Tilda Swinton Discovers Narnia
Jenny Halper from New Zealand
“It’s about a children’s world,” Tilda Swinton said. “I think the real question, and I speak as the mother of two six-year-olds, the real question is ‘What do the parents want to read?’ And it’s lovely to read the Narnia books to children.”
She was referring, specifically, to CS Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” the basis for Andrew Adamson’s film adaptation that’s currently filming in New Zealand. As Jadis, the White Witch, Swinton is portraying one of the most terrifying characters in children’s literature. Standing in an Auckland-based production office, the casually dressed, make-up free Swinton looked more like a laid-back mom than an evil witch prone to turning adversaries into stone.
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” which Adamson co-scripted with Anne Peacock, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, also focuses on Lewis’ World War Two setting- an all-important aspect rejected by most adaptations. After a lengthy opening depicting the London blitz, the four Pevensie children (played by Georgie Henley, Skandar Keyes, Anna Popplewell, and William Mosely) travel to Professor Diggory (Jim Broadbent)’s country estate. There, they enter a charmed wardrobe built, in “The Magician’s Nephew,” by a much younger Diggory from the wood of a Narnian apple tree. The unsuspecting children are then transported into Narnia, where they meet Mr. Tumnus, a faun (James McAvoy), a fox (Rupert Everett), Aslan, a lion (not yet cast), and the terrifying White Witch (Swinton), who is eager to rid Narnia of the “Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve” she fears will usurp her throne.
Having missed the Narnia books as a child- which Swinton jokingly attributed to a “pagan upbringing”- the British actress and star of films including “The Deep End” and “Adaptation” is discovering Narnia as an adult, via Adamson’s unique vision. “It’s not like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ now, which are pushed down everybody’s throats.” Swinton concluded. “In those days people kind of discovered it. Let’s hope children will still be able to discover it.”