Greta Gerwig on C.S. Lewis, Narnia, and Re-Enchanting the World

Greta Gerwig has been named one of Time Magazine’s Women of the Year. The accompanying article and video include several quotes that offer a little insight into the two Chronicles of Narnia movies she is set to write and direct for Netflix.

The article says Gerwig is adapting “the first book” and includes a link to another post about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. NarniaWeb is investigating and seeking clarification.

Here are some highlights from the article and video:

Gerwig Loved Narnia as a Child

In the video (3:20), Gerwig says:

“C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books are something that I’ve loved since I was a child. I would say the two big books of my childhood were Little Women and the Narnia books. So I had that instant excitement, but instant terror that comes from trying to tackle something that has shaped me. […] I want to make it feel like magic.”

Plans for Narnia Before Barbie

Narnia, Gerwig says, had been gestating for a long time; she’d written a draft before ever setting foot on the set of Barbie. “Knowing that I’d laid the groundwork for Narnia and wanted to return to it—that’s probably something I set up for myself psychologically,” she says.

Studying Lewis

After the Oscars, [Gerwig will] be back to work on Narnia, which she’s been studying closely, alongside the other works of C.S. Lewis, as she prepares to write and direct at least two movies set in that world for Netflix.

World Building is “Rooted in Faith”

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s CEO, calls Gerwig an “incredible visionary” whose take was clear when they first began talking about Narnia. “It won’t be counter to how the audience may have imagined those worlds,” he says, “but it will be bigger and bolder than they thought.” He describes her world building as “rooted in faith,” much like Lewis’ original material.

Narnia’s “Euphorically Dreamlike” Quality

Gerwig is drawn to the “euphorically dreamlike” quality of Lewis’ writing. “It’s connected to the folklore and fairy stories of England, but it’s a combination of different traditions,” she says. “As a child, you accept the whole thing—that you’re in this land of Narnia, there’s fauns, and then Father Christmas shows up. It doesn’t even occur to you that it’s not schematic. I’m interested in embracing the paradox of the worlds that Lewis created, because that’s what’s so compelling about them.”


Near the end of the video (4:00), Gerwig seems to be responding to a question about how she hopes audiences will respond to her Narnia movies:

C.S. Lewis said that the goal of writing fantasy — you know, something from his imagination — he’d say, let’s say you wrote about an enchanted forest. The goal would be that then every time you walk into a forest after you read it, you’d say to yourself, ‘maybe this is an enchanted forest.’ So that’s a tall order, but I guess re-enchantment of the world.”

Here is everything we know about Netflix’s upcoming Narnia adaptations.

17 Responses

  1. Cleander says:

    It does sound like she has a good understanding of Lewis and his work. Quotes like these rekindle the fragile spark of hope deep in my innards…
    And if “bigger and bolder” just means the battles will be epic, then I’m fine with it.

  2. Col Klink says:

    It’s such a nice change of pace that we’re getting interviews where Gerwig talks about her interest in and goals for Narnia, unlike with Matthew Aldrich. (Maybe I shouldn’t phrase it like that. If he were more popular, maybe more people would have interviewed Aldrich and he’d have talked more about whatever he was doing with Narnia. Guess I shouldn’t criticize him for not being popular. 🙂 )

    It’s also refreshing (to me anyway) that she’s OK with Narnia not being “schematic.” It annoys me how some people, like Michael Ward, feel like it needs to be that way to be considered great. I’m up for a more relaxed approach where C. S. Lewis could use Greek/Roman mythology, English folklore, Arthurian archetypes, Father Christmas and other literary traditions in the same series just could because he enjoyed all those things and wanted to use them all in the same series. Gerwig seems like the kind of writer who structures her work intellectually, so you’d actually expect her to have a problem with Narnia’s lack of “schematicalness.” (I don’t remember being worried about her having that problem but maybe I should have worried about it.) That makes it all the more of a pleasant surprise that she’s leaning into it instead.

  3. hiraeth says:

    Love what she says about embracing the paradoxes of Narnia! It seems like she has a good understanding that its’ paradoxes are often what makes it so beautiful 🙂

  4. The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

    It’s exciting to me that Gerwig is reading other works by C. S. Lewis to prepare for her Narnia films! The themes and ideas in The Chronicles of Narnia show up in so many of Lewis’s other works, and reading them really helps you understand and appreciate the series even more deeply. I’d love to know what’s on her reading list right now — based on her quote about the enchanted forest, it sounds like she has been reading Lewis’s essay, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”! 🙂

  5. WhiteStag says:

    To quote the TIME article:
    ‘…while she works on a NEW adaptation of the first book in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series.’ (emphasis added)
    The word ‘new’ here could indicate that a LWW adaptation will come first, seeing as MN has not yet been adapted for screen?

  6. Moonwood the hare says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about seeing yet ANOTHER adaptation of LWW (HHB is my favourite book) even though I’m curious to see what Gerwig is going to do with it. Love the idea of re-enchanting though, I feel like that is what many people are missing in our postmodern culture – kind of the wish of going back to the Romantic Era. I’d love if it had the vibe of George MacDonald’s works, who was a role model of C. S. Lewis. Also regarding the things that are not “schematic”, maybe we can just enjoy them without trying to explain everything – as we have to when reading MacDonald.

    Also, I’m wondering about Sarandros’ “faith comment” – I’m very happy that he’s aware of the fact that C. S. Lewis was a Christian, but I also hope that Narnia is not just a way of catering to conservative Christians who feel underrepresented in the media (yes, I might be one of them, so no affront, please). But I don’t want it to be just for this target group. I have non-Christian friends who love Narnia and never even thought about Christian symbolism, and still, the message speaks to them. And that’s what I would love for Gerwig’s adaption as well, and I’m really curious to see how she’s going to deal with that.

  7. Reepicheep775 says:

    This is all really exciting. I haven’t read the whole article yet, but the highlights are 90% encouraging (the jury’s still out on the ”bigger and bolder” comment).

    Gerwig’s childhood love for Narnia, the fact that she is going above and beyond to study Lewis’s other works to understand the themes of Narnia better, her compliments on Lewis’s ”euphorically dreamlike” writing style (something the Walden films largely failed to capture imo), the positive affirmation of Narnia’s patchwork quality. Wow. Narnia is in good hands, it seems.

    I think I’ve moved from cautiously optimistic to just optimistic. 🙂

  8. Impending Doom says:

    There’s still a long way to go before production but I’ve felt so refreshed by Gerwig’s comments. These sentiments and attitude may have existed with previous adaptations but Gerwig actually has the industry clout to follow-through on her vision.

    But it’s infinitely frustrating that we still don’t know which book she’s directing first!

  9. Moonwood the hare says:

    I agree with @WhiteStag, it seems more likely that they will start with LWW and not with MN for several reasons:
    1. WhiteStag’s argument seems valid to me.
    2. Most people who have only seen the movies will consider LWW the “first” book as well; and it’s quite possible that this also applies to the journalist who wrote the piece.
    3. LWW also is indeed the first book in publication order.
    4. Finally, Gerwig keeps referring to LWW in the interview – although that could also be because it’s the most well known one.

  10. I didn’t know she had written a draft of a script before shooting Barbie. All we knew prior to this was that she had “been talking about it.”

    What a lovely magical mysterious “joyous” written concept from Lewis:
    “…let’s say you wrote about an enchanted forest. The goal would be that then every time you walk into a forest after you read it, you’d say to yourself, ‘maybe this is an enchanted forest.’” Putting magic into our everyday life! And isn’t that what creation is? A miracle that God made beautiful things like flowers and trees and birds and streams?

    It is lovely to have news like this. Again, I am suprised that Gerwig is still planning on making Narnia films after the success of Barbie. She could have done ANYTHING in Hollywood, her project would have been funded, she would have done interviews. But it feels special she is still making Narnia – and talking about it. My reason for this is that the Walden movies were far less popular than those of LOTR and Harry Potter, so it feels like the poor cousin of fantasy movies. And they were a bit cheesy. So I am suprised and a bit weirded out that Netflix’s adaptations are getting so much attention. It’s an exteremely good thing when it comes down to it.

    And it will hopefully solidify their production and release! 🙂

  11. Prince Norin says:

    Every time I read about her work on this project, I get a little more excited. If nothing else, I appreciate the care with which she is approaching the source material and her clear understanding that these stories mean a lot to a lot of people.

  12. Caspiancrown says:

    Glad to here about this. Still don’t think Gerwig is the right choice, but the connection she has to Narnia is drawing me closer and closer to accepting her as the director.

  13. Jonathon says:

    Well, this certainly helps move the needle on my “cautiously optimistic-meter” a bit further to the optimism level. She certainly sounds like she has tremendous respect for Lewis’ writing and beliefs better then an executive on Rings of Power saying they may have to ignore some of Tolkien’s beliefs in order to tell a story that expresses the views of today’s society or the screen writer of A Wrinkle In Time justifying omitting L’Engle’s Christianity by saying “we’ve evolved past the debate between science and religion.”

    If anything it’s closer to what Peter Jackson said back in 2000 while working on LOTR on how it was important to try and adhere to Tolkien’s beliefs and world view, right down to closely reading Lewis’ works in the same way Jackson did. If the end result can be as good as what Jackson gave on the LOTR trilogy, then we may be in for a treat.

  14. Caspiancrown says:

    My mind on this has changed a bit. If Greta Gerwig’s favorite book as a kid was Narnia, let her do Narnia. I think if she holds something like this so close to her heart, she wouldn’t wan’t to ruin it. The only reason the Disney/Walden films didn’t feel exactly like Narnia was because they were trying to be Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Now that the fantasy craze is over, Narnia will have a chance to be it’s own thing, without standing in the shadow of any other highly-successful franchises. If Greta Gerwig truly loves Narnia for what it is, she won’t try to make it something else. The only problem is, Netflix.

    Disney+ has launched it’s Percy Jackson show, and HBO Max has ordered a 7-season TV reboot of Harry Potter. It seems we have entered a new age of fantasy, in TV series. Percy Jackson has already been wildly successful, and Harry Potter no doubt will be. Netflix will probably want to keep up with the trend. Oh, look! We have the rights to a classic fantasy series that is set to be directed by a renowned filmmaker! Lets just make it similar to these franchises! Who cares if millions of fans are devastated?

    Greta Gerwig can be a great director, but only if Netflix lets her.

  15. Peterpensli says:

    There a pattern I noticed where Greta Gerwig as with LB and LW where she had a finish draft for LW while directing LB, if she was signed on for 2 movies possibly draft 1 for Narnia is complete and start a bit of draft 2 before she directed for Barbie and later coming back to it. Watching some of her interviews, I sense she the type where she needs break to refresh herself before coming back to it, if rumor are true regarding her getting an agreement with Netflix around 2018 cause there were rumors at the time. Like she said her comments, she might have been setting the outline while talking with those who will be working with Netflix as well as doing some extra homeworks ( basically studying Lewis’s works) to draw a map of what could be an approach to it. Gerwig, although seems a bit very mysterious in certain ways she does her craft for some people, I feel she a person who love to deep dive and find deeper meaning to craft and art of language and humanity in a universal level with regards to religion. She seems to be the type that would do a lot of research to get a feel of how to set the tone and if she growing up with Narnia and understand a message that universal behind what is actually written makes the references and hints influence her filmography very special. Possibly the movies that could be covered first might introduce the paradox worlds (MN) before introducing LWW. She several times in her interview she has “reoccuring nightmare” so possibly her draft 2 must be something that has complex layers that need redefining to do. Regarding how Netflix would release this movies, my friend was discussing with like why can’t they release them to theater for 45-90 days -ish before releasing on Netflix platform for 2 -3 months before releasing to other streaming platforms to borrow. The movies, I feel should be experience big screen and Netflix wanting to do Big movies but put them to theatrical releases on streaming really hinder the exposure or cultural phenomenon it could be. Gerwig with a theater experiences and interviews referring to how “she would close and hear how everything plays out” to make sense how the tone should be presented would allow a more indepth reflection about Narnia in a universal level. Like Christanity, Greek Myth, Buddhism, and so forth, all these present to past religion reason why people start naming the sun or sky with the respective gods and reasoning and putting meaning to them that might not exist prior build up a sense of aw about the world. When Gerwig refers to “reenchanting the world” is like how presented in Barbie where Barbie for kids in the past was an object of escapism to be anything but when reality hits as adults sometimes dread life, we wish to go back to our childhood represent in Gloria. Gerwig “reenacting Narnia” to a new and old audience try to bring nostalgia of a very childhood “euphoric dreamlike” aspect to it knowing how the world we live so grounded with reality often times create pessimism of the world. Possibly by introducing Narnia in a way where he can go back to our childhood and rekindle the childlike euphoria mention, Gerwig allows us to go back to a time where we be and dream whatever we want to escape to a land we call “Narnia” . Gerwig’s role in creating these movies after talking with those she would be working with to create is introduce the “magic” that the current reality has been lost as science and politics shrivel the once possible hope for a better future. As mention before, Barbie show how she takes something while consider the good and bad of things like humans have both good and bad, yet acknowledge that not everyone is perfect but able to accept that it okay and there always hope. The reason why her movies so far has been success cause she understand the “human conditions” from the up and down to reflect that everything how we live and reflect the world around us. Although I believe she might not see this overview picture that I see, I see that her references to movies are references archetypes of characters that play very important role in creating meaning why they exist like the hero or seductress. Why do I refer to these archetypes of characters in itself a reflection of humanity and relating to the religion comment I made where humans rationalize to put better meaning. Greta Gerwig ability to understand Lewis purpose of presenting each character through small details can provide an indepth connection to the character where we could relate and bring back a sense of joy that was once lost but now found in a sense. Gerwig putting the work and research in to get Narnia right show her dedication to making it right not like some who would b.s. it and be done with it without really getting the purpose of the books’ existence in meaning. Thus, knowing her ability to understand the human conditions from previous films would allow audience to experience Narnia in an emotional level and reflect about life and the world in hopes that it could bring back the hope we have been lacking for so long.

  16. Narnian78 says:

    It is a good thing that Greta enjoyed the Narnia books as a child. It shows that she had more than a casual interest in them. I was somewhat skeptical of her at first because of her direction of the Barbie films, which I thought were probably too commercialized. But when I read that she directed Little Women and received acclaim for it I thought that maybe she would be good for Narnia. It does show that she has some ability in making good adaptations of children’s books. If she films Narnia it may turn out to be a decent movie after all. At least she deserves some respect for trying. 🙂

  17. Bolton says:

    I adore this article, there are so many hopeful quotes here!