This week’s mailbag features a topic that is very interesting to me: that of the relationship of J.R.R. Tolkien and his writing to C.S. Lewis and his. Other topics include what Anna Popplewell and William Moseley are up to next, and Andrew Adamson’s past in Papua New Guinea. I’ll see if I have the time to reach back into the mailbag archives after the five letters that I received this week. Be sure to look through the comments from last week’s mailbag for some fascinating follow-up information as well! Let’s get started!
Presenting the newly rejuvenated NarniaFans Mailbag. We’re going to avoid confusion and pick up the numbering where we left off. If you would like to read any of the old mailbags, we’ve got them here. If you’d like to submit a question for next week’s mailbag, use our handy contact form.
Weekly Reader has posted the questions and answers of fan-produced questions for Anna Popplewell, the actress who portrayed Susan Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia films.
1. While filming Prince Caspian, did you have that sense of returning “home” much like your character does in the story?
Anna Popplewell: I think a movie set is a bit too crazy to feel like home. It’s a bit more like a traveling circus! It was lovely, though, to be back with lots of good friends and to see lots of familiar faces. All the good memories of making the first movie sort of carried over into this one when we started shooting.
2. Which movie was more fun to film: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Prince Caspian?
Anna Popplewell: They were very different. I think Caspian was more difficult – I was working adult hours and I had to take some public exams right in the middle of it. There are more action scenes so it was more physically challenging too. I don’t think I enjoyed it less though—it was an incredibly dynamic set to be on. There was always something going on. They were both great, but I liked the new challenges of Caspian.
3. What is your favorite creature in The Chronicles of Narnia?
Anna Popplewell: I used to think boggles were absolutely terrifying and compelling. I’m excited to see Puddleglum the marshwiggle, although he doesn’t feature in Caspian. Centaurs are always good—yeah, I’ll go with centaurs.
Peter Dinklage has steadfastly avoided the sorts of roles that Hollywood tends to offer an adult actor who is 4-foot-5.
Santa’s elves, evil leprechauns, hobbit doubles.
So it is meaningful that he is willingly decked out like a warrior garden gnome in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the second film based on C.S. Lewis’ seven-part book series.
Not even three hours of makeup each morning could discourage Dinklage as he was transformed into Trumpkin, the doubting red dwarf who joins the fight to reclaim Narnia.
“I’m not interested in doing something not fully fleshed out,” he says of his previous avoidance of such make-believe adventures. “Often, you get the hero and the villain and not much in between. Trumpkin is in between. He is not a lovable Snow White dwarf. Audiences appreciate these cynical characters. It helps parents and adults to go along with the journey.”
As director Andrew Adamson says, “Trumpkin is a great acerbic, curmudgeonly character.” After Disney production chief Oren Aviv looked at dailies last week, “He felt Peter was the heart and soul of the film.”
You can read the rest of the article at USA Today.
Further down the article, Anna Popplewell speaks a bit, about her role in the film as well:
As a father of two daughters ages 4½ and 2, Adamson made sure that the girls weren’t off to the side during the fighting but directly involved. “Susan really kicks (butt) in this film, and Lucy gets to use her dagger,” he says. “Georgie would have complained loudly if she hadn’t.”
Popplewell proudly notes, “I shoot lots of people with my arrows. We kept a sort of death count, and I reached 14 halfway through shooting.”
Not to worry. The film is still a family-safe PG.
Anyone who has read Caspian knows SPOILERS!that Susan and Peter are told by Aslan the lion that they are too old to visit Narnia again. The Dawn Treader, due in 2010, will set sail without them.END SPOILERS!
“We shot the scene near the end of filming, and it had a ring of truth to it,” Popplewell says. “It’s bittersweet. Yet, in some ways, it feels perfect.”
William Moseley and Anna Popplewell play the oldest of those four children – Peter and Susan. They get drawn into the world of Narnia by their sister Lucy, and further enmeshed in the bad situation there by their brother Edmund. Moseley and Popplewell have been immersed in Narnia now for a couple of years, and they seem no worse the wear for it. They were bright and charming teenagers, happy to field even the lamest questions the journalists at my roundtable could come up with.
Q: Did you grow up with these books?
Popplewell: Yeah. I read the books when I was about 7, and reread them when I was 14, during the casting process.
Moseley: I used to listen to the stories when I was about 7 years old. I always loved them. I used to listen to the story tape. Then when I was 15 I was auditioning for the part and I wasn’t sure if the stories would still relate to me in some ways, because I was a little bit cool. I’m a teenager! Then I read the stories and I still loved them. The issues still relate to the me, if not even moreso. I loved them and they confirmed my thoughts of being in the film.
Q: What was the audition process like for you?
Moseley: It was very, very long. It was 18 months long. Actually Anna and I met each other at one of the first auditions. Then we went through and met Georgie [Henley, playing Lucy] and Skandar [Keynes, playing Edmund]. It was a lot of hard work. They auditioned something like 2500 kids.
Popplewell: When you go in for an audition you put yourself up for rejection. You accept that you might be too tall, too short, not good enough. I think at first you try to not too emotionally involved, but when you get to the end of an 18 month process it’s very nerve-wracking.
Like most professional actresses, Anna Popplewell insisted on the use of a body double for certain film scenes. Unlike most actresses, it wasn’t because of insecurities about her appearance. The truth was far more prosaic: she’s scared of mice.
“I’m absolutely terrified of rodents,” she says. “I thought the director was winding me up. I don’t think he understood just how much of a phobia it was. He called me over one day and had a mouse in his hand and I just burst into tears.”
She can be forgiven her timidity – Anna is, after all, only 16. But despite her young age, she stars in a film tipped to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year: the £110 million film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, released on December 9.
The film, directed by Andrew Adamson, has taken four years to make and features a host of British acting talent, including Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson and Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, who has cast a spell over Narnia condemning it to eternal winter.
Anna plays Susan Pevensie, the second-eldest of four siblings sent away from home during the Second World War who stumble upon a wardrobe that gives them access to the magical world of Narnia.
Why Susan Can’t Come Home
By Lia Harrison
**Spoilers – LWW and The Last Battle**
Those who have read all of the Chronicles, particularly The Last Battle, know that Narnia as we know it comes to an end and that all of the heroes and heroines from all of the stories unite in the “real Narnia,” which compares to the Narnia of the tales in the way that the real world compares to Aristotle’s cave, with one notable exception. When meeting the children from the other world, Tirian brings Susan’s absence to the high king’s attention. Peter replies simply that “Susan is no longer a friend to Narnia.”
This, obviously, is the reason that Susan is not there. Taking this statement out of context, we wonder what it means. After all, Susan fought in the battle that led to the defeat of the White Witch, the embodiment of evil and Narnia’s greatest foe, and was for a time and thus forever Queen of Narnia (“Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.”). If that’s not enough, what is required to be a friend to Narnia?
We find, though, with some elaboration from Eustace, Jill, and Polly that Susan has changed. Even after they went back to England, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy still remembered as they grew older, as did Eustace and Jill. Even Digory and Polly who were given more time to forget than all of them remembered and waited for the time when they could return to Narnia. Susan, however, overpowered by the world of the “Shadow-Lands” around her, stopped believing. Polly said of this, “She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.” Lewis is commenting on the tendency of people to fix upon the world around us and our time on Earth instead of concentrating on our eternal souls and our time after this life. Susan has become so deeply immersed in her world of “nylons and lipstick and invitations” that she ceases to believe that Narnia and Aslan even exist, just as many people don’t believe that Heaven and Jesus–as he is to the Christian religions–do not exist. Eustace recalls her saying at the mention of Narnia, “What wonderful memories you all have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”
Then we wonder how a queen of Narnia could stop believing. If we pay close attention when we read, we find that Susan’s faith is not as strong as that of her siblings nor is her willpower. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she seeks a course of action from the others. When talking with the professor about Lucy’s presumed lies or possible madness and upon first entering Narnia, her question is, “What do we do?” When she does have an opinion, it leans toward caution and safety. She advises against continuing into Narnia when they find the news of Mr. Tumnus’ arrest, and she advises against continuing the hunt of the White Stag–the success of which being rewards limited only by the borders of the imagination–upon encountering the lamp-post and the strange feeling of what lies beyond it. In Prince Caspian, she advises against the exploration of the unfamiliar land and against clearing out and exploring the building they find even in the face of the realization that it is the ruins of their own Cair Paravel. She tends to follow the others because her preference for the safety of numbers overrides her preference for the safety of the known. In The Horse and His Boy, she does not even go to fight the invading Calormenes. By this time, she is “not like Lucy, you know, who’s as good as a man, or at any rate as good as a boy. Queen Susan is more like any ordinary grown-up lady. She doesn’t ride to the wars, though she is an excellent archer.” Not only does this preface what we learn later about Susan concerning herself more with clothes and boys than Narnia, but it calls into question the depth of her devotion for Narnia. We know that it’s possible for all of the kings and queens to leave the castle at one time because they all go to hunt the White Stag at the end of LWW, but Susan will not even go to defend a country against a warring party that is advancing toward her own Narnia. Even her gift from Father Christmas in LWW is a distance weapon. Both Peter and Edmund wield swords, requiring them to be in the midst of any battle. Lucy carries her vial of healing potion that requires her to tend the victims. Susan, however, receives a horn and a bow and arrows. Both allow her quite a bit of distance from the events that affect the future of a country she is to rule. Therefore, it’s not terribly surprising that, of the four, she is the one who stops believing.
Still, though, she had done much for Narnia. This then begs the question, what makes this crime so awful that she cannot join the others in their final and greatest adventure? It’s considerably more passive than Eustace’s selfish and dishonest behavior upon his arrival in this world in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and, as a crime against Narnia, is not even in the same league as Edmund’s outright betrayal in LWW or Emeth the Calormene fighting against Narnia in the name of Tash (the antichrist) in LB. The difference is that each of these characters realizes the error of his ways and allows Aslan to fix them. After trying unsuccessfully to do it himself, Eustace allows Aslan to peel off his dragon skin. When Edmund joins his siblings on Aslan’s side, Aslan dies for Edmund’s sins. When the Calormene soldier recognizes the dishonesty that goes with serving Tash and the goodness that goes with serving Aslan, Aslan counts all the good deeds he’d done in the name of Tash as good deeds done in the name of Aslan. They realize the error of their ways, but Susan persists in her belief that Narnia is just make-believe. How can Aslan fix that?
Aslan shows us the answer to this question with the dwarfs in LB, who fight against everyone because they cannot see what is right in front of them. As a demonstration of what he can and cannot do, Aslan presents them with a “glorious feast” and “goblets of good wine,” and they only taste rotten vegetables and dirty water. He cannot fight free will, and the dwarfs, as well as Susan, have made their choice.
The Bible states in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” All that is required to be a “friend to Narnia” is belief, and, though she never opposes Aslan, Susan denies him, commiting the same betrayal Judas did.
Like the second coming of Jesus, Aslan comes to the “Shadow-lands” one final time to take the true believers to live happily in the “real Narnia” for eternity. Lewis is pointing out the falsehood in the commonly held belief that God is all-forgiving or that all sins are automatically forgiven because Jesus died. Realization of the wrong done and repentance for it are required before forgiveness can be given. No matter what kind and good things Susan has done or how good a person she may have been, she is left behind to face judgment because does not believe.
At this point, Susan cannot be redeemed. The way to the “real Narnia” is through the Narnia that we know of through the stories, and that Narnia is ended. If there were another way, Lewis would have mentioned it as he mentioned that the end of LWW was the end of the wardrobe but the beginning of Narnia. It could be said that Susan’s siblings along with Eustace, Jill, Digory, and Polly had to go to fight that last battle of Narnia, but why the Pevensie parents, as well? They all had to go because it was their last chance. Aslan gave Peter the order to shut the Door. Then Peter “took out a golden key and locked it.”
Jenny Halper of Cinema Confidential interviews Anna Popplewell. Again we’ve selected a few questions, and for the rest, you’ll have to visit our source link.
If sixteen-year-old actress Anna Popplewell could have one superhero power, she would want to fly. “That,” she says, “Or super-speedy archery.”
CINEMA CONFIDENTIAL: When I was on the set last fall, Andrew (Adamson) told us you and Georgie were the first to see the model Aslan. What was that like?
Anna Popplewell: It was really amazing, the first time we saw the model Aslan- most of Aslan is CGI- but on the set table they built an Aslan, which is really amazing, it looks like a real lion, and certainly it will onscreen. It was really helpful to see because it was built to scale and looked so real and was so impressive.
CINEMA CONFIDENTIAL: Were there any scenes you particularly loved shooting?
Anna Popplewell: One of my favorite scenes is when we get to the beaver’s dam, which is one of the very few scenes where we had to laugh. There was a lot of running away and a lot of being scared; a lot of highly emotional scenes, so that was one of the few scenes where Andrew had to try and make us laugh. That was fun.
Probably the most difficult scene was the death one, but it was also really rewarding when we got that.
CINEMA CONFIDENTIAL: And the battle scene?
Anna Popplewell: It was crazy. (Laughs). It was really fun. It was different, because we’d spent four months in studio so being on location was new and it brought lots of challenges. The weather was difficult, we had to get the right light, and for William Moseley, who plays Peter) who did a lot of work in that scene, it was exhausting having to wait for the right weather and that sort of thing. But it was really fun to be outside, and it was really fun to shoot on such a large scale, the scenery’s amazing.
CINEMA CONFIDENTIAL: I saw some pictures of Tilda Swinton as Jadis the White Witch, and she looked terrifying!
Anna Popplewell: Tilda’s amazing. She’s very, very warm as a person so it’s amazing to see her being transformed into someone so cold. I think I only have one scene with her, when she comes to Aslan’s camp. But on set when we were doing the shots she scared me. I was really scared of her. (Laughs). But as a person she’s really nice and it was really wonderful to work with her.
ComingSoon.net got a chance to talk exclusively to Anna Popplewell about playing Susan in the highly-anticipated film. We’ve selected only a few questions to show you here. The full interview is available at the source link.
CS!: Can you tell us about yourself?
Anna Popplewell: I lived in London with my family. I go to an all-girl school there. I got into The Lion and the Witch after a long casting process. It was like 18 months, 2 years. I originally went to meetings just to set up any auditions and then kept going back and back and back until I was screen tested. And that was that.
CS!: How did the acting go? What did you most enjoy about the process?
Anna Popplewell: The most enjoyable thing about the process of being on that set was the number of really wonderful people. We were so lucky we had such a great crew and great cast and a really nice set of people from the top right down. We were really lucky. It was a really nice set to be on. A great atmosphere. And really good fun. That was one of the best things about the experience – meeting all those people.
CS!: On set there were lots of people in lots of costumes. Monsters and centaurs and minotaurs and all kinds.
Anna Popplewell: There were. There are all sorts of things. It was great. We had the most bizarre lunch tent. You’d be sitting down having lunch with ogres and centaurs and goblins and everything. It was great – it was a very cool tent.
CS!: All of the monsters, all of the creatures around – but, no Aslan on the set.
Anna Popplewell: We had a model Aslan for one scene. For the stone table we had a model Aslan for that. An animatronics one. Which was pretty amazing. And the rest was CGI.
CS!: How did you do the CGI stuff? Was it hard?
Anna Popplewell: It’s slightly bizarre acting to nothing. We tried lots of different ways. We had people reading in with eye lines. We had ping pong balls on sticks. And fluorescent markers and all sorts of thing. And it got easier. It was a new experience.
CS!: Do you have any stories about your favorite time on the set?
Anna Popplewell: We had lots. One of the fun days that we had soon after we arrived was little Georgie’s birthday when she turned nine. And she was away from home. It was soon after the start of the shoot – about the fifth of July. And it was just so fun watching her have so much attention. I’ve never seen a nine-year-old have a birthday like that. It was just huge, huge. If you can imagine 400 people on set, everyone sang happy birthday. And then we changed because we had shootings while we were on set. And we changed our cast room into a party room and spent the day in between shots making cake and biscuits and threw this huge surprise party in there and it was just really cool to see her face – we all got along really well. Even being different ages, it was like a mini family. It was great.
CS!: Are you missing them yet?
Anna Popplewell: I still see them and speak to them. We keep in touch which is really nice.
For the rest, visit ComingSoon.net