NYC Interview Series: Peter Dinklage and Anna Popplewell
Anna and Peter seemed to be a strange combination to put together in a press junket, but during the interview they played off of each other very well and were hilarious to listen to. Just as a small warning, this one does have a few adult comments but nothing too bad.
Anna Popplewell and Peter Dinklage
So Anna, was that kind of an emotional thing for you to go through last night?
Anna: Yeah, I think we were all pretty nervous for this movie. Especially since lots of people who we know have seen it and had been saying different things about it and so it was always going to be a nerve-wracking ordeal and I don’t really have any concrete conclusions to make about it.
Now is this the end of it for you? Do you come back at all? Or do you know or what?
Anna: I think I’m done. I mean Susan is in The Horse and His Boy but she’s an adult then and they already have an adult Susan so I think that my services will not be required. But yeah, it was bittersweet ending this movie when we were shooting, because Will and I knew that we were not coming back and we were both very sad about that, sad that we won’t be involved in making The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But at the same time I feel very ready to move on from it. It’s been a big chunk of my life so far and I’m excited to do new things and try out some different things. I don’t think I’d want to play the same role so many times.
In the final scene [Aslan] says you’re not coming back, you two have learned all you can in Narnia. What did both of you learn in Narnia?
Anna: Oh, well, I think we learned a huge amount, and I don’t think there’s only one secret thing that we learned. You learn something new every day on the film set with thousands of people…
No, character-wise. What did your character learn?
Anna: Oh, what did my character learn? I think that Susan learns that it’s ok to have experiences like that and then go back to the real world. I think when the kids have the challenge of becoming kings and queens, between these two stories the kids face the challenge of going back to the real world and I think part of Susan’s issue of being in Narnia this time around is not actually believing in Narnia, but accepting that at any minute they could be called back. By the end she’s come to terms with that.
The first movie was a very character-driven film, and this latest film was very action-oriented, and you probably more than any other character are able to benefit by getting involved in that action. Talk about that experience a little bit if you don’t mind.
Anna: I loved being part of the action. I was the only one on the battlefield in a skirt. I definitely made sure I could keep up with the guys. And we had a great stunt coordinator who taught us all sorts of things. It was nice not to be doing this all the time and to use my bow a little more creatively. And I know there’s been lots of comments of, “Why is Susan the Gentle involved in the fights?” And to be honest it was only logical. She’s got the skills and you use them. If she was there and she could use her bow and arrow, why would she not be helping out?
Are you an archer in life?
Anna: Do I walk around London with a bow and arrow? [laughter]
Are you into archery?
Anna: Um, no. It’s just something I learned for the film and I think archery on screen is very different from archery in real life because I have these neat little imaginary CGI arrows which tend to hit what they’re meant to hit. [laughter] It’s very convenient.
Peter, would you speak a little bit about the relationship between Trumpkin and Lucy and the aspects of not duplicating the Tumnus aspects of that? Did that enter your mind at all?
Peter: Not really, um… They’re big shoes to fill. James McAvoy, he’s a friend of mine, we’ve worked together, and I think it’s a very different relationship. I mean James was amazing as Tumnus in that first film and I think Trumpkin is a much different character and so the way Trumpkin and Lucy form a friendship is under different circumstances. I just like that she breaks down my very cynical veneer and you know… “Rrrrrr…” like the W. C. Fields and love to hate kids and hate to love them and there’s that sort of element to it. And I like having that sort of character for the movie.
Was that an ordeal having to go through all of the makeup? Did it take a long time?
Peter: Um, it does take awhile, about three hours every morning, there were some really early mornings on that set, but Howard Berger and Tami Lane… Tami Lane did all of my make-up. All the main characters were assigned individual makeup artists and she was mine. They just make it so much easier… They’re just wonderful people. They’re so good at what they do and they’re so great to be around. I’m just lucky to call them my friends now. I spent a lot of time with them. So we’d just get there early in the morning and play some nice music. Sometimes I’d fall asleep in the chair and sometimes we’d have the topic of the day and it was great. But it’s strange, I’d never really done that much makeup before. It’s wild first couple times you see yourself under that, it’s pretty interesting.
Peter, this is kind of a different project for you. We’ve followed your career and this seems a little different than the kind of thing you normally do. Why’d you get involved and what’d you learn in the process?
Peter: I think because it’s something I don’t normally do, I like to not repeat myself and I think it came at the right time. And I met Andrew Adamson. He sort of sealed the deal for me. I hadn’t read the script because I think they’re sort of lock and key about scripts with movies like this, but I met Andrew about 5, 3, 4 months before shooting? Met him in LA, sat down with him, had lunch with him, he showed me a lot of the storyboard animation that they were working on and he won me over. He’s such a smart, creative person and kind… he’s the majority of the reason why I signed on to it.
I know you said you were looking forward to doing different things — are you talking about acting or are you talking about other things too?
Anna: Um, everything really. We finished shooting in August/September and in October I’d gone to University. So I’m there for a good part of the year at the moment but I’m also really looking into things and working out what I want to do.
You said you’re at the same University that Lewis attended?
Anna: Oh no, I’m at Morton College in Oxford and C. S. Lewis taught there for 20 years and then went and taught at Cambridge. But yeah, it’s really beautiful and they have fantastic facilities and really dynamic people and all sorts of fun things.
And what are you studying?
Anna: I’m studying English Literature.
Peter: Anna’s smart! [laughter] She reads those books without pictures. [laughter]
[quick break to discuss the temperature of the room and for Peter to adjust the thermostat]
Do you have any thoughts on Susan in book seven choosing not to come back to Narnia? The whole, “What’s wrong with Susan?”
Anna: Hasn’t something been written like “The Problem of Susan” or something like that?
Yeah, it’s a big issue.
Anna: Yeah, well, a lot of people think it’s very sad, I think it’s very realistic really because if she doesn’t come back to Narnia for the next 10–15 years, then she’s bound to fill her life with new things and leave that bit behind. I think the line is she because too interested in nylons and lipstick? Which people take in different ways. I don’t think Susan goes off to join the playboy mansion, but I think she gets more interested in other things in her life.
Peter: That would be a different movie, wouldn’t it?
Anna: That would be a different movie. [laughter]
Peter: I’m going to make that. [laughter]
Anna: I don’t think Disney are going to help you with that.
Peter: I’m not going to go through Disney. Late-night straight to video. [laughter]
Anna, I assume you read Prince Caspian before and with the screenplay involving a little romance not in Prince Caspian, why don’t you talk a little bit about that element.
Anna: Um, well, I think when you’re making a movie which is also a book, you need to be aware that you’re making a movie and not making a book. And obviously we were concerned for fans of Narnia that stay true to the spirit of what C. S. Lewis has written, but we did want to make some alterations. It was something that I talked about with Andrew because I was a little skeptical about it when I first read the script. And I was kind of anxious to see how it turned out last night because even when we were shooting, we weren’t sure whether this look would cut well… and it is done very subtly. There isn’t a love scene in this movie, you don’t see Susan and Caspian going off into the woods the whole time and having little chats, that’s not how it works, it’s all kind of implied and it is quite subtle and quite sweet I think.
There were a lot of new characters in this movie, which was your favorite?
Anna: Does that answer your question?
Peter: Ask me the same question.
Peter, which was your favorite?
Peter: Where’s Ben? [laughter]
Peter, can you talk about your character’s relationship with Aslan and his journey and how he starts out basically agnostic and his disbelief.
Peter: Yeah, well, I think in a movie like this you need the healthy cynic who’s sort of grounded in something and uh, it’s funny that the character that is a Narnian is surrounded by Talking Badgers and whatnot and is a disbeliever in things that are spiritual and magical. Well, it’s a talking badger, just like a cup of coffee! But I think that provides the film with (hopefully, if I did my job right) humor. But yeah, in the end when [Aslan] finally appears and I see him through my own eyes, I think that’s humorous and stuff. So yeah, I do think you need that strange sort of cynical viewpoint. I’m sure there’s a lot of cynical people in New York, a lot of cynical people watching the movie… they need someone to relate to. [laughter] Being a New Yorker myself.
Was there any talk about which dwarf you would play? Nikabrik the bad guy or Trumpkin?
Peter: Typecasting, yeah. Well, I was gonna play Susan… [laughter]
Anna: He tried some of the costumes on.
Peter: I tried some of the costumes but that was later after the shoot. [laughter]
Or was the conversation was always about Trumpkin from the start?
Peter: It was about Trumpkin. When I first heard they were interested there was a moment before I talked to Andrew. I read the book and then there was a moment of, “Which one do they want me for?” And I met Andrew in LA and he immediately had me in mind for Trumpkin, which I liked. I was glad for that. And I think Warwick did a great job as Nikabrik and I get to spend more time with you guys. So yeah, Andrew had in his head exactly which character he wanted me for.
There were a lot of conversations as to how much funnier this movie was than the first one, a lot more levity to it. The first movie was good but this made it a lot more enjoyable to watch. A lot of that was riding on your shoulders, did you feel any pressure…
Peter: I think Reepicheep too…
But I actually think you were more effective as a humor element.
Peter: Well thanks. That’s good, I always… as an actor I always try to veer in that direction. I think comedy is about…
Death at a Funeral is probably one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, it’s hilarious.
Peter: Well thank you, thanks a lot, it was really fun making it. Um, what was the question? [laughter]
I was thinking that this was Lord of the Rings for kids and there wasn’t really any character that brought a lot of humor in Lord of the Rings and in a way this was sort of riding on your shoulders… and I guess the Reepicheep character, but I was wondering were you aware of, “Ok, a big part of what I need to contribute here is some funny, throw-away lines?”
Peter: Well, not that you… I mean comedy forms… because there are people out there much funnier than I am. But my sort of sense of humor in films, besides the Marx brothers, is playing it straight. The kind of “wanna wanna wanna” which I do in life but try not to do in films, it’s not as funny as playing it straight. Hopefully the words you’re saying and the environment you’re in will do the job for you. I just like playing it straight in comedy, you know. Not, “Albert Brooks as Trumpkin!”
Will you be back for the third film to play him as an elderly shouting Trumpkin?
Peter: Yes, they just announced it. Mark Johnson sort of officially announced it to Comic-Con so I guess that I can now say yes, I am in the next one. I don’t know to what capacity, nobody has a script yet, they’re still working on the script.
Anna: You’re going to be the lead in this one right?
Peter: Oh yeah! It’s going to be called The Voyage of the Trumpkin! [laughter] Good Ship Lollypop and the Trumpkin! Yeah, I think they’re changing… maybe sort of tweaking some things from the book or something. I don’t know. You’d have to ask the powers that be. We are mere actors, we know nothing. We’re the last to know. I don’t know what the year ahead is going to be like. I’ll get back to you at the next press conference when we’re talking about that one.
Did you get any inspiration or ideas from watching Lord of the Rings and what John Rhys-Davies did with the Gimli character? Or did you just say, “I’m creating my own character here?”
Peter: I think everything sort of you watch sort of seeps into your subconscious or conscious. I wasn’t thinking about that and I tried to use my own love for the movies… so, uh, yeah. Why not? He was great.
Anna, in the book, your character is normally more sensitive towards killing someone with her bow and arrow but in the movie you seem to be a really strong character with a sense of purpose. Which character do you personally identify with more? Are you more the sensitive type or are you like…
The blood-thirsty killer! [laughter]
Anna: Um, well, um, yeah…
Peter: Just don’t [tick] her off.
Anna: I’m not a very confrontational person but um, I don’t know… I’ll say what needs to be said, but no, I don’t walk around hitting guys off horses.
Peter: Wow, a lull! You guys are…
Anna: …uninterested. [laughter]
Peter: Well, I was going to say it was really nice, but ok.
What do you think is the core message is of Prince Caspian with the Narnia series in general? What do you see as the core message? The heart of this movie and book?
Peter: I’m not one… I’m bad at that stuff. Anna, you’re better than I am at this stuff.
Anna: I think it’s hard to sum it up in one sentence because even last night I was trying to track all the different plots that come into this. I think it’s a kind of transition. I think The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sets up this ideal world, even with the White Witch in it. It’s very much about everything being new. And this one everything is different and the transition at the end with Peter is handing things on to Caspian and that’s all changing but they’re leaving. For me that’s the sort of general big theme that I have.