Further C.S. Lewis Conference Notes
Coracle attended the C.S. Lewis Conference along with Dooby and she has posted some great notes from the conference regarding the role of Douglas Gresham, Aslan’s role, makeup, and more. You can read Dooby’s report here.
On The Role of Douglas Gresham
Don: It was to guide and assist in the core of the film. It was an easy job and there was little opposition, because Walden and Andrew Adamson wanted to be true to the book – they were on his wavelength. “As far as I know there was never a major debate.”
Tracey: Doug would look at the concept drawings and designs. He always supported the idea of the White Witch having dreadlocks. “We went around doing High-fives! – that was our surprise or shock for the audience.” He was an incredible support person on the set, smiling, patting people on the back, giving praise. “He’s the first Executive Producer I’ve ever met who personally thanked the junior crew – those who clean toilets, hand out drinks, bring medication…he’s a man with a heart of gold.”
Tracey: There’s director, actor and technician input for make-up. Depending on how the filming conditions affect it, there’s continual make-up maintenance for 10-12 hours. There are a couple of nurses on location to help when dust gets on a contact lens, there are crews of make-up artists to cover large numbers of actors up on the mountains with constantly changing weather. Sometimes they need to do adjustments very quickly. Sometimes make-up artists have very long days with short sleeps in between (go home after very long day, sleep an hour, then get up to start again).
Andrew wanted to create his own memory and out-do other people’s imaginations. But how do you create a fantasy world like this when others already have ideas?
Don: I asked, “Andrew, what do you want?” I had regular chats with him. He’d say, “This is what I thought this scene was all about, from my reading of the book.” We’d use simple tricks to make things look real, as an “honest shot” using high and low angles. We used lighting, to produce a naturalistic look, slightly heightened, to make everyone believe it. Narnia was to be “part of this world” not on another planet – our intent was to be “still on Earth”. Magically, it’s another place on Earth that is different. Otherwise we would be letting the audience off the hook by saying it’s a fantasy place.
Was Aslan seen as less dominant in the film?
Linda (third member of panel, in absence of Doug Gresham): What the readers think of Aslan in the book can’t be shown in a film. The film actually introduces him earlier than the book does – in Tumnus’s fire, showing a sense of his power. He’s a majestic, forgiving, loving and just character in the film. We tend to remember Aslan from ALL the books, but in LWW he is slightly lower key.
Don: He’s slightly lower key because they wanted a universal story, not to play the religious element strongly. Andrew said, ‘I want people to see whatever film they want to see.’
Was there a different tone on this film because of the Christian aspect and Doug’s personal touch?
Don: I’d put this in the top group of films. The isolation of the work [always] creates relationships in the crew. The production people were very good, they argued but they were great.
Tracey: It’s the top film I’ve ever worked on. The life experience, the global experience, my family and children in a new country. There were experiences you don’t get every day. Camaraderie was better than on other films I’ve worked on. The life memories and feelings – this will go down in my history as a very, very, very special experience.
What, apart from money, made you want to join the film?
Don: I read the script in isolation, without knowledge of the book or author. I liked it, and talked to Andrew. It was amazing to give this film to somebody who had never directed flesh and blood before – although he wasn’t just somebody off the street! Andrew had a dream to make this film the way it was. I’d done comparable work on Peter Pan, but I saw this would be ground-breaking.
Tracey: I was hiding away, trying to get out of the film industry. I was contacted, and moved within two weeks! I loved the book, read it at school in the curriculum when I was nine. Peter Pan was classic, but Narnia allowed me to do different things I don’t usually get to do. You jump and scream when you get that chance.
On the DVD backgrounder material:
Don: My part of the DVD “making of” was the best I’ve seen done – I endorse it!