Narnia-regissören svarar läsarna

Här är svaren på läsarfrågorna till Andrew Adamson

Foto: Buena Vista
Lejonet Aslan (vars röst görs av Liam Neeson) och Edmund (Skandar Keynes) i ”Narnia: Häxan och Lejonet”.
FILM

Till jul kommer filmatiseringen av C.S. Lewis klassiska barnböcker om landet Narnia till Sverige.

Filmens regissör Andrew Adamson har svarat på frågor från läsare av några webbsidor, däribland aftonbladet.se.

Här kan du läsa frågorna och svaren på engelska.

Foto: Buena Vista
Regissören Andrew Adamson under inspelningen av filmen. Adamson har tidigare regisserat de datoranimerade filmerna om träskmonstret ”Shrek”.

The Children

Can you describe what it is like to work with four children as your main-cast members?

I was initially a little intimidated at the idea of working with kids, largely because I just hadn’t spent that much time around teenagers lately. In fact I found it better than I could have imagined. Children are just so open to their imaginations and that makes them such wonderful actors, they’re willing to go where you want the story to take them.

What is your favourite story from working with the child actors?

There are so many favourite moments it’s impossible to pick any one.

What is the first question you asked in casting the actors for the four leading roles?

I was largely looking for children that were ‘like’ the characters rather than just actors who would play them. I generally would just spend time with the kids and get to know them a little to see if they were like the characters I imagined.

What qualities were you looking for?

Honestly, I was looking for kids who basically were those characters so they wouldn’t have to worry about acting, they could just be themselves. In Lucy, we found an adorable child who was empathetic and imaginative. In Edmund, we found a boy whose natural curiosity and tendency toward mischief, was a big part of his personality (Skandar would agree), in Susan we found a beautiful girl who is very smart and together, in Peter we found a boy on the midst of becoming a man, who was also good at being a caring and nurturing older brother, which William is.

Even for adults, certain scenes in the book are pretty dark. How did you tackle those for/with the children?

C.S. Lewis could write something like “I can’t tell you how bad it was or your parents wouldn’t let you read this part” In the movie we had to deal with visualizing those moments. There are dark moments, there are scary moments, emotional moments, tragic moments. I wanted to bring these to life in a way that dealt with the reality of life and death situations but in a way that wouldn’t prohibit younger children from enjoying the film. Kids like being scared as long as there is relief at some point, there is no need to be traumatizing or graphic to get the emotional effect that the book reached for.

If you could be one of the Pevensie children, which would you choose?

That’s pretty easy, Peter gets the cool sword from Father Christmas. Of course I would probably much more likely be Edmund!

Personal Anecdotes

What had the strongest impact on you while shooting the movie or during post production?

I think the greatest impact on me was my relationship with the children. I really grew to feel about them as I did my own family. It’s such an intensive journey that we’ve all been on together and we will always share that. I hope to still be in contact with all of them as they grow to achieve all the wonderful things that I think they’re each capable of.

Which was your favourite scene to shoot?

Different scenes for different reasons. I actually loved the difficulty of the battle because it was also outdoors and physically challenging. I loved scenes with Lucy and Tumnus, because Georgie and James were such fun together. There were many moments when I knew that we were making something special: Susan and Lucy crying over Aslan’s body – was sadly beautiful; The White Witch turning on Edmund is a wonderful scene between Tilda, Skandar and Kiran; Seeing William ride into battle in Peter’s armour. They are too many to mention.

Did you experience any truly funny incidents during filming?

Many of these fall into the “you had to be there” category: Tilda leading a bunch of Minotaurs in a song - using her wand as a microphone - while we circled them in a helicopter waiting for the sun to come out; Setting Skandar up to believe that he had to take part in a dance and had him rehearsing some invented (and rather embarrassing) moves; The four kids ridiculing me for my attempts to play the off screen Mrs. Beaver; All the kids breaking in song in the middle of a take to embarrass one of camera operators. I don’t know if these are ‘truly funny’ to anyone who wasn’t there – but we did get to laugh a lot throughout the shoot.

If you had a wardrobe like the one in the movie, where would you like to go to through it?

Narnia of course – but just about anywhere. I love the idea of going anywhere new. There are so few ‘undiscovered’ places in our world that I like the idea of discovering new ones. I think this is one of the joys of movie making, being able to visit imagined worlds.

Animation vs. Live Action and CGI

What is the biggest difference for you between directing an animation movie and live-action movie?

It’s story telling. In some ways it’s very similar. You figure out the best way to tell the story and then you work to get the performances. The whole time you are working to create the visual world for them to exist in. I found a lot of similarities, in different environments. The biggest difference is that in live action, you don’t have to tell your characters when to blink, and in CG animation you don’t have to worry about the weather, extend that metaphor out and it pretty much covers everything!

In which way was the experience of making "Shrek" helpful for creating a fantastical world like "Narnia" and working with an enormous amount of complex special effects?

We story boarded and did a lot of pre-visualization of the movie before we ever shot footage. That is something I learned from the way animated movies are made. I consider this more of a writing tool than a production tool because you get a chance to watch the movie before you make it, but it also helps with the complex effects.

Obviously the other similarity was the CG characters. Narnia is populated with mythological creatures and talking animals. Although I wanted them to be photo-real in this film we employed a lot of similar animation techniques.

Are there any CGI pioneers who've influenced your work, do you exchange know-how with any of them or does everyone in this field more or less work on his/her own?

Every CGI intensive film stands on the shoulders of the work that’s been done before, it’s a rapidly evolving field. When you work with many CGI houses there has to be a constant exchange of know-how, sometimes we would have three different companies working on one shot. Aslan from Rhythm &Hues, Mr. Beaver from Sony and some other creatures from ILM.

I have been very lucky to work with many VFX pioneers, I consider my close working with John Dykstra in particular to have been a huge privilege.

Fantasy/Magic

In recent years, we've seen films like Shrek, Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings make a big impact at the box office. Why do you think that the fantasy genre has become so popular?

I think fantasy has always been an important part of our story telling, in every culture and every generation. There has been a resurgence recently and I think it’s largely a reaction to the amount of reality programming. In the 80’s there were a lot of ‘natural disaster’ films, now we have things like ‘Survivor’ – for me it’s a welcome relief to step into a theatre and be transported into a world that exists only in our imaginations. Worlds that we wish we could visit.

How did the new vogue for fantasy filmmaking - especially in the wake of films like Lord Of The Rings - influence your approach to the film?

They didn’t really, though they did help make it possible. I think that the success of films like those have shown the studios that a wide audience is ready for faithful adaptations of classic literature.

Direction

Were you intimidated by the fact that your first live action movie was to be such a gigantic project?

Sure. I thought my first live action would be a simple character piece, maybe a nice little independent film? not so. But when this opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve just loved the books for too long. Once you get started you kind of just deal with the problems that are immediately in front of you, so you break the large tasks up into bite sized tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

Will the creatures be pure CGI like Star Wars or performance-capture like Gollum? How did you cast their voices?

We’ve actually used just about every technique available. In some cases the characters were onset motion capture, in others key frame animation and sometimes both. We have characters that are full CGI and some that are a mix of human and CGI. For centaurs we sometimes have a horse body with a CGI human upper body, other times visa-versa and sometimes fully CGI. It really had to be decided on a shot by shot basis.

As far as casting: It’s pretty similar to casting any character. It’s combination of who they are, they’re acting style etc. In this case of course the voice is critical because all the animation stems from that.

Why did you choose to go for relatively unknown actors and actresses rather than at least a few big names?

I really just cast actors that I thought were right for the roles, regardless of the ‘size’ of their names. The star of this movie is the story and that is what people will take away from it. That being said all the actors gave such wonderful performances that I’m sure they will soon be much more known!

How do you plan to address the inevitable comparisons between your film version of LW&W and the recent "Lord of the Rings" films? What is unique to this production?

You’re right that they’re inevitable, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were contemporaries and friends who wrote in the same genre. I think, however, that the stories are completely different. This story takes children from our world into a magical alternative world. Narnia is a new world to Middle Earth’s ancient world?I could go on and on with the differences that I see. Ultimately the film will speak for itself, it’s such a different look, tone and story.

The wonder and the colourful world in ‘Narnia’ couldn’t better be brought to life without the collaboration of a D.P. as talented as Donald McAlpine. Was your choice based on his previous ‘fantasy’ works (i.e. Peter Pan, Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet)?

I agree of course! It was based on his diversity, talent, skill and extraordinary vision. I’ve loved his photography in so many films including those mentioned above. We were lucky to have him and many other talented collaborators. (I wonder did Don ask that question??)

Narnia is a whole world. What part was the hardest to visualise?

The winter landscapes were challenging because we had to visualise them on set and on location. Because of the seasons we needed to shoot the set work before the locations, which meant we were taking a huge gamble that the snow would match when we went back to Central Europe. It is a tribute to Don McAlpine and Roger Ford that we were able to create such a contiguous world with these kind of seasonal challenges.

What was your biggest challenge in this movie?

Probably the scope of it. It starts as such a small family drama in WWII London and ends up being an epic journey and battle. The range of locations, characters and season made it technically very challenging and physically arduous for the whole crew.

Which scene from the book was the most difficult to bring to screen?

The battle was the most technically challenging. There were many elements, CG creatures, prosthetic creatures, animals etc and we were shooting at a distant location where we had to ferry everyone up and down mountains in helicopters! And then it snowed!

Adaptation

What was the most important thing you wanted to bring from the books to the screen?

It was important to me to stay true to the story and to create a believable world. Both in London before they enter Narnia, and in Narnia itself. I really wanted to bring the world of Narnia to life how I imagined it as a child. I found it interesting though, that when I went back and re-read the books as an adult they were actually a lot simpler than I imagined. I realized that to me, as a child, Narnia was an absolutely believable world. I really saw it as a place where all of these creatures existed.

Do you think that, for the cinematic adaptation of fantasy novels as well known as the Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, the director has to be a fan of the books to make a faithful translation to film?

Ultimately I don’t know that they have to be long-time fans, but obviously a director has to love any material that he works with if he’s going to be true to it. In my case this was never a question because I had been a fan of the books since childhood. I think that it definitely helped to have that childhood love of the stories to draw on.

Has adapting the Chronicles of Narnia always been a dream of yours or is it just a project like any other?

I never really dared to dream that I would one day adapt any of these stories, so no it is not ‘just another project like any other”. Then again, I hope that I never feel that about any project I work on. I think you have to love what you’re doing and make a movie that is first and foremost for yourself. I certainly wouldn’t have engaged in this mammoth task if I didn’t feel that it was something that I loved.

What is the main target group for this movie? How does the picture reward adult movie goers?

The main target is me! I don’t mean that in any way other than that you can only make a movie that appeals to your own sensibilities. When you start to try and second guessing what an audience wants then you stop being truthful. That being said I think it’s a universal story that can translate to both kids and adults, boys and girls. It is a story that takes sibling rivalry and disagreements to epic levels of betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness and does so with great heart, scope and visual spectacle.

I’ve been very lucky so far that my films have appealed to a wide audience and I think this one will too.

How hard was it to turn the world of Narnia into a motion picture and what kind of compromises did you have to make as far as the story is concerned?

It was hard! I have been lucky to be surrounded by a great team and a studio that believed in the material and in that team. I don’t feel that we’ve had to make any significant compromises in making this film. I think it ultimately lives up to what people imagine Narnia to be.

Do you fear Narnia fans’ reactions to your interpretation of the book?

It’s very intimidating to take on the making of a book into a movie when you know how many people love the property. Because you’re not just making the books, you’re also making their memory of the books. My goal was always to stay truthful to the world C.S. Lewis created. Having nearly finished the three year journey of making this film I no longer fear the fans’ reactions, I think we’ve made a film that will leave them more than satisfied.

Would you have liked to meet CS Lewis in person? What would you have told him put him at ease before the filming?

I would love to have met C.S. Lewis in person, particularly as a child. I’ve read many of his letters to children about the Narnia books and would have relished the opportunity to ask him questions of my own. I think to put him at ease I would have shown him my love of his books in the same way I did Doug Gresham, his stepson.

What does the world of Narnia mean to you?

I’m not sure how to answer that question?? When I read the stories as a child I always believed Narnia was a real place, not an imaginary place as for instance “Oz’ is to Dorothy. To me it represents the possibility of places that exist beyond the known. I want places like Narnia to exist.

How do you feel that the message of the Narnia story still has relevance in today’s world?

To me the main messages are that of family, sacrifice and forgiveness. I can’t think of more relevant messages for today. Particularly that of forgiveness. The world would be a much better place if we could let go of grudges and forgive.

What does the character of Aslan the lion represent for you?

I’ve always loved big cats because of Aslan. I like the fear and awe that they inspire, the way you are drawn to them and yet afraid of them. I think this is why C.S. Lewis chose a lion to be this powerful omnipotent character.

What was your approach to dealing with the Narnia-books' much-discussed Christian subtext?

My approach was to make a movie that was faithful to C.S. Lewis’ book. This is a book that has been read for generations and interpreted differently by many people throughout the years. Basically I think the movie is true to the book in the same way: If you found spiritual meaning in the book, you will find it in the movie. If you enjoyed the book as an adventure so you will the movie.

”Narnia: Häxan och Lejonet” har svensk biopremiär den 21 december.

ARTIKELN HANDLAR OM