Starlog Magazine Features Prince Caspian
Posted April 13, 2008 2:40 pm by starkat
On stands now, the Starlog Magazine features a five page spread on the upcoming “Prince Caspian” movie. It is also featured on the cover.
In the article, producer Mark Johnson talks about the first screening of “Prince Caspian.
“I was really surprised at how well the audience followed the story,” he relates. “There’s so much going on, and it’s somewhat complicated, because at one point we’re telling three parallel stories. I expected the audience to be a bit more confused, but they were way ahead of me!”
Check out BenBarnesOnline.net for full scans of the article.
Thanks to RuralNarniaFan and talkingcat for the heads up! Thanks to Gymfan15 for the transcript.
“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, and it has been told in another book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe how they had a remarkable adventure…while they were in Narnia, they seemed to reign for years and years, but when they came back through the door and found themselves in England again, it all seemed to have taken no time at all.” – C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
A year has gone by for the Pevensie children, who are returning to boarding school when they are summoned back to the land of Narnia, where several centuries have passed since their last visit, and rightful ruler Prince Caspian has been ousted by the evil King Miraz. In order to take back his throne and topple Miraz and his army of Telmarines, the exiled young ruler must team up with the Pevensies as well as his own hastily assembled army of Narnia’s magical inhabitants.
Back in the real world, producer Mark Johnson is a happy man. Just a few days earlier, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Disney/Walden Media’s much-anticipated follow-up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (due out May 16), was screened for the first time, and according to Johnson, it’s the most positive preview with which he has ever been involved. “I was really surprised at how well the audience followed the story,” he relates. “There’s so much going on, and it’s somewhat complicated, because at one point we’re telling three parallel stories. I expected the audience to be a bit more confused, but they were way ahead of me!”
“I should also explain,” Johnson continues, “that when we tested it, many of the effects still weren’t finished. So, for instance, much of Reepicheep was very crude animated stuff, as opposed to a real, live two-foot-tall mouse. But what I was so pleased with was how well it still worked in that state. That the film tested [that highly] at this point is pretty exceptional. I’m very happy about that, because Prince Caspian is its own wonderful original story, and yet it’s very much a companion piece to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — and to the Narnia films still to come.”
THE NEW NARNIA
While many would consider the potential success of any Narnia sequel to be a no-brainer, it really wasn’t that simple. In terms of storyline and tone, the second film is quite different from its predecessor, so movie-goers expecting Wardrobe II could well be disappointed. “One of the reasons I was nervous is because the Narnia films are very different from each other,” Johnson explains. “Unlike the Harry Potter movies, which pretty much take place in the same world, with many of the same characters, our films – while they each take place in Narnia – are completely different. The Narnia of Wardrobe is still covered in snow from the 100-year winter and goes into spring, while Prince Caspian [is set] in the woods. There are new characters, and some of the most beloved characters from Wardrobe don’t reappear.
“And as you may or may not know, some of our key characters finish their trip to Narnia with Prince Caspian and won’t be in the next film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So it isn’t as though we’re giving the audience more of the same. There’s certainly a little of the same, in terms of themes and several of the characters, but Prince Caspian is a vastly different film from Wardrobe. And when we get around to making Dawn Treader, that will be quite different as well.”
The producer (who previewed the first Narnia film in STARLOG #342) admits that Prince Caspian’s darker tone may be riskier, but it was also unavoidable in terms of staying true to C. S. Lewis’ novel. “I do worry about it, but while I don’t mean to suggest that suddenly we’re Reservoir Dogs, there is more innocence in Wardrobe,” Johnson says. “That’s understandable, because the first movie is the entrance into and discovery of Narnia, while Prince Caspian’s Narnia has gone on for some time, so there’s less hope than there was in Wardrobe. But I also believe that there’s great affection for Narnia, even if it isn’t always the same in each film.”
Johnson notes that a number of important lessons were learned over the course of shooting the first film, which he was able to put into practice on the sequel. “For example, it’s easy to lose sight of – because of the physical ordeal you’re going through – the fact that you still have to tell a story and you still need to have engaging characters,” he stresses. “You’re dealing with a thousand extras, visual effects, explosions going off and helicopters flying here and there, but you still have to put on your blinders and say, ‘Is the story working? Do we really like these characters? Do we understand what they’re going through and what they’re afraid of?’
“Maybe, in a strange way, it’s much easier on a small film, because all of that is right in front of you, but in this case, you have so many other distractions. They all need your attention, but ultimately the most basic question is: Is the story working? So there’s that, and then one of the things that [director] Andrew Adamson is so amazing at is he can stop whatever he’s doing and fix his attention on one specific thing, deal with it and move on to something else, because there’s so much coming at you all the time.
“What is wonderful about these films is that I really do believe that the bulk of our cast and crew aren’t simply making a movie, but also doing something that they truly believe in and think will have some sort of impact. You need to honor that dedication, and it’s perhaps a little clichéd to say this, but we really did become a family. Everyone had a common goal, and one of the things you have to do as a producer is to be aware of where everybody is, what they’re doing, how they’re feeling and if they’re being acknowledged. The interesting factor is as the films get bigger and bigger, your concentration needs to get smaller and smaller.”
THE PRINCE’S PLAYERS
One of the biggest changes that had to be made for Prince Caspian was restructuring the original novel into a more linear form. “We’ve taken more liberties with this book than we did with Wardrobe, and not because we arbitrarily chose to do so, but the structure of Prince Caspian didn’t really suit itself to a movie,” Johnson says.
“If you remember, about a third of the way into the book, Trumpkin proceeds to tell the four Pevensies about what has happened up to that point, so another third of the book is told in flashback. We realized we couldn’t do that, so Prince Caspian was much more difficult to adapt. I don’t think, as a novel, Prince Caspian is entirely as successful as Wardrobe.
“And for a long time, we tell three separate stories. There’s the story of the Pevensies coming back – after having lived in England for a year – to Narnia, where it’s now 1,300 years later there. We tell the story of Prince Caspian, who has fled the castle and his evil uncle, gone into the woods and found the Narnians who were believed to be extinct. And then we tell the story of Miraz’s villainy and what he’s trying to do to the country. However, in the film, those stories don’t intersect until about at third of the way through.”
Reprising their characters from the first film are William Moseley as Peter Pevensie, Anna Popplewell as Susan, Skander Keynes as Edmund and Georgie Henley as Lucy, but the most difficult role to cast was Prince Caspian himself. After an exhaustive search of countless candidates in several different countries, the producers finally chose British actor Ben Barnes, who was just about to go on tour in a National Theatre production of The History Boys.
“He probably isn’t the National’s favorite actor right now,” quips Johnson, “but he’s wonderful in the movie. Ben is a handsome young man, but he also has great charm and innocence. Prince Caspian doesn’t believe he’s up to the task, and over the course of the film, he takes this journey where he becomes the king that he needs to be.
“It took us forever to find him, in large part because Andrew decided that the Telmarines—Prince Caspian’s race—are descended from pirates. So he figured, ‘OK, let’s make them Mediterranean!’ They aren’t necessarily Spanish, Italian or French, but they’re a little darker than the British kids, or, as Andrew says, ‘the very white British kids!’ We also gave the Telmarines a distinctive accent, so there was a specific type we had to look for with Caspian—even if he didn’t have that accent.
“We looked at hundreds and hundreds of boys from Spain, France, Italy… We brought in some boys from Argentina and Mexico, and as it came down to the wire, we finally met Ben. We had this sort of clandestine meeting where Andrew and I flew in from New Zealand to LA and arrived on a Saturday night, while Ben flew in and arrived first thing on Sunday morning. We interviewed Ben, put him on tape and he got back on a plane and arrived Monday afternoon in time to make Monday night’s performance. Not only did nobody and the National know that he had come and read for a film, they didn’t know he had actually left the country!”
Aside from the five younger roles, two other character who play important parts in the film are Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage)—the dwarf who explains to the Pevensie children what has happened in their absence—and Nikabrik (STARLOG favorite Warwick Davis), another dwarf, but one whose loyalties are a bit more suspect… As Johnson recalls, “When we first started talking about Prince Caspian, the one actor Andrew and I wanted from the very beginning was Peter. He’s such an extraordinary actor, and we both completely flipped for him when we saw The Station Agent.
“Peter has done lots of film work, but he has never been in this type of movie, where he had to wear prosthetics. So poor Peter would have to go through three hours of makeup every morning before he was camera-ready. On the first day of shooting in New Zealand, he went through all of that, and then we put him in a boat where he was being bitten by sand flies and thrown into cold water. We were lucky that he returned after his first day!”
As for Nikabrik, the filmmakers decided to cast Davis against type. “Warwick has acted in a number of films like this one—from Willow to Star Wars—where he has done pantomime and a little bit of everything, but I think fans will be surprised at who he is in this movie.”
THE DAWNING DAY
Most of Prince Caspian’s supporting cast are decidedly non-human, from the Bulgy Bears to a helpful badger named Trufflehunter to Reepicheep—a two-foot, swash-buckling mouse whom Johnson believes will be a major scene-stealer. “I learned on Wardrobe how specific you need to be with the animators. You really need to treat these characters as you would any actor in the film,” he points out.
“Andrew started with the animators by saying, ‘I want you to rent as many Errol Flynn films as you can and just look at the swagger and how he walks and talks.’ That’s what Reepicheep needed to be, because the beauty of Reepicheep is we don’t play him for laughs. Reepicheep will get lots of laughs, be he’s Sir Galahad, as noble a character as there is in the entire movie, and he sees absolutely nothing comical or unusual about the fact that he’s a two-foot-tall mouse who has a bravery no one else can begin to match .We listened to so many voices trying to figure out who Reepicheep should be,” Johnson adds, “and only hit upon Eddie Izzard about three months ago.
While Prince Caspian introduces several new characters, it also features the final appearances by Peter and Susan, who are told that they are now too old to return to Narnia again. “I was talking earlier about our test screening,” Johnson mentions, “and one of the questions was, ‘How did you like the ending?’ We got some interesting responses, and, luckily, people enjoyed the ending—but a number of them said they did not like the fact that Peter and Susan could not come back.
“That’s actually very good, because it shows that people are committed to Peter and Susan and feel the sadness of [their departure]. It’s appropriate for the story, and both William and Anna have full lives and other things to do, but I know that it wore heavily on them. And when we shot their final scene, it had a real melancholy.”
But as Narnia fans know, both Edmund and Lucy—along with their cousin Eustace—play major roles in the next adventure, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as they accompany King Caspian on his mission to find the seven lords who had been banished during Miraz’s reign. Originally scheduled to begin filming in January, the third film had its production delayed by the writers’ strike and will now begin later in the year.
“We don’t have a shooting script yet,” Johnson explains, “so we’re just waiting for the official word in order to dig right in. We wanted to be shooting now, but to be totally honest, we didn’t have a script that was quite ready, didn’t have a budget that made sense. We’re going to start shooting in October or November, and the movie will come out in May 2010.”
With Adamson busy finishing post-production on Prince Caspian, he’s stepping away from the camera and only acting as a producer on the third film. Michael (The World is Not Enough) Apted has been enlisted to direct Dawn Treader. A relative new-comer to big-budget genre fare—and a renowned documentary filmmaker—Apted appears to be an unusual choice, but Johnson insists that was one of the reasons for selecting him.
“Alfonso Cuarón was a great choice for the third Harry Potter because he was totally ‘wrong’—the movie he had done just before that was Y Tu Mamá También,” Johnson observes. “What is exciting about Michael is that he’s such a great director of actors, and this next film is going to have less of Caspian’s rip-roaring action and play more into Wardrobe’s character delicacies.”
Looking beyond The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there are still four more novels in the series to be adapted, including the Narnia prequel The Magician’s Nephew, which is more than enough material to keep any producer busy for the better part of a decade. “I can’t think of a better niche or world to be in,” Johnson offers. “I’m surrounded by a fantastic cast and crew, and both Walden and Disney are so supportive. These aren’t simply tent-pole movies; they carry great emotional weight for all of us, and I love going into this world. I do other things at the same time, so we have other movies out. I just executive-produced a movie [Ballast] that played at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Best Director award.
“So, I work lots of different muscles all at once.” Mark Johnson grins. “But as I say, if Narnia is a place I can revisit every couple of years, I’ll be very happy!'”