Andrew Adamson Interview

INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW ADAMSON March 4th, Radio Rhema, (Christian radio network in NZ, 4.10pm local time).

UPDATE: We now have audio of the interview thanks to the Rob Holding of Radio Rhema.
Click to listen to the interview in Real Audio format.

I: Interviewer: DJ Rob Holding (Auckland NZ)
A: Andrew Adamson speaking from Los Angeles.

I: (has just played song Belly of the Whale from Jonah, a Whale of a Tale Veggietales movie) And we go from one computer-generated movie to another – sort of – we go from Veggietales to Shrek, and the director & producer of Shrek, Andrew Adamson, who’s just finished filming The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe in New Zealand, and now doing post-production in America, and he joins us on the phone from Los Angeles. Good afternoon!

A: Hi Rob, how are you?

I: I’m fine, how are you?

A: Not too bad, thank you.

I: That’s good to hear. Commiserations on the Oscars!

A: Oh, that’s all right, we got as far as we expected to, to be honest.

I: Yeah? Is that right?

A: The Incredibles has had a bit of steam behind it lately, and we’re a sequel, and all those kind of things, so the fact that we got nominated was actually pretty nice.

I: [reads info off Wikipedia…] “Shooting is taking place in NZ, primarily based in Auckland, but will move to the South Island where much of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed. Jackson is reported to be filming parts of his upcoming version of King Kong in nearby Christchurch.” And I’m sitting there thinking, hang on, I thought this was on Andrew Adamson? Are you conscious of being in Mr Jackson’s large shadow at all?

A: Certainly conscious of trying to shoot at the same time as Peter. (laugh) I wouldn’t consider myself in his shadow. I worked with Peter actually, he was sort of indirectly the person who got me into Shrek. I actually was down in NZ helping him out with some effects on Frighteners, when I used to do visual effects, and one of the executive producers on that project ended up being one of producers on Shrek, and he brought me into that. So he’s somebody I’ve stayed in touch with since then, and he’s always been incredibly supportive of everything I’ve been doing, so I’ve actually really appreciated having him there, and certainly we’ve worked with Weta a lot on this film as well. It is very much a Peter Jackson country when it comes to filming, that’s for sure!

I: We’ll try and make it a 2-horse race here. Was that in your mind when you were doing The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, that we’ve had this incredible -I mean the two books, are very closely linked, the Narnia chronicles and the whole LOTR thing – and we’ve had this huge thing with LOTR, and then Andrew comes along to film LWW; how much extra pressure was there on you?

A: Definitely a little extra pressure. Interestingly enough, there’s actually a really wonderful article on Tolkien and Lewis, because they were very good friends, and actually Lewis helped Tolkien get his books published, because he’d succeeded with a number of his publications before The Hobbit was published, and there’s a very nice article I read, I think in the New York Times, a little while ago, that was kind-of relating that to how the making of LOTR actually made it easier for us to get this project off the ground. It was a sort of nice thing, kind-of correlating the two and saying how Lewis and Tolkien were still helping each other out, which I thought was a really sweet sentiment. We definitely had to be careful not to use the same locations, you know it was kind of New Zealand obviously has a lot to offer, location-wise, we had to be careful that it didn’t look the same.

I: LOTR is so different to LWW; I’m just reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my two youngest children at the moment, -they’d much rather Dad read two chapters a night instead of one –

A: (Laughs) It’s heavy reading for an adult!

I: Yes, but it’s very British though, isn’t it? And the thing in most of our minds most of us have seen those BBC movies with little chubby Lucy with her buck teeth, and the funny little beavers. In the back of my mind I’m going, “How the heck is Andrew going to do something different?”

A: Well, one of the fortunate things – I had NEVER seen those as a matter of fact. I read the books, I’d seen the animated version done a long time ago, which was pretty low-budget. And actually my wife had picked up the DVD of the BBC version, and I got partway through it, and I just kind of said, “I can’t watch this, it’s going to affect me in ways I can’t really say!” (laugh) And I don’t want to discredit them, they were done in a limited budget, for a TV audience, for a younger audience that was very different from what I wanted to do. And I so wanted to steer clear of the clichés, and I felt like there was a number of clichés in there, particularly with the White Witch, that I didn’t want to have in my head, going into making this film.

I: Are you happy with what you’ve got so far?

A: I am, I’m really happy with the shape the film is in, I’m really happy with the kids, and with Tilda, and with James McAvoy, and just all that – we had a really great cast.

I: Is this your first live film that you’ve directed?

A: As a director, yes. Live action as a visual effects supervisor, but first time as a director.

I: Batman things, and stuff like that.

A: Correct.

I: That’s a huge -.I’m not the sort of guy that jumps into that. You’ve gone from the Shrek things to LWW as your first project as a live film director.

A:(laugh) Yes,

I: A sort of death wish or something..

A: In at the deep end. Yes. (laugh) No, you know, I hadn’t intended to do anything like this, I was actually planning to do a small sort-of independent film, just kind of character based. The Shrek films were technically challenging, and very long in duration, just difficult to make. So coming out of those I thought I’d do something like My Dinner With Andre, just a couple of people sitting around a table. But this came up, and it was such an important part of my childhood, I couldn’t really turn it down. I tried! But I couldn’t.

I: It wouldn’t let you turn it down. And I hate to harp back to the other fella as well, but we know Peter Jackson’s intending to do The Hobbit at some time in the future. Are you intending to do the rest of the Narnia Chronicles?

A: I don’t know about the REST of them. (laugh) I have some thoughts about doing one or two more. I don’t think I’ll be up for all seven. I’d like to work on more than just two franchises in my lifetime.

I: What would be, if you took one or two more, what would be the one or two?

A: My favourite books: I really love Dawn Treader, Magician’s Nephew is a big favourite, Silver Chair. On the other hand, Prince Caspian is the next one kind of in chronology; and then the others like Horse & His Boy are kind of like offshoots. So it would probably be Prince Caspian, or Dawn Treader next, if we did it.

I: So, you’re in post-production now; you don’t want to jump straight back into a Narnia one after this, what’s next on the cards?

A: I actually am very deliberately not deciding. It may very well be another Narnia Chronicle. We’ve had a fairly long and intensive shoot, and if anyone asked me what I was doing next, right now I would say taking a long vacation. So no-one is asking me because they don’t want that answer.

I: So are we going to expect some nominations, I hope, for LWW for the Oscars in a year or so’s time?

A: I don’t want to jinx it either way. The interesting thing with film making in NZ now is it’s become the expected thing. There’re a lot of very good films that don’t get nominated for anything, but I was at a NZ Consulate Party the other day, and they pointed out that New Zealanders have won 34 Oscars in the last four years. That’s a fairly extraordinary circumstance, and obviously a lot of those were because of the LOTR trilogy. You know, sure, we hope so, but you can’t expect that kind of thing, and it’s certainly not why any of us make films.

I: And I suppose the other side of that is that if you are nominated and you do win, you have to then go, “I’ve done this on my own; I haven’t just done it because this is a NZ film.”

A: I think it’s wonderful that the country takes national pride in people who achieve. I think it’s wonderful that any nation does that. But as I say, I don’t think Peter is really making his movies for NZ. I don’t think I’m making my movies for NZ. I’m proud of everything that NZ has done, obviously particularly in film, because that’s what I am associated with over the last few years, and I’m proud of the strong NZ film history. I think if I was up there accepting an award, I’d be doing it proudly as a New Zealander, but either for the awards or for representing my nation, that’s not really why you’re in the film industry.

I: You’re in it because you love it.

A: Exactly.

I: Andrew, thank you for your time.

A: Good to talk to you.

Extra special thanks go out to NarniaWebber Coracle for her transcription of this interview.