The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Q&A
Director Michael Apted and star Ben Barnes head off to sea
This was my favourite book, says our Dan Jolin. This is the Sinbad one - is that what you've gone for?
Apted: Yes, it is a journey, it is an adventure. They aren't in Narnia at all. The whole film is a voyage, which is a tough thing to pull off, to keep the energy going from island to island.
Barnes: It was my favourite book too because it has that voyage element to it, like Sinbad or Jason And the Argonauts. We've gone slightly bigger than those films though. It's not a papier mache dragon this time - although there was a very large papier mache rock at one point.
Apted: Don't tell them everything!
The film changed studio after you joined, Michael - how did it change?
Apted: It's been a long journey; we deliver the film in December but I'll have been on it by then for three and a half years. I was hired while Andrew Adamson was stil making the second one, so he couldn't have done it, because it's not like Potter; each is a different world so you can't do them back to back. We then faced a world of economic problems and we thought we were dead in the water, but Fox came aboard and then we started. We shot in Australia and now we're finishing here.
Wasn't there a bit involving a Mexican drug war?
Apted: We did land up at Rosarita Studios, which was built at Titanic. We were set up there and doing nicely, and then these terrifying drug wars started and there were thousands of people killed every weekend, headless bodies in the streets. And we were trying to make a family movie. We would have had to stay in compounds with gun placements around them. We had to leave.
Barnes: Our producer told us we'd need 24 hour bodyguards if we were to do that. It was that or Surfer's Paradise in Australia without a bodyguard, so we went for that.
How was it returning to play Caspian, Ben?
Barnes: While it was very frustrating for everyone else, it was quite nice for me to have a break between the first and this and do other things, and then come back to it with my favourite story, a fresh studio and a fresh director. And playing a king this time, someone who's been in authority for several years - which is very different to playing someone who's running away ALL THE TIME. I think when you're dealing with books based on children's literature, you have to deal with nostalgia and so on, which is why people balk at remakes and so on, but when you have a new director you can reimagine parts of it as you see fit, which is nice.
How easy was the transition between Disney and Fox?
Apted: Well, it had to be a smooth transition because we were either going to make the film or we weren't, and Fox took it on as a package. Most of the work and casting was done. It really wasn't a studio coming in and starting over - too much money had been spent. We brought in another writer and the script went through another couple of drafts, which worked very well for us. We had concept art that they had to sign off on.
Barnes: And you were stuck with me. But even sticking close to the book you can have a completely different structure.
A non-Narnia question for Michael; would you ever return to Bond?
Apted: No, I'd do it again. I had a very good time, but it was very good practice for doing this, which is very much bigger and more complex.
Barnes: Who would you get to play Bond if you did it again?
Apted: I'm open my friend, I'm open.
Dawn Treader marks a bit of a tonal shift in the series. Is that something that you'll express in the film?
Apted: I think what they were looking for with the Dawn Treader was to go back into more of the magical world of Lion and the Witch. Caspian was a very political film, and they were looking to go back a bit to the magic and fun of Lion and the Witch. There's quite a lot of humour in that. So I was asked to revitalise that aspect of the franchise.
When Prince Caspian was on the boat, and you met the people, did you ask what their names were?
Barnes: Well, in the new film, it's Caspian's ship so he knows everyone's name, and he already remembers the Pevensie kids. But he doesn't ask Eustace's name because he's a pain and he doesn't want to know him. Does that answer the question?
No! (This question was asked by a 7 year-old) Prince Caspian is obviously a children's book. Are you getting recognised a lot by little kids and how does that work with doing adult roles?
Barnes: I've been very lucky in that most people have probably only seen me in one or two things - maybe that says something about some of the other things - and I think people recognising you comes from seeing you in magazines or on TV every week. Between cutting my hair or not, and shaving or not, and not being in the country, my privacy has mostly remained intact. But it's teens and people in their 20s rather than little kids, because it's been a few years since Caspian.
In the trailer, there are people in the film who don't feature in the book. Is that the case? Peter and Susan aren't in the book.
Apted: That's a nice little surprise for you in the film. It doesn't go against the book but it's a nifty little idea in the film. They came back for a couple of days, and it doesn't really impinge on the story but it's a nice little grace note.
Are you still involved in the 42 Up series, and...
Apted: I'll be involved in 56 Up next year, so I'll have been doing that for nearly 50 years. That was a first job I did and every seven years it comes back again, and 2012 is the next fence, so it's a huge part of my working life.
Ben, in Dorian Gray the film was different from the book, and from the earlier film. The atmosphere felt completely different. What was the production justification for that?
Barnes: In terms of atmosphere and story? Well, I think there were a couple of storyline changes to bring the character of Emily near the end in. I think people are used to watching films with a potential for hope or redemption at the end, otherwise it's like watching someone jump off a cliff. Structurally it was changed because film is such a visual medium; he goes off for months at a time in the book. We decided to send him away for 25 years and come back because that makes the return more visceral. I think Henry and Dorian change depending on how people see him in the book, and the same goes for all the characters... You didn't like it, did you?
Would the Magician's Nephew ever get made?
Apted: I can't answer that - Mark can.
Barnes: He says they thought they'd start with the best known one since that would sell the most tickets...
Mark (Producer in the audience): We thought we'd start with the four Pevensie children. The question now is, for the fourth film, do we go to the Silver Chair or go back to The Magician's Nephew?
Barnes: Am I in either of those?
Mark: In the Silver Chair briefly, as a very old man.
Would you be back for that, Michael?
Apted: I'd want a break, but sure. Each of these has a very different feel, it's like Bond. There's a set of rules for each one, but the difference between each is vast. For a director, this is a much more challenging franchise than even the Potters. There, it's the same people getting older, so you don't feel you'll be repeating yourself.
Ben, would you go back?
Barnes: Yes, but I want a crack at playing him at 70, that'd be fun. Unless it's 3 hours every day in make-up. But they were three and a half years, so they do encompass a lot of your world and they mean a lot to you.
Was this a hard one for you?
Barnes: In the first film I spent a lot of time learning to horse ride and then spent a lot of time on a horse, which is one of the most difficult things to do on a film set. But personally I had more action training on this one, and more sequences to learn, because they're cut down so heavily. So while this isn't so full of conflict, there was a lot more to learn for me, but I really enjoyed that part of it.
You didn't shoot on water, did you?
Apted: When I got the job, I made a point of talking to directors who'd done big water films, Peter Weir and Gore Verbinski, and they all said Don't go on the water. So we didn't, we were on a peninsula. The boat was a hundred tonne boat, so it was a big old beast, on a gimble.
One of the things I liked about this was the way they get to Narnia, as opposed to the old BBC version. But did you get any inspiration from those?
Apted: In all fairness, not really. They were great little things, but they were very cheaply done. You couldn't even begin to get away with that now.
Barnes: I was 8 when those came out, and I remember watching them with pant-wetting anticipation every week, but you go back and look at them and it's so disappointing. It's like when you watch He-Man again, and you realise how often they repeat the same shot. It's distressing!