Douglas Gresham Discusses Prince Caspian in Radio Interview

Douglas Gresham appeared today on Radio Rhema (a NZ radio network) with Rob Holding to discuss his experience filming Prince Caspian. Rob has kindly given us a recording of the interview and our own ‘Coracle’ has written the transcript.

Rob Holding: What are your impressions on the NZ leg of the filming?

Douglas Gresham: Once again, absolutely amazed by the wonderful scenic values and light values that you have in NZ, its a wonderful place to film for location work…of course you do have a problem with not having any really good studios and that sort of facilities. It’s incredible to me because you have some of the best locations in the world, if not The Best locations in the world, you have some of the best crews I’ve ever encountered in the world, some of the best artisans and technicians, and yet you haven’t got any facilities to really back them up properly, which is a bit of a shame.

Rob: Yes, and may cause a bit of a problem for VDT because I know the Aussies are after that with their big water tank.

Doug: Well, they’re not the only people – I mean quite a few people are after the next movie; we’ll just have to wait and see what works the best. I mean, it’s a simple matter really of where the best facilities are, the best deals are, is where you make your movies these days.

Rob: I remember we sat down as a family and watched the one of the documentaries on the Narnian – the LWW DVD. And of course you’re all over the world — one of the things Andrew Adamson talks about is filming in this location, got the water tank in that location, we did this over in this country — it’s almost an international effort, isn’t it?

Doug: The bulk of the work was actually done in New Zealand for ‘The Lion The Witch’— small parts were done elsewhere but the bulk of it was done in NZ, under pretty adverse conditions in some circumstances — I mean we were shooting in – I suppose they were semi-converted aircraft hangars in Hobsonville, for example, and every time the rain got heavy we had to stop because you couldn’t hear yourself think. It just wasn’t a good way to try to make a movie. The great skill of the crews and the people that we worked with in NZ was so good that we were able to make a fabulous movie.

Rob: Locations this year including down the West Coast of the South Island — that’s a bit rugged.

Doug: Yes, you’re not kidding! It was a wonderful place to be, and a wonderful place to experience, but we did a bit of some interesting NZ summer weather down there at times. But yeah, it’s a lovely area, absolutely beautiful; I loved being there.

Rob: To us that would be similar to, I suppose it would be the north east coast of England?

Doug: Yeah, I guess a bit. It’s probably even more precipitate in the Alpine areas of NZ; it’s a fabulous, fabulous area. I imagine it must be pretty grim in the winter down there.(laugh) I mean, the summer’s not that great at times.

Rob: You were filming down in Cathedral Cove, weren’t you?

Doug: Yeah, the Cathedral Cove, down on the beach there for a while. And that was a very, very beautiful set. We had several sets there actually, but it was absolutely lovely. And the weather was very kind to us there too, which helped enormously. We got some great footage there — lovely, lovely part of the world.

Rob: One of the things with the whole Narnian Chronicles is you’ve got this ongoing thing with the children. Is that going to be problematic in the future?

Doug: You mean the children growing up? Well, not really. You see in the next movie after PC, – in LWW we have all four children, in PC we have all four children, and in PC they are about a year to 18 months older than they were in LWW, and that works for us in a sense that the children have grown up a little bit, in fact they’ve grown up more than their characters have. So we’re just with make-up and so forth making them look a little bit younger. But it works for us in that they are more mature. And then in the next movie which will come after PC they’re another year or two older again, and we have two of the same children back again. So they will be considerably older, which will work for the next movie. And then of course we lose that cast, because they don’t reappear until they’re adults, in TLB. So by the time we get round to filming it, they probably will be adults, and we’ll be able to use them again!

Rob: That’s where my reading must be wrong, because I’d pegged the Voyage of the Dawn Treader as almost hard on the heels of Prince Caspian.

Doug: Well, it is, yes, but in this Earth time I think it’s about a year or a bit later — maybe eighteen months later. Peter goes off to the Professor to be tutored, because he’s not doing very well at school, Susan goes off to America with the parents, and Edmund and Lucy are sent off to their aunt and uncle’s house – Alberta and Harold.

Rob: That’s where they meet Eustace.

Doug: I think this is about a year or two, maybe even two years later.

Rob: Are we going to expect a similar gap then, between this movie and the next movie?

Doug: We hope to get the next three or four done quite quickly; certainly the next two we’d hope to get done quite quickly. We’d like to keep the continuity rollingas fast as possible. I would personally like to see probably no more than a year or eighteen months between movies.

Rob: And you’d be looking at using Andrew for all of them?

Doug: Andrew’s not going to direct the next one; I think he’s realised that it’s time he took a break. I think probably he has devoted so much time to us, we would be very remiss to ask him to do it again. I don’t think his wife would be very pleased if he had to take off for another two years to make a movie in the far parts of the world and so on. But in any case I think it’ll probably be good for Andrew and very good for us to change a little bit of style here and there.

Rob: I was thinking about that. The comparison obviously between Narnia and Middle Earth will always come about now, but I was just thinking that with the discussion over The Hobbit, and I sat down and thought “I don’t know if I want The Hobbit to look like Lord of the Rings — it’s a totally different feel.”

Doug: Yes, The Hobbit is very different in many ways; it was written as a children’s book to start with, whereas LOTR wasn’t. So yes, I think it should look very different; I think it should have a totally different feel about it, myself. I think that’s true of some of our books as well; VDT has to have a very different feel from anything we’ve done to date. It takes place in an entirely different part of the world of Narnia; and it’s a different kind of adventure as well.

Rob: It’s a very swash-buckling adventure.

Doug: A little bit more that way, certainly. It’s a little bit more cerebral in some ways too.

Rob: You’re looking at the moment (I noticed one of the things hunting through NarniaWeb) looking for horse riders in the Czech Republic.

Doug: (laughs) Yes, I’m sure we’ll find plenty of them. There’s quite a lot of cavalry work to be done in this movie.

Rob: Now, see , that’s the thing. When Andrew came to LWW he wrote down his memories first, and then read the book again. And I can’t remember too many places in PC that call for lots of horses.

Doug: Well of course we’ve had to amplify things a bit. What you can do in a book very often won’t work on the screen. A lot of PC is walking and talking, which is fine on the pages of a book, but doesn’t really come across very well in the cinema. So there are things we’ve had to do to make things a little more lively. But you realise of course that there is the horse Destrier, in the book which is ridden by Caspian in his flight from Miraz’s castle. And he was pursued by horsemen, no doubt. The Telmarine army will have to have some cavalry attached to it.

Rob: That’s a good point, I suppose! I’d better go back and re-read the book.

Doug: (laughs) We’re working to make this movie as exciting and as delightful as possible.

Rob: One of the other things that if I remember from Caspian is Bacchus and the nymphs and all the wood elves and those sorts of things; how does that fit with you from a Christian point of view? Because for some of us, we know C.S.Lewis was a Christian…[refers to colleague reading Mere Christianity] but how do some of those things fit into the Christian world from your point of view?

Doug: Well I think the first thing one has to realise is the nature of myth. Myth itself, and the myths that evolved in the ancient Greek and ancient Roman civilisations were the outreaching, the sort of groping of men for explanations of the wonders of creation. And these people saw that when they put grain in the ground it grew and it produced a crop, and so forth, and they saw the great fruits on the trees and all this kind of thing. And they searched out and looked up and tried to find some kind of explaining how all this was coming about, how it was happening. And they came up with all kinds of explanations with supernatural overtones of course, which is inevitable; which was their way of groping toward God. Of course the True Myth, the Christian Myth is when God Himself came to reveal Himself to us. And in a Narnian context, all of these Demi-gods if you like, or mythological or semi-godlike type creatures like Bacchus and Silenus and others, they are all under the power and under the rule of Aslan himself. I think that puts them in their perspective, in a Narnian way.

Rob: Because it’s a whole different world for us today, with those sorts of things. I mean, we haven’t grown up with the same literature as was around.

Doug: That’s very true, and it’s a great shame, because so many people look at the mythological characters and they immediately think that they’re all demonic — which is complete nonsense! They were the early man’s groping for God, not finding Him very successfully, but doing the best under the circumstances. In fact the book of Romans makes it quite plain that if a man grows up on a lush island somewhere, and never hears the name of God, or the word of God, or the name of Jesus, or anything like that, but he doesn’t pay homage to some being as a result of revelling in the glory of the creation around him, he is without excuse. So God expects and demands that we pay homage to something if we never hear the name God.

Rob: Paul goes right through that at the begining of Romans, doesn’t he? Is there a Christian element to the movies apart from the original book?

Doug: Apart from the original book, I’d say probably not. One of the temptations I have to fight against, quite strongly at times, is the temptation to inject some of my own Christian faith into the screenplays and the movies that we do. That would be a very wrong thing to do. The right way to do these movies is to stick to what Jack said in the original books, Jack’s original intention, Jack’s original meanings as closely as we can, and incorporate them into our filmscripts and screenplays.

To do anything more would be, I think, the wrong thing to do. So then, I think that what you will find in PC is the same messages that Jack was teaching in PC, only translated into film.

Rob: Speaking of Jack’s books, we mentioned Mere Christianity before, one of the things that colleague was saying in reading it is that she’s got to re-read paragraphs and re-read chapters because we’re not used to receiving that sort of information today in that sort of a way. We’re much more used to being entertained.

Doug: I think you have a point there, but I think that’s a sad reflection on modern education.

Rob: Agreed. But even for mature Christians, we’re not ready to receive it; we like to be entertained in our messages.

Doug: Yes. But I think that’s completely the wrong way to look at it. I don’t think Christianity is supposed to be a medium of entertainment. I think Christianity is supposed to be something you do, not something you’re entertained by. In fact I take issue with an awful lot of churches who make Christianity as they see it, a performance. They make their worship a performance. The worship of Jesus Christ should be enacted in every minute of every day of our lives; we should be doing Christianity, not just shouting and yelling and talking about it.

Rob: When did you discover that for yourself?

Doug: I discovered that relatively late in life; I was in my forties. My problem has always been, although I believed in God and believed in Jesus, (so does the devil of course, and it doesn’t make him a Christian) I didn’t want to submit my life to the authority of anyone but myself. Therefore in a sense I was worshipping myself, and therefore I had a fool for a deity. But I eventually did come to the realisation that I am not qualified to run a human life, and least of all one as complex as my own. So I handed it over to someone who is, who of course is the person who made it.

Rob: That’s the best thing for all of us to do.

Doug: Of course, of course!

Rob: Again, in watching the documentary on LWW, Andrew talks about the number of CGI shots, which I think was around 1500. Are we looking at more – the whole LOTR thing, where every movie got more and more — I’m sure you’re hoping that doesn’t happen with these ones.

Doug: Well, one has to be a bit careful for budget reasons. But we do have some new and interesting CGI characters we have to deal with in PC, of course . I’m sure that everyone in the world who has read PC is looking forward to meeting Reepicheep. There will be quite a few CGI shots in this movie; I’m not going to give too much away though.

Rob: No. But those who have seen the show reel are very impressed with it, from what I’ve read.

Doug: I believe so indeed, yeah.

Rob: Well, we will count down, another year and a bit, isn’t it?

Doug: We’ve got just over a year, actually — May of next year it should come out. We’ve got a pretty steep hill to climb, and we’ve got to get up it pretty fast.

Rob: Well, we’re always here if you need us.

Doug: Thank you. I will have to tell you this though: once again, going back to NZ and meeting up with a lot of the same crew members who helped us on LWW was an absolute delight. I mean, you do have some of the best crews I’ve encountered anywhere — great plasterers, great painters, all of the people who work so hard behind the scenes. And I really am very grateful to them for all their work — and they know who they are, if they hear this programme they’ll know who I’m talking about. Great guys, great girls, they did a wonderful job for us in Lion Witch, and they’ve done it again on Prince Caspian. And they deserve every credit we can give them.

Rob: Doug, thank you so much for your time!

Doug: You’re very welcome, Rob.

The interview played Monday March 26, 2007 at 3:25pm New Zealand time and will be replayed at 12:20pm on the 31st of March.