Interview Transcript From Narnia Panel

Posted October 1, 2004 12:00 pm by Tirian

FilmForce brings us a partial transcript from the Pulp Expo’s Narnia panel. They joke about Adam Sandler being cast as Aslan, discuss the hairless James McAvoy (Tumnus), and discuss creating the creatures in the film. The transcript is below but you can view the whole article at FilmForce.

RICHARD TAYLOR: C.S. Lewis has woven such a rich tapestry of cultural references as he cooked up this world… Andrew Adamson was almost scholarly in his knowledge of C.S. Lewis’ world. Once again, some of the designers of WETA that proved to be such a valuable resource on Lord of the Rings learned so much and also turned out to be incredibly knowledgeable about C.S. Lewis’ work… When you read, as a child, the pages of Narnia, at the end of Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, you felt as though you’d read a 200-page, massive, sweeping battle. If you go back and read [that book] today, you’d be startled to discover it’s only about a page and a half… Tolkien would have quite happily spent a whole 600-page book writing about that battle, but not C.S. Lewis. It’s all about suggestive description. And that makes for a very [precarious] position when a director has to then change that to the vision on the screen.

Q: Aslan is such an important character. How are you going to cast him?

HOWARD BERGER: The voice of Aslan’s going to be Adam Sandler. (Laughs)

[At this point in the Q & A, a boisterous and loud wrestling match began getting rowdy down on the floor below the conference. Consequently, we can’t provide exact quotes. The sum of it is that the Aslan voice has not been cast and that the Internet rumors on the voice so far are unfounded.]

BERGER: Andrew Adamson likes to keep things from the kids, like he doesn’t want them to preview anything so, he has the lion out for a little bit, and then, everybody went away… Richard designed a beautiful, beautiful Aslan… I had to cut his mane yesterday. We’re shooting it backwards. He’s a beautiful lion…

DEAN WRIGHT: In terms of bringing Aslan to life, in terms of the other animal features [we’ve done], there’s this fine line and, taking an animal character, having it talk and relate to humans and not crossing the line of becoming cartoonish… [We want to] keep it real. The photorealism and the movement and they do have to have a hyper-reality to them in that they can think more than you expect a lion to think… That’s gonna be our struggle as we look through the animation…

[Body Slam! Pile Driver! The crowd roars. Apparently, there’s quite a wrestling match going on in the background. Berger, Taylor and Wright look back and laugh a bit, realizing that, not only can we not hear them, they can barely hear themselves. Taylor suggests that he and Berger should wrestle.]

Q: Did the success of Lord of the Rings have a huge assistance in bringing Narnia to New Zealand?

TAYLOR: I don’t think so, simply because the world of Narnia is such a diverse world to that of Middle-earth. I think it was just because of all the opportunities down here. The fact that there is a culture of successful fantasy filmmaking, Andrew wanted to bring a film back to New Zealand. We’re very thrilled it was chosen to be shot here because our workshops are here. Imagine how difficult it’s been for Howard having to bring [the people from] his workshops down to New Zealand for the opportunity to make this project. We’ve got the great luxury of going back to Wellington and a one-hour flight North or South, we’ll be able to shoot the stuff that we’ve made…

Q: Howard, how does Narnia compare to working on Kill Bill?

BERGER: I look for projects that are going to be fun. Sometimes they’re not fun, but I’ve been very lucky… Of the four hundred films I’ve done, five of them have been good. (Laughs) I’d have to say that, when we did Kill Bill, I went to China with two other people… We did everything. Three people did all that stuff. It was intense… But it was really rewarding, especially when the film ended up being so great… Getting a film like this, I have three young children, and they won’t ever see Kill Bill until they’re older. They want to see Kill Bill, but they’re not going to. But this film, when I first told them that I got a call: ‘I may be working on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ they lost their minds. At that point, I knew I had to get this job. Richard recommended me very highly… There were four other very large shops that I was bidding against. I think that my passion for the project and perhaps me talking to Andrew [and saying], ‘My kids think it should be like this, my kids think it should be like that’ really helped sell how much I really wanted to do this… I feel that this is the one movie that I’m going to work on that will be for my children and that hopefully they’ll love this movie and it will be with them forever and when I’m long gone they’ll still be able to watch it and remember their dad…

Q: What did you think of the casting of James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus?

BERGER: When I saw photos, I thought, ‘Boy, he’s really kind of young for Tumnus,’ but we had the full Aslan sculpture in the shop, and James came in and he was looking all around, and he looked and saw Aslan and said, ‘My Lord,’ and I went, ‘This guy’s gonna be great.’ So I wrote a long letter to Andrew and said, ‘This is the right guy, you were right! You were pushing us and you made it all happen…’ That’s the other thing. James is a hairless human being, so we had to lay all that hair. We had to put tons of hair all over James, so his make-up takes three and a half hours every day and, he’s played a lot, probably almost twenty times. [He was] scheduled for, like 12, but he’s been through the make-up 20 times.

Q: Dean, who is the most challenging character to create?

WRIGHT: I’m expecting Aslan to be the most challenging. We’ve got Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and they’re gonna be funny… The kids really enjoy that. Aslan’s got to have nobility and he’s got to… he can’t be boring. All the other guys have great lines and comic moments, but Aslan’s got to [be central to the story]… We’re attempting to motion capture a lion, which will be interesting… Getting a lion’s face and actually having him talk, that’s nothing like just doing another silly animal.

BERGER: And since Adam Sandler’s doing the voice, we’re making it look like Adam a little bit. (Laughs) [Berger now does an impression of Adam Sandler as Aslan talking to Mr. Tumnus] (Big Laughs)

[For those gullible folks out there, the Sandler thing is totally a joke. Don’t send Disney any hate mail on that!]

WRIGHT: These guys have designed these really [scary] creatures. The minotaurs and the minobaurs, which are really tough looking, bullish monsters. Even though it’s a film for kids, I think LOTR has actually helped us [as to] how far we can push the intensity.

This story was originally published at FilmForce IGN