Director Andrew Adamson, whose latest Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, releases to theaters next week, fully feels the burden to get it just right.
Why’d you change this? Why did you leave out that? How come you didn’t â€¦
Andrew Adamson has heard all those questions, and then some. When you’re trying to adapt some of the best-loved children’s books of all time into big-screen movies, there will be plenty of naysayers and nitpickers, and Adamson fully expected it.
Already an acclaimed director for the first two Shrek films, Adamson stepped into a whole ‘nother world, literally and figuratively, when he took on the first two Narnia filmsâ€”2005’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and the sequel Prince Caspian, which opens in theaters May 16.
We recently chatted by phone with the 41-year-old director, who was working on final edits and polishing up special effects in a London studio. His wife and daughters (Isabelle, 4½, and Sylvie, 2½) were living with him in Londonâ€”sort of a home between homes for the New Zealand natives. After living in Los Angeles for more than a decade (making the Shrek and then the Narnia movies), Adamson will take a break after this one, moving back to his home country for some R&R and extended time with his family.
And he’ll pass the Narnia torch on to Michael Apted, the veteran British director behind such films as Amazing Grace and James Bond’s The World Is Not Enough. Apted is directing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, slated for a 2010 releaseâ€”and Adamson, who will stay on as a producer, assures fans that the franchise is in good hands.
Douglas Gresham [Lewis’s stepson and a producer/consultant on the films] told us he doesn’t think Caspian is as good a book as Lion/Witch, but you’ve ended up with a better movie. Would you say that’s accurate?
Hard for me to say. Definitely the adaptation was more difficult in Prince Caspian, because the story of Lion/Witch was already very cinematic with sort of a five-act structure. In Prince Caspian a lot of the story is told in retrospect, with Trumpkin telling the kids what happened when they were gone. So I restructured it to make it more linear. It’s a challenge, but sometimes the limitations you face actually create more interesting solutions. And that’s what I think makes this movie feel like a bigger movie, a more complex and interesting movie.
Narnia devotees are going to nitpick your every single decision. Would you say that Doug Gresham is the biggest nitpicker of all?
He is a nitpicker, but it’s very rare that we have bumped heads on anything because we both have the desire to be true to the books. But there were times in the first film we did come to blows (laughing)â€”no, come to conflict, I should sayâ€”with things like Susan [Pevensie, one of the children in the books]. This was where C. S. Lewis had a feeling about women’s role in the world that differed a lot from mineâ€”particularly with Susan getting to use her bow.
Do you tire of all of the nitpicking questions from the diehard fans, including me?
It’s a mixed blessing. You get positive things, and you get the negative too. But it’s inevitable, and you can’t tackle something like this without accepting that it’s going to happenâ€”and you’re not going to make everyone happy. Even if I stayed true to the book word for word, I don’t believe I could make a movie that would make every fan happy. I talked to [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson about this, and asked, “How true did you stay to the books?” And he said, “I’m getting credit for staying true to the books, but I changed a lot.” He said you can change stuff, as long as it’s good.
Christian readers are among the most devoted Narnia fans, and Lewis is revered in evangelical circles. Do you feel any sort of responsibility to the Christian audience?
I feel my responsibility to C. S. Lewis’s fans is just being true to the books, and letting people take from it what they will. What you take from it depends on your belief, and how much interpretation you place upon it. I think by staying true to the book, I’m staying true to what any fan gets from the book.
Read the rest of the interview at: ChristianityToday.com