It started off with a seemingly innocent email I received from our head editor, asking if I was willing to do an interview for the DVD release of Prince Caspian. It sounded like a great opportunity, so I found myself a week later driving down the freeway, heading for Hollywood. After checking in, I had some time to consider the day’s activities. You see, this wasn’t simply going to be an interview—especially when Disney was involved.
Thirty minutes later, I found myself in a van as a group of international reporters headed to KNB Studios to find out more about the makeup and costumes used in the actual film. We arrived at a rather nondescript building in Van Nuys, where Howard Berger and his team have routinely performed their magic in films such as the Kill Bill series and Spiderman 3 (KNB won an Academy Award for Best Makeup in 2006 for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe). We were then told that we would receive a unique treat—each of us would be “transformed” into one of the characters from the movie. Berger looked at me for a second before giving my team of makeup artists their cue—“Make him into a dwarf.”
Over the next ninety minutes, I learned firsthand what it means to have prosthetics applied to one’s face (ears and nose) and watched in amazement as I was transformed from a mild-mannered editor to a cross between Gimli from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Evan Baxter from Evan Almighty. Actually, I think I looked pretty cool (especially the dreadlocks in the beard; see below). But this doesn’t happen quickly; it takes lots of time (including removing the stuff). Some of the characters in Prince Caspian had to undergo the makeup treatment every day for five months! But the end results speak for themselves.
After feeling like a real actor (especially with all the flashbulbs going off as Disney snapped publicity photos), I got the makeup removed and took time to admire the detail of the costumes the characters wore in the film before our group returned to Hollywood.
The interviews would be done in two stages: the first would be roundtable sessions with two of the stars from the movie, William Moseley (Peter Pevensie) and Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian). The second was a fifteen-minute in-depth interview with both stars later in the day.
It turned out the roundtable sessions were pretty intimate yet informal—I was one of eleven or so writers there with Barnes and Moseley, so we had the opportunity to talk with each one for a while.
The first thing I noticed about William Moseley is how young he is (21 years old). He told our group that the role of Peter changed his life “in every way” and is quite happy where he’s at right now in life. In the early part of 2009, he’ll have a starring role in the film Ironclad along with Megan Fox and Paul Giamatti. Regarding all things Narnia, he auditioned for the BBC version of the series at the age of 10, but didn’t get the role. Five years later, he was cast into Peter’s role in the American version. When asked about the moral/religious themes in the film, he came up with a list including making the right choices in life (Moseley cited Peter choosing the easy way in the film, but also noted the negative consequences of his choice) and that no man is an island (we need others to be a part of our lives). He added that there’s an “amount of osmosis” between Peter the character and Moseley the real-life person; in other words, the character has become a part of him in some ways. When asked about the adaptation from screen acting to theater acting (Moseley is very interested in Shakespeare), he stated that “[I]f you can make other people believe . . . you’re on the right track.”
I asked him what the most challenging part of the whole film was, and his answer was surprising. It wasn’t the battle scenes, but the smaller scenes—specifically those calling for him to say lines such as “We’re going that way” in a normal manner. He said that you’d be amazed how difficult that can be!
Ben Barnes walked into our second discussion and immediately exhibited the “cool” factor—similar to Edward Cullen’s persona in the movie Twilight. He told the group that shooting for his next film, Dorian Gray, is finished (release in late 2009). When asked about if there’s such a thing as a big break, he admitted he wasn’t sure, but added that actors need to “invest in the stories that [they] think are worth telling.” The publicity and fame from his role as Caspian have been “overwhelming and surreal.” The evidence of this came when a reporter asked him what advice he would give to aspiring actors, to which he immediately responded, “Who am I to handle that?”
Barnes did say, however, that actors need to read, since that’s what a character is based upon. An example is how he developed his unique voice for Caspian. Barnes was reading the script the evening before his audition when he noticed in small type at the bottom of the script, “Please prepare in a Spanish accent.” The first character that came to mind was Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, so he went that route, adding that the intonation was his choosing. A week into shooting, director Adam Adamson had him sound more Italian. He felt the most challenging part of his role in the film was remaining faithful to the character in CS Lewis’ book.
After the two roundtable discussions, Kenneth Chen from The Christian Post and I were able to interview the two directly. I found both to be extremely intelligent and quite humorous (their decidedly English accents helped). I asked what each enjoyed most about the story of Prince Caspian, whereupon Moseley said the white witch scene; Barnes thought the night raid sequence had lots of emotional high points, similar to Caspian’s first encounter with King Miraz.
In the Narnia series by CS Lewis, Moseley’s favorite book is The Silver Chair, while Barnes likes Voyage of the Dawn Treader due to its episodic nature and its fictionalized mythology. When asked if they preferred either the film or book version of Prince Caspian, both agreed that they liked the film better. Moseley noted that in film, a person sees one person’s mind (he would love to be a director in the future), while in a book, everyone has their own interpretation. Barnes thought the book was more about tension and conflicts and thus played out better on the big screen.
I asked Barnes if he was relieved that nobody had stereotyped him into a specific type of role. He gave an emphatic “Yes!” followed by the revelation that he was offered the role to be princes in two other films before Prince Caspian. To this end, he hopes offers continue for varying roles in the future—he feels “very blessed” with what has happened so far.
When asked if we experience a loss of innocence and become less open to change as we get older, Moseley mentioned that he had been thinking about that the day before. He thinks it’s due to a cynicism that takes over one’s personality. Barnes agreed, comparing the question to a director that makes a film at the age of eleven. Later on, he gets more disillusioned, but perspective comes later when one can enjoy it for what it really is. We know cynicism exists, but we should ignore it and choose innocence instead.
Barnes was asked what he expected for his reprised role in Dawn Treader. He noted that the story follows chronologically (about 4-5 years later), that Caspian has a new sword, and that he feels an uneasiness in wearing the crown. In essence, Caspian’s ride is a voyage of self-discovery.
Finally, I asked Barnes and Moseley for their three favorite books of all time. Moseley had to think about this and gave me a number of titles, including Shoot Out (Peter Bart), a biography of director Stanley Kubrick (Moseley thinks 2001 is “incredible”), the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon), and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon). Later, he added Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then changed it to anything Dahl wrote.
Besides Shakespeare, Barnes’ favorite books included The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks), and Regeneration (Pat Barker). He admitted that The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde had a huge impact on his teenage years.
As we finished, the sun finished setting, effectively ending what turned out to be a fantastic day. Special thanks are in order to Disney and their staff for making the press junket a great experience, Grace Hill Media for organizing the interviews, and Ben Barnes and William Moseley for their roles in Prince Caspian and their time talking to me about the film.