I couldn? pass it up. I?e just loved the
books for too long. Once you get started you kind of just deal with the
problems that are immediately in front of you, so you break the large tasks up
into bite sized tasks so that you don? get overwhelmed.

Question: – Will the creatures be
pure CGI like Star Wars or performance-capture like Gollum? How did you cast
their voices?

Andrew: – We?e
actually used just about every technique available. In some cases the
characters were onset motion capture, in others key frame animation and
sometimes both. We have characters that are full CGI and some that are a mix of
human and CGI. For centaurs we sometimes have a horse body with a CGI human
upper body, other times visa-versa and sometimes fully CGI. It really had to be
decided on a shot by shot basis.

Andrew: – As far as
casting: It? pretty similar to casting any character. It? combination of who
they are, they?e acting style etc. In this case of course the voice is
critical because all the animation stems from that.

Question: – Why did you choose to
go for relatively unknown actors and actresses rather than at least a few big
names?

Andrew: – I really
just cast actors that I thought were right for the roles, regardless of the
?ize?of their names. The star of this movie is the story and that is what
people will take away from it. That being said all the actors gave such
wonderful performances that I? sure they will soon be much more known!

How do you plan to address the inevitable comparisons
between your film version of LW&W and the recent “Lord of the
Rings” films? What is unique to
this production?

Andrew:- You?e right that they?e inevitable, C.S. Lewis
and Tolkien were contemporaries and friends who wrote in the same genre. I
think, however, that the stories are completely different. This story takes
children from our world into a magical alternative world. Narnia is a new world
to Middle Earth? ancient world? could go on and on with the differences that
I see. Ultimately the film will speak for itself, it? such a different look,
tone and story.

Question: – The wonder and the
colourful world in ?arnia?couldn? better be brought to life without the
collaboration of a D.P. as talented as Donald McAlpine. Was your choice based
on his previous ?antasy?works (i.e. Peter Pan, Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet)?

Andrew: – I agree of
course! It was based on his diversity, talent, skill and extraordinary vision.
I?e loved his photography in so many films including those mentioned above. We
were lucky to have him and many other talented collaborators. (I wonder did Don
ask that question??)

Question: – Narnia is a whole
world. What part was the hardest to visualise?

Andrew: – The winter
landscapes were challenging because we had to visualise them on set and on
location. Because of the seasons we needed to shoot the set work before the
locations, which meant we were taking a huge gamble that the snow would match
when we went back to Central Europe. It is a tribute to Don McAlpine and Roger
Ford that we were able to create such a contiguous world with these kind of
seasonal challenges.

Question: – What was your biggest
challenge in this movie?

Andrew: – Probably
the scope of it. It starts as such a small family drama in WWII London and ends
up being an epic journey and battle. The range of locations, characters and
season made it technically very challenging and physically arduous for the
whole crew.

Question: –
Which scene from the book was the most difficult to bring to
screen?

Andrew: – The battle
was the most technically challenging. There were many elements, CG creatures,
prosthetic creatures, animals etc and we were shooting at a distant location
where we had to ferry everyone up and down mountains in helicopters! And then
it snowed!

Question: – In recent years,
we’ve seen films like Shrek, Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings make a big
impact at the box office. Why do you think that the fantasy genre has become so
popular?

Andrew: – I think
fantasy has always been an important part of our story telling, in every
culture and every generation. There has been a resurgence recently and I think
it? largely a reaction to the amount of reality programming. In the 80? there
were a lot of ?atural disaster?films, now we have things like ?urvivor??nfor me it? a welcome relief to step into a theatre and be transported into a
world that exists only in our imaginations. Worlds that we wish we could visit.

Question: – How did the new vogue
for fantasy filmmaking – especially in the wake of films like Lord Of The Rings
– influence your approach to the film?

Andrew: – They didn?
really, though they did help make it possible. I think that the success of
films like those have shown the studios that a wide audience is ready for
faithful adaptations of classic literature.

Question: – What does
theworld of Narnia mean to you?

Andrew: – I? not
sure how to answer that question? When I read the stories as a child I always
believed Narnia was a real place, not an imaginary place as for instance ?z?nis to Dorothy. To me it represents the possibility of places that exist beyond
the known. I want places like Narnia to exist.

Question: – How do you feel that
the message of the Narnia story still has relevance in today? world?

Andrew: – To me the
main messages are that of family, sacrifice and forgiveness. I can? think of
more relevant messages for today. Particularly that of forgiveness. The world
would be a much better place if we could let go of grudges and forgive.

Question: – What does the
character of Aslan the lion represent for you?

Andrew: – I?e always
loved big cats because of Aslan. I like the fear and awe that they inspire, the
way you are drawn to them and yet afraid of them. I think this is why C.S.
Lewis chose a lion to be this powerful omnipotent character.

Question: – What was your
approach to dealing with the Narnia-books’ much-discussed Christian subtext?

Andrew: – My approach
was to make a movie that was faithful to C.S. Lewis?book. This is a book that
has been read for generations and interpreted differently by many people
throughout the years. Basically I think the movie is true to the book in the
same way: If you found spiritual meaning in the book, you will find it in the
movie. If you enjoyed the book as an adventure so you will the movie.

Question: – What had the
strongest impact on you while shooting the movie or during post production?

Andrew: – I think the
greatest impact on me was my relationship with the children. I really grew to
feel about them as I did my own family. It? such an intensive journey that
we?e all been on together and we will always share that. I hope to still be in
contact with all of them as they grow to achieve all the wonderful things that
I think they?e each capable of.

Which was your favourite scene to shoot?

Andrew:-
Different scenes for different reasons. I actually
loved the difficulty of the battle because it was also outdoors and physically
challenging. I loved scenes with Lucy and Tumnus, because Georgie and James
were such fun together. There were many moments when I knew that we were making
something special: Susan and Lucy crying over Aslan? body ?was sadly
beautiful; The White Witch turning on Edmund is a wonderful scene between
Tilda, Skandar and Kiran; Seeing William ride into battle in Peter? armour.
They are too many to mention.

Question: – Did you experience
any truly funny incidents during filming?

Andrew: – Many of
these fall into the ?ou had to be there?category: Tilda leading a bunch of
Minotaurs in a song – using her wand as a microphone – while we circled them in
a helicopter waiting for the sun to come out; Setting Skandar up to believe
that he had to take part in a dance and had him rehearsing some invented (and
rather embarrassing) moves; The four kids ridiculing me for my attempts to play
the off screen Mrs. Beaver; All the kids breaking in song in the middle of a
take to embarrass one of camera operators. I don? know if these are ?ruly
funny?to anyone who wasn? there ?but we did get to laugh a lot throughout
the shoot.

Question: – If you had a wardrobe
like the one in the movie, where would you like to go to through it?

Andrew: – Narnia of
course ?but just about anywhere. I love the idea of going anywhere new. There
are so few ?ndiscovered?places in our world that I like the idea of
discovering new ones. I think this is one of the joys of movie making, being
able to visit imagined worlds.

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