The Silver Chair is About a Bullied Girl, Says TriStar President

The Hollywood Reporter recently published a wide-ranging interview with Hannah Minghella, the President of TriStar Pictures. Minghella shared thoughts on reviving the Narnia franchise with the fourth book in the series, the theme of The Silver Chair, and the character of Jill.

Why did you acquire the Narnia franchise given that it’s been seven years since the last one? And why begin with Silver Chair, the fourth book in the series, rather than just start over?

Disney made the first one, which was a wonderful movie. I don’t think the world is necessarily ready for or asking for a remake of that film. Silver Chair is a perfect moment to rejoin the franchise because it introduces a new character, a young girl named Jill, going into Narnia for the first time. Thematically, the story of a young girl who is being bullied but who has to find the courage to stand up not just for herself but ultimately all Narnians has such strong positive messaging.

She also offered these comments about the concept of filmmaker-driven films behind TriStar Pictures:

Has the mandate at TriStar changed in the two years since you took over?

I’ve slightly expanded the mandate. We’re genre agnostic and budget agnostic at TriStar. The common denominators for all TriStar films are they are original or elevated or filmmaker-driven in some way.

With Tom Rothman charged with turning around big Sony, is he more hands off with TriStar?

TriStar has always been a division where everybody’s going to be a little bit more hands off, right? Because this whole idea of TriStar is to bring in filmmakers and advocate for them and create a space for them to really be the creative leaders of their movies. So, yes, Tom is a little hands off with TriStar. And I take that both as a sign of his commitment to making filmmaker-driven movies and also his confidence in me and the team we have.

Share your comments on the interview below! Are you excited about TriStar Pictures making this movie? What do you think is the message of The Silver Chair?

Thanks to narnia fan 7 for the alert.

57 Responses

  1. AslanGeorge says:

    A young girl who is bullied? That seems to be taking a small, almost peripheral part of the book and making it the centre of the story. Worrisome.

    • Aslans mane says:

      My thought as well.

    • Anhun says:

      It's not a small part of the story. Her history of being bullied has a huge impact on her character: her defensiveness, her fear. It also shapes the one-step-forward-two-steps-back nature of her growth over the course of the story.

      The theme of tyranny (a type of bullying) is also a key feature of the villain of the story.

      I do disagree with the way she said that Jill learned to stand up for herself and then ultimately learned to stand up for Narnia. In the book, Jill learns to stand up for something bigger than herself first, and it's a gradual learning process really. Learning to stand up for herself comes at the very end of the book when they return to Experiment House.

    • waggawerewolf27 says:

      No, Jill being a bullied girl, isn't a peripheral part of the book. All of the villains in the entire Narnia series are bullies, who are happy to coerce others to do their bidding, and who ruthlessly crush dissent. For all that LOTGK is everyone's pinup girl, she still is a micromanaging bully, fearsomely coercing her victims to deny who they are and to induce in them some sort of Stockholm Syndrome.

    • Larry W. says:

      The bullying of Jill is an important part of the story because it gives her and Eustace a reason to exit our world. But most of the time in the book is spent in Narnia and much more importantly, the plot is about following the signs of Aslan and being faithful to him. Although they make mistakes, the children and Puddleglum are always brought back to Aslan by the Lion's goodness.

  2. Ramandu says:

    She thinks Disney made the first movie. lets hope she's just a figure head and has no influence on anything

    • Goonie64 says:

      Umm Disney produced and distributed the first 2 Narnia movies.

      • Jonathan says:

        Walden Media was the production company that owned the rights. Disney coproduced and distributed the first two films, Fox did this job on the 3rd. Dune also invested in Dawn Treader.

      • Ramandu says:

        My memory is the first movie was virtually complete before Disney came onboard. this is why that movie didn't totally suck like the next two that Disney had there hands in.

    • Adam Gamble says:

      Ummm…pretty sure neither Disney nor Walden did the first live action…that would be the BBC version, which holds to the books way more than the Disney version. Do not like these PC watered down versions at all, and I don't think C.S Lewis would either

  3. Bardu says:

    The same kind of ignorant comments were made regarding aspects of PC and VDT – this is a huge red flag.

  4. Aslans mane says:

    Oh dear.

  5. Taynah says:

    The Silver Chair is not about a bullied girl. That's not the point in the story. Just sad they're doing it this way. They should start with The Magician's Nephew. It would be great

    • sam says:

      I don't remember the story enough to comment on the point of the story, but I wanted to add that I like the fact that they are continuing the story rather than going with the prequel. I hope they progress in the way that the stories were written.

  6. Lord Argoz says:

    They seem to be really vamping this whole 'bully thing' up to mega proportions. When I, and I suspect most people, read the book, I don't really take the bullying aspect past experiment house. I wouldn't mind if they were using that as just one of SC many themes, but the amount of emphasis Joe Johnston and now Hannah Minghella are putting on it suggests that they are using that as the central theme – and that is worrying.

    I think the thing that worries me more, however, is the fact that they are putting so much emphasis on Jill's character, on Jill's finding the courage to stand up for herself and on Jill's courage to stand up for all Narnians. One of the whole themes of the book is the very opposite of that – Jill discovering that in fact she doesn't have the power to do anything whatsoever and so then has to rely on Aslan. Also, I hope they don't, repeat DON'T, turn this into a girl-power, girl-focused type movie. What about Eustace? Puddleglum?

    Anyway, Hannah probably isn't particularly involved in the actual production process so we probably shouldn't get too worked up about anything she says…

    • Anhun says:

      Jill is decidedly the central character of SC. The story is almost entirely told in third person limited from her perspective. She has a turbulent character arc, while Eustace only has a relationship arc . . . with Jill. We very rarely get into Puddleglum's head at all. Instead, we have to rely on his dialogue to find out what he's thinking.

    • High king Peter says:

      Yeah, you're right. There are too many movies focusing on girl power and way too much feminist messages like most of the Disney movies and others. I REAlly hope the movie directors really stick to the book, instead of modifying it. Its one of my most beloved books in my life. I wish they keep the golden beauty of Narnia like LWW. It inspired me till now.

      • Anhun says:

        How is SC NOT feminist? A girl goes on a quest to rescue the fairy tale prince.

      • High king Peter says:

        Yeah you're correct and its a good thing. What i actually meant was the lesson the book says about faith and belief must not fall behind the other empowerment messages

      • Lord Argoz says:

        No, the Silver Chair is NOT a feminist book. Just because the main character is a girl doesn't mean that the book's message is about female empowerment or the equality of the sexes. Although there is nothing at all wrong with those themes, the SC, other than having Jill as its main character, doesn't really have that as a message, and certainly not as it's main message.

  7. narnia fan 7 says:

    What she's saying go's along with what Joe said about "standing up to tyranny" being a main theme. I expected them to play up the bullying aspect I'm the story, but not this much.

    I hope we aren't in a Dawn Treader situation where take a minor element of the book and make it the main point.

    • sam says:

      At least with SC you have a single clear narrative, the problem with turning VODT into a single film is that the story is so episodic, I don't see how you could adapt it without focussing on one of the smaller storylines, or doing what I believe they attempted to do and that was to invent what is essentially a new story to tie the smaller storylines together. I'm not saying the outcome was good, but the reasoning was sound, any number of things could have hampered the outcome, overzealous editing, less than on-point direction, etc…

  8. Sgk474 says:

    I am delighted that the film will be made and I am not too worried about the comments Hannah has made. Jill was bullied and her experiences with Aslan in Narnia help her face life back in England with courage. I want as mamy people to discover Narnia as possible. I read The Silver Chair to my class. One girl said it was "The best 200 pages of my life." Let us try to be positive and supportive about the movie πŸ™‚

    • NarniaFreak says:

      Amen to that! I totally agree. As president of TriStar Pictures, she has a lot on her plate and won't be as much involved in developing that movie. I'm just thankful that this amazing book finally gets a theatrical adaption. I've waited for years and I'm very confident. David Magee is a great screenwriter and has spent years on drafting the script, Douglas Gresham is on board, and we have a great director – everything's gonna be fine!
      It's no surprise that she said what she said. Being bullied is a very current issue and why not tell the press that this will be part of the story as well? And don't forget that she didn't say that the story's only about a young girl being bullied!
      And as for saying that "Disney made the first one", I believe she was referring to actual theatrical adaptions. There might be people who highly estimate BBC's adaptions, but still you don't have to necessarily take them into account when talking about the movies. After all, a TV series is a different matter altogether! (And let's not talk about the animated picture…) Disney made the first great Narnia movie, which was wonderful, and I totally agree with her!

    • Mark Sommer says:

      Agreed. We have to remember the movie is being made for a wide audience. And that, I sincerely believe, is exactly what Lewis would have wanted.

      • Col. Klink says:

        What makes you think C.S. Lewis would want a wide audience? I thought he just wrote the kind of books that he, himself, liked. Not exactly the widest audience.

      • Bundibird says:

        Aiming to a wide audience is what kills novel-to-movie adaptations. Aiming at fans of the novel and trying to do justice to the book is what results in a good movie that is successful with both original fans and newbies.

        LWW – done true to the book, aimed at fans = massively popular across the board, introduced heaps of new fans to the book series.

        PC – slightly changed in order to appeal to a larger audience, some loyalty to the book = split reaction across the board. Some book fans hated it, some loved it, wider public responded fairly well but with nowhere near as much enthusiasm as LWW.

        VotDT – completely changed in order to appeal to a larger audience, next-to-no loyalty to the book = general public were unimpressed at best and actively disliked it at worst, and most book fans hated it with the passion of a thousand burning suns and like to pretend that the adaptation doesn't even exist. Massive flop. Killed a previously successful franchise. 7 years until anyone considered picking up the mantle of Narnia again.

        They need to make Silver Chair as loyal to the book as they can; if they do, it will be a success. If they try to change it up to appeal to a larger audience, it will flop and they'll have a failure on their hands, and we'll never get the rest of the adaptations.

      • sam says:

        I agree that for the sake of continuing the series they should appeal to the widest audience possible, in the marketing. Marketing can have a huge influence and I'm hoping that these comments are in the nature of promo, where they focus on the smaller elements that are appealing to the widest audience, but aren't influencing on the story being told itself.

  9. Fireberry says:

    Is not another major theme of "Silver Chair" teamwork?? It's not just Jill, but Jill, Eustace, Puddleglum, & at last Rilian, working together — each "picking up the ball" at one point or other when another drops it or can't carry it — and at last, they abide by Aslan and save Narnia, TOGETHER.

    • Impending Doom says:

      Most films have several different themes. It doesn't have to be black or white.

      I'm sure that the 'teamwork' theme will come across strongly in the final product as is in the book.

    • Impending Doom says:

      Joe Johnston actaully adressed this in his Q&A

      "I think that there are a few things that run through this. And for me, it’s about hope. It’s about working together and recognizing what others can, how you can share responsibility with others, and how you can work together."

  10. Twinimage says:

    Typical move by Hollywood.. Not saying this is going to ruin the movie, cause the main story COULD stay intact but present a different focus in message than the book did.
    But courage is not the main motif in Silver Chair.. It's about obedience and trust, IMO. Yes, this bullied girl will have to stand up for Narnia… By obeying Aslan and following the signs.
    Sounds like they are reversing the message.. Instead of trusting in Aslan and her comrades, sounds like they will make her another "strong female character" who has to trust in herself only.. smh.. Hollywood.. smh..

    Biggest concern is this will turn into another one of those movies that is blatantly making decisions that are purely politically based; political correctness and such.. Those never perform well with audiences or in the box office.. But that's the worst case scenario most likely.. Let's put a brave face on this, like Puddleglum would! haha

  11. Vanessa says:

    This is not April 1st is it??? No way they are going to ruin the film with it being about a "bullied" girl. Makes me already begin to sigh…"will they ever seize the essence of Lewis' brilliance?"

  12. Vanessa says:

    Wait wait wait…she is just the "president" right? Not the producer, maybe not actually knowing the story??? Not one time in the 14 times, I have read the book have I EVER thought there was a "bullied" girl. This is VERY disappointing news!

    • Impending Doom says:

      I assume you're not very familiar with the book either then. The Silver Chair opens with Jill being chased by bullies. Why do you think she has trouble trusting in others? All of Jill's actions throughout the book can be linked (on a basic level) back to this issue at her school. When she returns after her time in Narnia she is able to 'stand up for herself'.

    • Hermitess of Narnia says:

      I am going to agree with Impending Doom. What the book does is not continue to talk about Jill being bullied, but she still has to deal with the issues that make her a target for bullying in the first place. I mean, at the beginning of the book she is running away from the bullies and is only convinced Scrubb is not a bully when she remembers that he "stood up to Carter about the rabbit". By the end of the story, she is able to stand up to the LotGK and later the bullies at her school.
      The mistake would be turning the movie into a preachy anti-bully movie, because then it falls into promoting social values instead of telling the story.
      Which would be okay if SC was meant to promote anti-bullying campaigns as the Amazing Grace movie was about the abolition of slavery, but SC was meant to be about truly following what you believe and is very specific to the characters.

  13. farsightings says:

    Red flag. Hands down. Hopefully, she is speaking out of ignorance. The book includes a girl bullied (setting the stage and providing context) and she definitely plays a significant roll in saving Rillian and preventing impending doom from plaguing Narnia. But the book is not about her being bullied and standing up for Narnia. The stereotypical and overdone "believe in yourself" motif does not agree with Lewis and the Chronicles. If anything, when the 'heroes' in SC believed in themselves they messed things up. Narnia is never about heroes saving the day, it is about faulty humans (and other creatures) involved in an equally external and internal struggle, and partnering with those who are stronger, wiser, and truer than they could ever. Not your average blockbuster storyline. Hope we are overreacting and Tristar president spoke out of turn.

  14. The Just King says:

    Well, this seems to bode ill. Sounds rather like the complete reversal the filmmakers made with the message of Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

    The Silver Chair isn't about standing up for yourself; it's about standing up for Something and Someone greater than yourself, even at the cost of your own life.

    "Aslan didn't tell Pole what would happen, but that doesn't let us off following the signs."

    At the end of the day, it's about being faithful to the Signs, and by extension, to the One (Aslan, Christ) who gave the Signs, no matter the consequences to yourself.

  15. AslanNarnia says:

    I have not commented on here in seven years since the release of VOTDT. At last something to comment on. Joe Johnston sounds like the right director to me thank goodness. I wonder will Eustace Scrubb even make an appearance in the SC? LWW was a fantastic film, PC was even better but VOTDT was the biggest disaster ever in my honest opinion.

    • Anhun says:

      Do you mean Eustace Scrubb or Will Poulter? Eustace Scrubb is in it, but Jill is the central character (as she is in the book). Will Poulter won't be back, though.

      • AslanNarnia says:

        Thank you for this comment. The problem with bringing back Eustace Scrubb, by which I mean the character, is that he is associated with the VOTDT film which was a critical and commercial disappointment. In the new SC film Eustace would have to make reference to VOTDT, if he were to appear, which I am sure the film studio would wish to avoid as that film concluded with a seven year hiatus. My guess would be Jill Pole goes to Narnia on her own and is taken on an adventure to find and save a prince. It will be the Narnian equivalent of Alice in Wonderland with the character of Eustace Scrubb being absent through out. It would be too complicated to introduce his whole back story particularly if the previous actor is replaced by someone completely different.

      • Anhun says:

        Why is it necessary to introduce his whole backstory? If he was the central character it would be, but he isn't. I knew a person who read SC first out of all of the books, and they had no difficulty following or maintaining interest. It's okay for Eustace to have a bit of mystery about him, just as Professor Kirk did in LWW (to those of us who first read the series in publication order). I do, however, feel that Caspian's resurrection should be written out. That's just too much of a reference to VDT. People unfamiliar with the books (which is likely to be most of the audience) will be wondering what's going on.

        As for residual negativity from the film VDT, the only people who still think about VDT are hardcore Narnia fans. To everyone else, they either didn't see it or they don't remember it.

      • AslanNarnia says:

        Well if you read the Joe Johnston transcript he does mention Eustace Scrubb is in the SC movie. It will be a challenge to write Eustace in, that is all I am saying, so that anyone who has not seen TVOTDT will understand his previous friendship with Prince Caspian and why Prince Caspian has aged. The audience is going to look at each other and say 'what have I missed?' With Mary Poppins Returns, everyone knows who Mary Poppins is. Not so many know Eustace Scrubb or Prince Caspian. No one can really say Eustace is a likeable character either. Look at the Return to Oz film. It featured characters from the first Oz film made forty six years earlier. Was that a successful film? No, and the inclusion of the lion, tin man and scarecrow did alienate the audience even though the previous story is so well known. If Eustace and Jill both go to Narnia I also hope it wont be them arguing all the time like the BBC version. I am a firm believer Eustace should not feature at all in the new film as it spoils continuity and the series needs a fresh start but if he is in it I will fully accept that as the writer and director are of the highest quality and I and everyone else on here I imagine want the new trilogy to succeed. If Eustace is to be a mysterious figure then that also reminds me of the Twilight books with Edward and Bella. Lets hope the acting quality in SC lives up to the quality of the acting of Twilight and the actors cast in SC are of that quality as well and surpass the acting of the previous Narnia films. People will go to see SC for Aslan and Narnia – not because Eustace Scrubb is in it. Lets also see some snow in this one like the BBC version and to make it a true Christmas classic.

      • AShadowChild says:

        The BBC version of the Silver Chair is the most accurate of when it comes to Eustace and Jill fighting because the lines are taken directly from the books. I have both the BBC version and The Silver Chair so I know of what I speak. Other than that I could care less. Besides the fact that Eustace is not going to be useless and not be in the story. After all he's the one who takes Jill there.

      • AslanNarnia says:

        If Eustace arrives in Narnia and says 'I was in Narnia before and I knew Caspian but now he is an old man' the audience is going to ask themselves what is going on if they have never seen TVOTDT. What this film really needs is good box office figures above anything else to revitalise the franchise. Writing Eustace into the film is going to be very difficult if this is going to be achievable. Aslan will give Jill the instructions to remember and follow. I doubt very much this will be left out as it is the catalyst for the whole film.

  16. David kelly says:

    It is worrying that the film is about self-empowerment. The same drivel that Andrew Adamson did with the first Narnian, and what was done with Dawn Treader under Apted. There is nothing wrong about being assertive and empowering yourself but it all depends where that empowerment comes from. CS Lewis was a Christian and to disregard the Christian themes in the book is being unfaithful.

  17. High king Peter says:

    The idea of the Jill being bullied in the movie is nice, but usually there should be a change in the message it promotes because there is the same self empowerment messages in some many movies, like a cliche. I guess there should be a variety in the message it promotes.

    • High king Peter says:

      Wait, actually this movie doesn't center around the bullies…. Its a really minor thing in the book πŸ™ Should've not made bullyied as the subject.

      • High king Peter says:

        Now i recall that it was about holding on with belief and faith. Not mainly about self empowerment. If Jill is the main character, the self empowerment message and bullies should be a very minor thing and the message that the book promotes must be a big factor in the movie.

  18. High king Peter says:

    The christian themes are very important in the movie
    … please don't think less of any christian themes involved in the book

  19. Mayor Wilkins says:

    Goodness. I hope this doesn't turn into an overly politically correct film. Because if so, we can pretty much say goodbye to any Christian themes. I'm with above comments that hope for a faithful adaptation of the source material. πŸ™‚ I don't think they need to translate the story word for word, but they do have to stick pretty close to the overall themes and narrative.

    Do take the "girl being bullied" comments with a grain of salt, though. This lady, as nice and kind as she may be, is not going to be heavily involved with the picture. Pay more attention to the things Joe Johnsonston says, because he's the guy at the helm. πŸ˜‰

  20. Roger says:

    I want to remind people that one of the reasons that "The Golden Compass" bombed was because they did stay away from the religious themes. Bullying is a theme of the book but not the central theme. As pointed out above: Follow the signs!

    There are some great comments above and great reading. Thank you folks for a good time. The reading group forum is good too. Silver Chair is one of my favorite books.

  21. EdmundEnthusiast says:

    I'll love Narnia no matter what, but just really hoping they follow through the accurate plot of the books. Personally, I'd still prefer for them to make a movie regarding the ruling years of the four Pevensies. Their actors are phenomenal.

  22. Ms. Arianna says:

    NO. My one worry is they'll go total ANTIRELIGIOUS to appease the liberal far left. JILL BEING BULLIED IS NOT THE CENTER FOCUS IT IS ONLY IN THE BEGINNING. The whole story is all about LISTENING TO GOD!! Not about feminist BS! If they are so against religion WHY make a religious movie. Allow a Christian organization to do it, the majority of the people watching are definitely not far left feminazis nor atheists, it's CHRISTIANS!! People can make movies directed at all other religions but oh no they can't do Christian movies!!! ALL THE FAR LEFT WILL BE MUH FEELINGS!! Those who aren't religious or are atheist are the ones who know it's a Chris series. They want to watch it not because they believe the same but find it interesting how he write a whole book series while basing it on the Bible. So why are they doing this? It's not right that they think they need to change the whole story. I just finished rereading this story and it's not about JILL she may be the one he focuses on but he does that with every new character. It doesn't mean that they are the main character. The kids are always the main characters. Always. It's about trust in Aslan or god, listening to God and trusting his way. It's about FAITH!! Ya, Jill grows and has confidence in herself but that was the same with scrub in the previous one. If you take Christ out of it it'll be just like VDT! They took out the entire part of the nightmare island. If they kept it in and kept in the real way scrubb stopped being a dragon- AKA HIS BAPTISM!! It would've been better. If they take Christ out, they'll fail. Again. And that'll be it. Unless the movies are rebooted all together and made by a Christian company. Even if the chi is trash I think we can all agree that it'll have more more money made and be better.

    • High king Peter says:

      Yea , you're right. Silver chair is based on following God's advice and not straying from it, that brings major consequences. Joe said he would be sticking closely to the book, then this will probably makes its way into the book. Nowadays, standing up for yourself or be confident is a common movie cliche", though its good. But the message silver chair promotes is FOLLOW THE SIGNS. My brother and i used to watch these series and mainly appreciated its story and christian themes. If silver chair movie strays from Follow the signs, i would be really disappointed.
      Eh, i wish the Tri star president would change her mind and go through the whole book once again!!!