Thursday, September 02, 2004


The folks at Disney are probably almost ready to assume psotures of prayer that the upcoming Narnia films will put the Mousehouse back on the map as THE top source of family entertainment. Cut out of the ultra successful Harry Potter and LOTR franchises, and having blown its relationship to the amazing Pixar studios, Disney really really really understands what it means to be the studio where "it is always winter but never Christmas."

The trades just released the complete cast and crew listing for the project. There have been four writers on the project which is generally not a great sign. (Don't know if it's true or Hollywood Christian legend, but I heard that the original writer was so disconnected from the Christian themes in the work, that she left out the whole stone table sequence as not essential. I had interviewed this writer several years ago about another project and couldn't quite get her to acknowledge that she was a Christian. This is problematic because, Narnia, unlike Tolkien's Fellowship is absolutely allegorical. You can't just ignore the meanings behind the story and mess with them, or the whole thing will be rendered absurd. It would be an incredible act of faith to expect someone with no religious faith to be able to do this adaptation.)

Anyway, here is the report from Specter about the cast and crew for the film.

The film marks the first live-action directorial effort for New Zealander
Andrew Adamson (the Oscar(r)-winning "Shrek," "Shrek 2"), who also co-wrote
the screenplay adaptation with Emmy Award-winner Anne Peacock (HBO's "A
Lesson Before Dying") and scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
(HBO's "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers"). The film is produced by
Academy Award(r)-winning filmmaker Mark Johnson ("Rain Man," "Bugsy," "A
Little Princess," "The Notebook") and is slated for a global release in
December, 2005, through the Walt Disney Studios distribution division of
Buena Vista Releasing.

Already in the planning and preproduction stages for two years, the
project's towering production schedule of eighteen months encompasses a
six-month live-action shoot followed by a yearlong post-production schedule
leading to its December, 2005, worldwide release. To bring his dazzling
vision to the screen, Adamson has secured the talents of Oscar-nominated
cinematographer Donald McAlpine, A.S.C., A.C.S ("Moulin Rouge," "Peter
Pan"), Oscar(r)-nominated production designer Roger Ford ("Babe," "Peter
Pan"), seasoned costume designer Isis Mussenden ("Shrek," "Shrek 2," "Dirty
Dancing: Havana Nights"), film editors Sim Evan-Jones ("Shrek") and Jim May
("Van Helsing") and composer Harry Gregson-Williams ("Shrek," "Shrek 2,"
"Antz"). Industry veteran Philip Steuer ("The Alamo," "The Rookie") joins
director Adamson as the film's executive producer.

Inspired by Lewis' imaginative creations, the story's human cast will be
complemented by a gallery of original and wondrous characters and creatures
portrayed onscreen in the combined efforts of live-action and CGI animation
under the supervision of visual effects supervisor Dean Wright ("The Lord
of the Rings: The Return of the King") and VFX producer Randy Starr. They
will collaborate with the movie magicians at two of Hollywood's VFX giants:
Sony Imageworks ("Spider-Man 2") and Rhythm & Hues (the Academy
Award(r)-winning "Babe"), whose dazzling array of computer-generated
effects will breed such creatures as the mighty lion king, Aslan; Mr. and
Mrs. Beaver, the kindly mammals who accompany the children on their
journey; Maugrim, the savage gray wolf who serves as the White Witch's
henchman; and a host of other beasts including minotaurs, centaurs,
cyclops, and broods of others not before seen on the motion picture screen.

The film's creative team also includes four-time Academy Award(r)-winning
visualist Richard Taylor ("Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Heavenly
Creatures") and the wizards from his Weta Workshop, a collective group of
artists based in New Zealand who designed and created the visual and makeup
effects for all three chapters of Jackson's landmark movie trilogy.
Taylor's team (who designed the film's armour and weaponry, with early
creature concepts) will team up with veteran movie makeup magicians Howard
Berger and Greg Nicotero, partners in the award-winning company of KNB EFX
Group, who will manufacture and apply hundreds of special makeup
prosthetics for all of the unique and unusual characters in the story.

Acclaimed cast drawn from both international and local New Zealand talent

Starring in the film is acclaimed, award-winning actress Tilda Swinton
("The Deep End," "Orlando," "Constantine") as Jadis, the powerful, evil
White Witch. Joining Swinton as the Pevensie children are screen newcomer
Georgie Henley as Lucy, the youngest of the quartet and the first to enter
the portal to the magical land of Narnia; Skandar Keynes as Edmund, the
younger boy who follows Lucy into Narnia, only to fall under the bewitching
spell of the White Witch; seasoned British actress Anna Popplewell ("The
Girl with A Pearl Earring," "Mansfield Park") as Susan, the cautious and
practical older sister skeptical about entering the kingdom of Narnia; and,
in his motion picture debut, William Moseley ("Goodbye, Mr. Chips") as
Peter, the eldest of the siblings whom the others look to for leadership
during their adventurous journey.

Co-starring in the film are Scottish actor James McAvoy (HBO's "Band of
Brothers," "Wimbledon") as Mr. Tumnus, the kindhearted faun (half-man,
half-goat) who risks his own fate to ensure Lucy's safety in Narnia;
diminutive British talent Kiran Shah ("Lord of the Rings," "Raiders of the
Lost Ark") who portrays Ginarrbrik, the White Witch's dwarfish sleigh
driver; Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Jim Broadbent ("Iris," "Moulin
Rouge!," "Gangs of New York," "Topsy-Turvy"), who appears as Prof. Kirke,
whose lavish country home houses the magical wardrobe; and veteran Scottish
performer James Cosmo ("Troy," "Braveheart") as Father Christmas.

Adamson has also cast several Kiwi performers to portray a variety of human
and Narnian creatures in the film, including Judy McIntosh ("Arriving
Tuesday," Ngati") as the matriarch of the Pevensie family; Elizabeth
Hawthorne ("The Frighteners," "The Tommyknockers") as Mrs. MacReady, the
caretaker of the mansion; Patrick Kake ("Hercules: The Legendary Journeys")
as Oreius, Aslan's head Centaur; and Shane Rangi ("Lord of the Rings") as
Gen. Otman, the fierce Minotaur and leader of the White Witch's army.

To bring the story's magically computer-animated creations to life, Adamson
has cast a host of acclaimed performers to lend their vocal talents to the
film, including Ray Winstone ("Sexy Beast," "King Arthur") as Mr. Beaver;
Rupert Everett ("The Madness of King George," "My Best Friend's Wedding,"
"Shrek 2") as The Fox, another ally of the children; and veteran British
comedienne Dawn French ("The Adventures of Pinocchio," "Harry Potter and
the Prisoner of Azkaban," BBC's "The Vicar of Dibley") as Mrs. Beaver.
Additional casting announcements are forthcoming, including that of Aslan
the Lion.

I am pretty amazed at the absence of real big stars. There isn't one A-list here, which could also be an indictment of the script. Great scripts tend to attract big stars.

I'm trying to be hopeful about the project, but I think we could all send a few prayers its way.


elizabeth said...

I guess it depends on your view of baptism.

A ceremony, trial, or experience by which one is initiated, purified, or given a name.
A commitment to the body of Christ.

The hobbits in the safety of the shire were excited about the adventure, and they were sure they'd succeed with the help of Gandalf. Then they hit the mines of Moria, which was one of the most difficult obstacles of the whole journey. But it was right up front. They realized as they made their way to Lothlorien what this commitment to destroying the ring was going to mean. They had almost lost their lives and they did lose their guide and friend, Gandalf. Now, as they stand before Galadriel, she offers them the chance to return home without any consequences (except the eventual defeat of MiddleEarth to evil, and destruction of the Shire). But she promises nobody will judge them for their fear. It's a private moment between each individual and Galadrial. But Frodo and Sam recommit themselves to the mission now knowing what they face.

This is the same as a Christian (albeit more protestant) baptism. But I do think it's a daily recommitment. Nobody understands the struggles Christians face until they've committed themselves to Christ. And then we undergo a recommitment that means more that we now know what we'll suffer.
It's a total baptism scene.

Anonymous said...

Four different writers could mean that the first was so far off the mark that emergency measures were necessary. Remember how the BBC, through a special dispensation of divine providence, jettisoned John Mortimer's script for the mini-series of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, and basically just used the novel itself as the script.


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