"Narnia" Producer Turns Cherished Literature Into Hit Movies
- Monday, December 05, 2005
Flaherty: We made “Holes” because an elementary school teacher sent the book and begged us to make the movie. We feel so strongly about tapping into the real issues and imaginations of children that we don’t rely on agents or impersonal industry officials to tell us what projects are worthy of attention. We talk to parents, children, teachers, librarians and faith leaders. We question each group, asking, “What books and periods from history are your kids excited about? What questions are your kids asking?” Most of the projects Walden Media produces already have built-in interest and awareness, and are already cherished properties.
CW: Would you say your current project, “Narnia,” is the most ambitious project of them all?
Flaherty: Definitely. We wanted to do it for a long time, and our backer, Phil Anchutz, really wanted to do it, but when we read the book, we realized how hard it would be to pull off visually. We feel so grateful to have found Andrew Adamson, who had directed it in his mind for decades. We could not believe what he could accomplish with the integration of CG animation and people. He did an unbelievable job with both the look of the film and the story.
CW: Lewis’s ageless story does come to life in “Narnia.” There are so many overtly Christian elements in it, including portrayals of Christ’s (Aslan’s) sacrifice and substitution. The Stone Table scene is an amazing portrait of Jesus. But isn’t it a bit politically incorrect to put such a faith-packed film into mainstream theatres?
Flaherty: Well, the story is the story, and we left all its elements intact. What’s interesting is Hollywood says that, as filmmakers, we’re reflecting the culture. Our attitude is to ask real people – teachers, librarians, and kids – what they want to see. It turns out that all the books they love the most just happen to have strong themes of faith. Since we’re dedicated to making faithful adaptations, that’s what ends up in movies. The press tries to manufacture a portrait of us as being on a mission from God, but really, we’re just giving America what they’ve asked to see. They try to pigeonhole us as serving only a select audience, but hopefully the box office sales will show that they’re wrong. We believe movies like “Narnia” have a universal appeal.
CW: I know our whole family – ages 10 to 46 – really enjoyed it. Incidentally, my teenage girls thought your casting of the four children was brilliant. They especially appreciated the teenage boy, of course … I heard something like “whoa, he’s hot.”
Flaherty: (laughing) Yeah, we’ve gotten some similar responses (about William Moseley) during the screenings. Actually, we did have the best casting director in the world, Pippa Hall, and she chose those children from among thousands. We were really pleased with how each kid perfectly captured their characters.
CW: How does the movie differ from the book?
Flaherty: We tried to be faithful to the book, but in some areas we added a few elements that would enhance the story. For instance, the book only briefly mentions the big blitz in just one sentence. We wanted to expand on this and show the four kids to be in real danger. We also wanted to enhance the story of the magician’s nephew in the wardrobe. In the book the closet was much plainer. We feel we were more faithful to the source by making these additions.
CW: Our greatest congratulations to you and your team at Walden Media. I know that C.S. Lewis must be smiling down from heaven right now as he sees how his vision has exploded on the silver screen. We wish you the best on this and all your wonderful, meaningful, world-changing projects.
Flaherty: Thank you, and best to you and the folks at Crosswalk.
Walt Disney Pictures' and Walden Media's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" releases in theaters nationwide on Friday, December 9, 2005. Click here ror more information.
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