Ben Barnes Talks to NarniaWeb About ‘Prince Caspian’ and ‘Dawn Treader’
The Chronicles of Narnia Exhibition premiered in Phoenix earlier this year and is opening at The Franklin in Philadelphia on November 28, 2008. If you are in the Philadelphia area you’ll want to make sure to see this incredible exhibit with props from the film and much more.
As part of the promotion for this opening, our faithful NarniaWeb podcaster Rilian had a chance to talk with Ben Barnes in an exclusive interview. They discussed the transition of Caspian’s character from Prince to King, as well as some of Ben’s other recent work.
You can listen to the interview here or read the transcript below:
Q: I wanted to let you know that one of your quotes, “They know everything on NarniaWeb,” is one of the more popular signatures now.
A: (laughs) Oh really? Well they do!
Q: So, ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ is coming up. What is the status there? Have you met with Michael Apted?
A: I have. I met Michael on the set of ‘Caspian’; Georgie, Skandar and I and Michael went for some dinner. And I’ve met with him a couple of times since on some trips to LA. But I am probably just in the dark as you are; I haven’t seen a script. I have read the book more than once. But I don’t know any direction particularly that they’re gonna go in terms of threading the story together. I think it’s my favorite book of the series.
A: I think it’s principally because when I was younger, you know, you’re reading them and it’s a very episodic story. They go from island to island and they have this sort of fantastical mythology to it, and some of it feels very Greek. And I think you can read a chapter and it’s kind of satisfying, unlike some of the other books where you want to keep going. So I think it harks from that, for me anyway, from reading them when I was younger. I do love the mythology of that particular story, and I’d love to get started on it, but my best guess is sort of early summer for shooting it. But who knows? They’re still talking about Mexico for the shoot as well, but again I can’t confirm any of that. That’s just what I’m hearing.
Q: What do you think is going to happen to the character of Caspian? He’s a little older, he is no longer Prince Caspian — he is now King Caspian.
A: Yeah, I’m very much looking forward to that actually. I haven’t reprised a role before. The first conversation with Michael Apted was a few days before we shot the scene on the riverbank at the end of ‘Caspian’ where Aslan says, “Rise Kings and Queens of Narnia, all of you” and I say “I don’t think I’m ready yet.” Which for me is almost a kind of cliffhanger moment. You know, it’s not as cheesy as some of the sequels like in Indiana Jones where Shia Labeouf almost puts Indy’s hat on. But you know, it’s almost that, isn’t it? He kind of says, “I don’t think I’m ready to be a leader; I’m not ready to be a king; I don’t want that responsibility.” And lo and behold we flash-forward a few years. You probably know better than me; I know it’s a year on Earth but do you know how many years it is in Narnia?
Q: It’s three years.
A: Three years, okay. So we flash-forward three years. But three years, if you’ve been ruling a country and you’ve been a leader of your people, is a long time in terms of growing up. So it will be interesting to revisit that and see how he has changed. And I think probably, in terms of adaptation from a book to a script, ‘Dawn Treader’ is quite difficult because it is episodic like that; I think it’s difficult to find a movie-like through-line. I imagine they’ll probably use Caspian in that kind of journey of self-discovery as it were, still trying to work out who he is and what his heritage is.
Q: Obviously you’ve got to play the script Caspian, but you also have the book. You even did ‘Dorian Gray’ where you’ve got another book character you’re playing. What do you pull from the book versus the script? Do you sort of blend it?
A: Well, I was very keen to try to be as faithful to the books as possible because they were a part of my growing up. And, there are always gonna be outspoken voices who want you to play more of a kind of stereotype of a Disney prince, and I sometimes felt myself having to work against that. And then the poster comes out with you kind of looking stern and aiming a sword at the camera, and you feel sometimes that it might feel slightly incongruous with the character of Caspian in the story. But you know, obviously these films are also being made for people who don’t know the story and don’t love the books as much as you or I do. So I can definitely understand it. Hopefully in the next one, I can be as close to my interpretation of the character in the book as possible, but the beauty is that it’s different for everybody.
Q: I just read Dorian Gray for one of my tutorials, so I’m looking forward to seeing that as well.
A: Yeah, I read it in my teens. Actually for a lot of people, it’s the first book they ever read themselves. It’s something I think it’s in our psyche. I was watching an episode of ‘Family Guy’ recently where Stewie says, “Somewhere there’s a picture of you in an attic and it’s getting really pretty.” They just take the kind of themes of it and mess about with it, which I think is very interesting. There’s a ballet of ‘Dorian Gray’ in the West End recently. So it’s something that’s very much in the psyche at the moment with a sort of celebrity- and youth-obsessed culture.
Q: What are you looking forward to most with ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’? It’s going to be pretty different; you’re no longer going to be working with William and Anna, but apparently Peter Dinklage might be involved again.
A: Well, I hope so. I know he doesn’t play any part at all in the book, but I think he was such an instantly beloved character from ‘Caspian,’ I think it would be nice to have Trumpkin come at least part of the way of the voyage with them. I’m sure that for a lot of the people on your website, that would be entirely sacrilegious. But, I love having Peter on set, so I have to admit I’d be a fan of that.
Q: Well, I’m more concerned about themes than the details, so if I felt that the themes weren’t compromised then I might not have such a problem with it.
A: Oh good, well okay, I’m with you. So, what would be the most important themes for you to bring out in the ‘Dawn Treader’ movie?
Q: Well, I’ve been trying to articulate that because with ‘Prince Caspian’ I thought of redemption and a return to truth, but with ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ I think it’s largely journey and discovery. In the book, you even have Lucy discovering more about herself with the book that she finds in Coriakin’s room.
A: Yeah, I love that bit.
Q: And I think Caspian goes on quite a journey, especially towards the end of the book. I’ve been trying to think about that. What do you think? What themes do you think are really important in the book that need to come through in the movie?
A: Well, like you I find it difficult to articulate because it’s more like the first film but with less symbolism. Obviously at the end, you’ve got the themes of sacrifice. But also you’ve got, as you say, journey about discovery about each other and about themselves. And again, having faith in something that’s bigger than the tasks at hand. But, we’ll have to see how it works out.
Q: Well, good luck with that and I look forward to seeing ‘Dorian Gray’ as well. This has been fun talking to you. I actually got to meet Anna Popplewell about two weeks ago because I’m studying here in Oxford temporarily.
A: Oh, so you bumped into her?
Q: (Laughs) It was sort of weird because I saw her at a Starbucks and then I saw her at a theater. She’s co-directing plays now.
A: Yeah, she’s doing ‘A Few Good Men,’ right?
Q: Yeah I saw it.
A: How was it?
Q: It was good.
A: Oh, good. Alright, nice to speak to you.
Q: Nice to speak to you Ben, and hopefully speak to you again sometime.
A: Absolutely. Cheers, bye.