RT Interview: Anna Popplewell on a Different Side to Narnia in Prince Caspian

Susan Pevensie sits down with RT to talk about how the once magical land is changing.

by | June 25, 2008 | Comments

Anna Popplewell

This is your second time in Narnia, are you more used to the scale of it all now?

Anna Popplewell: I suppose I should be used to it by now, but the scale has upped itself pretty-much proportionately. It’s still a huge deal. Filming it was kind-of a bigger deal as well because the story means that there are more cast and more main characters, which meant more of everything. Even the armies we had, having another fantasy race of people in the Telmarines, meant that we had hundreds and hundreds of extras playing soldiers on set. That meant bigger cameras and bigger departments and it just meant that everything was upped in terms of the scale. I was thinking, “Right, we’ve done a huge movie, and this’ll be huge again,” but it was actually humungous!

Do you feel the pressure of the success of the first?

AP: Well I’m not a producer, so I don’t have to worry about the box-office takings, but obviously we want people to like it and we want to make a good movie and we were all very happy and proud of the first film. There’s no point in making it unless you’re going to make it better and bigger and more. It does set a big challenge.

How does Susan develop into this film?

AP: In the first movie, Susan took on a very motherly role because the children had been evacuated – she feels very responsible for her siblings. In this film, as before, Peter takes charge quite a lot and I think although Susan, being quite a bossy person, would love to take charge if she had the opportunity, she has to put up with some of Peter’s not-so-wise decisions. That’s quite frustrating for her. In the first film, where it was more a journey into Narnia and accepting that it existed, this time she knows it exists but it’s more about the fact that she’s already been ripped out of it once and there’s an underlying fear of, “I’m back, but I’d better not be too happy because someone might take it away again.”

I think one of the major developments in this is the fact that Peter and Susan are told at the end of the movie that they’re not coming back to Narnia. That’s obviously a really big deal and is a mark of the fact that they’ve grown up and learnt a lot.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Of course that also means it’s your last chance to enjoy the Narnia experience too…

AP: Yeah, it was a weird and bittersweet moment when we filmed that scene with Aslan because it was pretty-much at the end of filming. It really drove it home, you know, “OK guys, you’re not coming back.” [laughs]

At the same time I’ve had such a great time making these movies but I don’t think I need to spend another six months making another. I think two is probably enough for me; I’d like to play different characters and do things that aren’t so technical and with real characters rather than imaginary ones! It has been brilliant, and it was obviously sad leaving lots of friends, but I keep in touch with people, so it’s great.

Is it a different take on Narnia in this film?

AP: Narnia has changed massively. The Telmarines have taken over and Caspian’s father was king but was killed by his horrible brother, Caspian’s uncle, Miraz. King Miraz has been in a lord protector role over Caspian, but at the start of the film Miraz has a son and he obviously wants his new son to be heir to the throne so it stands to reason that he’s going to want to kill Caspian off. Caspian has to fly the castle and he’s been told by his tutor Cornelius about the Narnia of old – the talking creatures, the kings and queens – and he gets hold of Susan’s horn and blows it and calls back the four Pevensies. They team up along with Trumpkin and Nikabrik, the dwarves, and a couple of badgers and they raise an army. It’s the story of trying to save Narnia so that a new king will be able to rule it. Susan and Peter know they’re going to be handing over their thrones once they save the country.

Narnia has become less magical, hasn’t it?

AP: I don’t think it’s become less magical I think it’s more that the magic is hidden. The talking animals are all in hiding and the negative influence of the Telmarines who aren’t magical at all – they’re brutes – has taken over. I guess in that sense it’s less magical, but part of trying to save it is in trying to uncover the hidden magic and bring it all to the forefront again.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

You shot much of the last movie in New Zealand but you moved around for this one…

AP: We did two months in New Zealand – a month in a studio in Auckland and then a month traveling around all over the place – and then we did four months in Eastern Europe – mostly Prague but bits in the Czech Republic, bits in Slovenia, bits in Poland…

A good opportunity to see the world, then, through these films.

AP: It was great. I wish I’d had more time to travel on the weekends actually. I thought, with New Zealand, that I’d seen a lot of it, but we discovered so many new places and I still don’t feel as though I’ve seen it all. It’s a wonderful country.

Is Narnia going to look different this time?

AP: Yeah, and I think that’s really going to show up in the cinematography, just in terms of the colours. The big buzz word for sequels is always, ‘darker,’ which is such a cliche, but actually in terms of the colours we’re using this is going to be darker in the literal sense. The first film was very green and blue and yellow and red – it was very primary – whereas this is going to be darker in pictorial tone. The Telmarines are wearing a very dark armour, the landscape isn’t so lush to begin with, everything’s in the shadows. It’s going to look darker and like a slightly different Narnia.

Are you more used to dealing with the technical aspects of the film?

AP: My experience with the first one – talking to beavers that weren’t there and that sort of thing – did set me up for this one and the fact that actually you’re not going to have a talking mouse. So that wasn’t quite so strange for me, but there were plenty of new things to deal with.

Probably the most difficult technical thing this time was stunts, because Susan gets to fight a lot in this movie, and I think stunt work was a surprise to me because it wasn’t how I thought it’d be. You rehearse routines and you choreograph stuff and you think you’ve got it all down and then actually it’s, “Wait, we can only shoot from this angle so we need to change that, and we need to move this and you’ve put a costume on now and a leather bodice isn’t going to allow you to swing your arm that way!” So that’s quite technical and that was something that came as a surprise because I hadn’t done that before.

Surely it’s quite exciting, though…

AP: It’s really exciting! It was great actually. I loved the horse riding; I’ve ridden a horse once or twice when I was younger…

And never in time of war!

AP: [laughs] Exactly! I was quite worried, actually, because the boys had both done quite a bit of stunt work before and Georgie Henley doesn’t really do any fighting so I’m kind-of the only girl in the battle – apart from some female centaurs – and I was quite worried that I was going to pass out in the heat or not be fit enough and not be up to it. I made sure, before I went out there, that I had about three times as many riding lessons as anyone else so that when I turned up and was able to do it they’d be wowed! I don’t know if they know that, actually, that I had more lessons. They do now!

But it was fine in the end, and I really enjoyed it, actually, it was a great thing to be a part of. Although fighting in a long skirt is a bit difficult! It’s prettier, but it’s a bit more challenging!

Do they throw you completely to the lions though (no pun intended) or did you at least have a stunt double for the more difficult bits?

AP: Well the first stunt I did was in New Zealand, maybe a month into filming, and it was before we’d really got into any of the battle stuff, it was just a stunt scene. It involved me fending off five Telmarines who are charging towards me, solo. I sent Lucy off on my horse and jump off and stand my ground and start firing arrows. The idea is that I can’t quite draw quick enough and so a horse knocks me over after I’ve shot the Telmarine off it. I’m on the ground and all these horses are charging over me.

I turned up, quite worried, and they had a stunt double there who was going to do it all, and they said, “Well, you try Anna and we’ll see happens. If it’s too difficult, we’ll get the stunt double to help you out…” And I did it and they were all completely shocked and they said, “OK, you do it then!” So I did do it and I just have this memory of lying on the floor with these horses without riders charging over my head while I’m thinking, “Yeah, I think we’re going to get this one in only a couple of takes!” [laughs]

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

They couldn’t have used CG!?

AP: Ooh, I don’t know. You start wondering if they could have used CG and you have to wonder whether they’ll need actors anymore! Dangerous ground!

Is it good to have that sort of stuff to do this time?

AP: It’s really good, and I learnt a lot from the others as well. Will’s really hot on his stunts I’m sure if you ever meet him he’ll tell you about it because… he would! He did this one incredible stunt where this horse is galloping and he runs up beside it and jumps on to it while it’s galloping, which sounds dramatic but it’s really dramatic to try and do on a concrete floor, and he was incredible. He was always full of tips about how to cheat stuff and make stuff look good. He was always cheering people on.

You’re siblings in the film, but as you go into Prince Caspian is your relationship with Will, Skandar Keynes and Georgie strengthening?

AP: Of course; when you spend six months working on a movie with someone you get to know them very well whether you like it or not. And luckily we all get on really well. Of course you get even closer if you make another movie with them.

I think the nice thing about our relationship is that we all know and understand each other’s good bits and bad bits and we’re all able to tolerate the bad bits. When I’m grumpy they just get it – they’re like, “OK, fine, Anna’s having a grumpy day, everyone tread carefully,” – and we know how we tick. I don’t see Georgie so much in between filming, because she lives a bit further out of London so it’s harder to get to them, but Skandar actually lives around the corner from me and Will’s always in and out of London so he calls me up. We keep in touch, which is really nice.

Are you at all involved in Dawn Treader?

AP: I don’t think so. I think there’s a scene in Dawn Treader in which Lucy talks about Susan and they could do a flashback, but I’ve not been talking to them about it at all and I’m not attached to it yet.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Georgie and Skandar are going to be without you then…

AP: Yeah… I think Will and I are going to do a planned visit and storm in and hijack the whole thing! Rewrite it! No, It’s sad that we’re not going to be shooting the next one but at the same time I felt at the end of the last one that I was ready to move on and do other things. I’m at university at the moment which I’m really enjoying and I think Will would like to play different parts as well. It felt right, actually. Andrew isn’t directing the next one either and it really felt like he was an integral part of the team and it would be a big change anyway.

When we met Ben, who’s playing Caspian, we knew that he was going to be doing the next one with Georgie and Skandar so we felt kind of responsible to ensure he was a nice guy who would look after them and everything! But he’s really great and I think those three will have a good time together.

I like the fact that the Narnia books aren’t the same characters in every story. I think it’s a really clever structure that they dot around and if we were in every film it wouldn’t have that.

Ben’s yet to experience the scale of the Narnia press experience and the premiere and all of that stuff, have you been teaching him the ropes?

AP: I don’t think I have anything to teach Ben! I guess in terms of the publicity, we certainly would have told him about it, but to be honest, I never really know what’s going to happen. The Disney machine that produces this is constantly throwing up new tricks and you always find yourself in completely surreal situations. I’m not sure I’m really one to give advice about it… I think we were really lucky with Ben. Well, it’s not luck, it’s skill in casting, but I feel so lucky because the four of us got on so well and then to have someone new come in to that and really fit in well is a big ask, so that’s great.

How has your relationship with Andrew Adamson evolved into Prince Caspian?

AP: Obviously we’ve all grown up a bit. On the first one Andrew felt very protective of us because while I’d done stuff before, for the others it was their first film. He felt like he was really bringing a new group of young actors into something. He’s always treated us with maturity, but this time I was 18 and Will was 20, you know, everyone’s grown up a bit and he treated us all accordingly. He’s such a nice man and I really have such a lot of respect for Andrew. He’s a good-tempered, funny guy and he always says thank you at the end of the day even though you feel like you should be thanking him. He really does make for a fun and happy set.

What’s the next step for you as an actor?

AP: I’m not sure, really. I’m reading a lot of stuff and I’m trying to find things that fit into my summer holidays and work around university, but I’d love to do some stage. I’m really enjoying doing student drama in Oxford. But I’d like to do something small and character-based and maybe work up from that. Perhaps something period but I’m not sure.

Our Narnia features continue with an interview with Skandar Keynes, right here. Join us on the site tomorrow when we’ll be talking to Ben Barnes and William Moseley.

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