Campbell Live Interviews Adamson and French

Two interviews with director Andrew Adamson and actress Dawn French (Mrs Beaver) have aired on the tv show Campbell Live, on New Zealand’s channel TV3. Thanks very much to Coireall and Coracle respectively for the transcripts.

Interview with Andrew Adamson

John Campbell: New Zealand director Andrew Adamson is the very clever fellow behind this film based on the novel by C. S Lewis. He had big time success (Adamson not Lewis) with Shrek. Now he’s hoping for the same with his $220 million dollar film, the first time Adamson’s directed a movie that uses real actors on screen. Last night, some what nervously, Adamson revealed his movie to the cast and the media. 3 news reporter Belinda Henley was there and she caught up with the unassuming Aucklander afterwards. She asked him whether he though the film was being specifically marketed to Christian audiences.

Andrew Adamson: I don’t believe it is, I believe it something that the press has picked up on because, particularly in the US, religion is an issue. I think the film is being marketed to everyone. I mean no one wants to target one particular audience, I mean they want as many people as possible to go and see the film, because they need to get their money back. I think it’s something the press has an interest in, I think because of who C.S Lewis is, that there’s a natural interest in this. But I think ultimately the film is completely open to interpretation and you can enjoy it as an adventure or you can find spiritual meaning in it, depending on what you got from the book. I think ultimately the film is just gonna speak for itself.

(Clips from trailer, Mr. Beavers regaling of the prophecy)

AA: I wanted to make a movie that was true to the book, but to me the story was largely about that was disempowered, disenfranchised who stepped into this wardrobe where their not only empowered, but they’re Kings and Queens, (“The future of Narnia rests on your courage”) These children are immediately treated like the solution to these problems and that’s a very empowering story for children. And that’s the story I wanted to tell, the story about a family. Now there’s no doubt there’s a resurrection story in there, you know Aslan dies and comes back. All of that’s in there and it’s, as I say, open to interpretation depending on your own beliefs. But to me its first and foremost a story about forgiveness, a story about sacrifice and really a story about a family that needs to come together.

BC: How hard did you have to fight to get this film made in New Zealand?

AA: Um, I don’t think I really had to fight that hard. I mean there were some difficulties just on a financial level because the American Dollar was dropping, continuously, ah, which ya know when they where filming Lord Of the Rings, they were at 39c to the dollar, by the time we were filming this it was more like 70c. So there was less and less reason from a financial point of view. But largely from the scouts, I basically went and videotaped a lot of the country we were intending to shoot in, and, I think everyone just fell in love with the landscape as Narnia. (Shots from trailer of Narnia) And it was very reflective of the landscapes I found in the Czech
Republic for the winter part of Narnia. So ultimately it wasn’t really a huge find.

BH: From a film like this obviously everyone’s going to immediately start talking about future films. If there are more Narnia films, A: Do you think that they will be filmed in New Zealand, and B: Do you hope that you’ll direct them?

AA: (laughs) You know mainly people ask me about this and I say I just want a holiday. It’s been a long journey. I imagine there will be other Narnia films; you know obviously there are 7 books in the Chronicles. I think it’s too early to even talk about where they’re being made, or how they’re being made, were really just starting working on the story. And as whether I do others of them, its hard for me to imagine not doing another film with these kids. (Clips from the teaser trailer, the professors mansion scenes) I mean we really did become a family, and I really did become sort of a surrogate father to this, this family that these kids formed, and I
can’t imagine letting go of that.

BH: Despite the huge success with you’ve had with Shrek, you have really managed to hold on to your anonymity. Are you prepared to lose that with this film?

AA: No that’s why I’m wearing this disguise, I actually don’t look like this at all! (Laughs) No, you know it’s a hard thing, and it was a hard thing being back in New Zealand because obviously I’m more recognized there than I am here. But the hardest part is that I have such a terrible memory. And I had so many people working for me on the crew and you know New Zealand’s only so big, but you know, it’s a hard part of what I do. I don’t do this to be famous or be known, but it’s a necessary part, I have to talk to people I have to tell them what the films about, we have this part we have to do the junk and so on, but its certainly not why I do the film. I make these because it’s just something that’s come to me, I’m very lucky to do this, and it just seems to be something that I do naturally. The other part of it is just a necessary evil, in my mind. Not to call you evil! (Laughs)

BH: I mean this is not a normal situation, this is a bizarre situation. How does Andrew Adamson stay normal and grounded through a situation like this?

AA: I’m very luck to have a very good family. I have a seven week old daughter. Changing nappies is very grounding. I said to the kids before we started, if you even need to be grounded, I’ll let you change some nappies. No but I’m very lucky I have a very supportive family. Niki’s just, we have a very normal life. Niki’s not really into the industry or into any of this, so I find that all very grounding.

Interview with Dawn French

John Campbell: One of the biggest names, the biggest presences in the Narnia film is British comedian Dawn French. She’s lent her voice to one of the movie’s most memorable characters, Mrs Beaver. [shot of beavers] Here she is with her screen husband- Dawn, we’re told, is the one on the right – difficult to tell boy and girl beavers apart. Belinda Henley spoke to her about working with director Andrew Adamson, and she asked her if she was surprised by the size of her fan base here in New Zealand.

Dawn French: Yeah, it does surprise me, actually, and I’ve been to New Zealand a lot, and I’m absolutely amazed when people in New Zealand recognise me, I’m amazed about it! But I guess quite a lot of the French and Saunders shows have been there, and I know Vicar of Dibley goes out there, so, yeah, it’s great. It’s great in one way, because it’s nice to be appreciated, but it’s also difficult, because I thought New Zealand might be a really great place to go and hide – a lot, but you can’t hide there because people know who you are.

BH: I think there’s another thing that you kind of come across as being every woman’s mate; I didn’t feel – scared about coming to meet you today.

DF: Good, good. Well, I’m not every woman’s mate, obviously, I’ve got quite a lot of mates, but I’m not friends to every woman, but I would quite like to be before I die. So you and I are now best friends, aren’t we?

BH: Yes, okay.

DF: Yeah, because you love me…

BH: Fair enough…good. Now, moving on to the film, I understand there’s a lovely little Jennifer Saunders/ Andrew Adamson link into you getting this part?

DF: Yeah, well, um, when we first got the call from Andrew about Mrs Beaver, – and I have done all the beaver jokes, so I’m not going to do any of them now, but rest assured that any you can think of I’ve already thought of and had a good laugh at with Andrew. He came up with some really bad ones, and I’ve sort of work-shopped the whole beaver joke area. I just want to – we love all the beaver jokes. When he first called me and asked me to play Mrs Beaver, I spoke to Jennifer about it, and said, “You know, sometimes when you are a voice for a character on a film like this (not that there’s ever been a film like this actually) it can be a little bit of a lonely experience, and a bit unfulfilling, because you quite often are not with the other actors, and so on, so it’s not a chance to make new mates.” She said, “No, you will not have that experience on this, he is absolutely the bomb, and he will help you through it, and he will allow you to experiment a bit. And he’s appreciative, and understanding, and a great director.” So yeah, she basically bossed me into it, yeah.

BH: Were you and your children a fan of the books? Did they bully you into doing this film?

DF: I’ve got one kid, a daughter. No, she definitely did not bully me into doing it, but she is going to come to the premiere to watch it, and she’s never done that before, she’s never had any interest in anything I’ve ever done. And so, when it came to this, she is a little bit interested, and when you’re fourteen, “a little bit interested” is a lot to be grateful for.

BH: How do you find working – you were talking before about working Andrew, and you’ve done a few children’s-type films and animated roles; do you feel any less a part of the film because you are just a voice?

DF: You can do; you’ve got the cans on and you’re in a booth, and it can be a really distant experience. But that is just not the case with Andrew. He’s in your ear, and he’s in your brain, and he’s laughing at everything, and he’s interacting with you, even if it’s down the line to L.A., which half of this experience was with him. And he does all the voices of every other character, and he asks you to do it a lot of times, and enjoys it even more as you go along, so he’s like the most appreciative audience. And you know, I’m a sort of – I’m a tart when it comes to a nice appreciative audience like that, you just want to perform more and more for him really!

BH: And it’s amazing, because as soon as you hear the first words out of Mrs Beaver, and you hear that it’s Dawn French, you can’t imagine anybody else doing that.

DF: Oh good! I’m really pleased to hear that. I love Mrs Beaver, because I love that she’s a little bit of a nag, but she loves Mr Beaver so much and that she knows that she has to put her life in danger to help these kids escape, and to do the right thing, if you like. I think she’s a top-hole character.

BH: I hope that we’ll see you in New Zealand soon.

DF: Yeah, you definitely will! Try and keep me away – no, in fact don’t try and keep me away!

BH: Maybe professionally too, not just on holiday?

DF: No, maybe on tour.

BH: Good. Thank you very much.

DF: Very nice to meet you.

BH: It was wonderful, you too.