Five years after first appearing in the part of Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Georgie Henley is prepared for the release of her final visit to Narnia with December 10th’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Based on the third entry in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Treader focuses on Lucy and her brother, Edmund (Skander Keynes), who remain in England apart from the elder Pevensie children, Susan and Peter, who have traveled to America.
Joining the cast is Will Poulter, best known for his performance in Son of Rambow, in the part of Eustace Scrubb, ill-mannered cousin to Lucy and Edmund. Upset at having his relatives around, Eustace is forced to learn some manners when he accidentally joins the other children in their return to Narnia, sailing aboard a ship called the Dawn Treader and rejoining King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and the warrior mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg).
Henley and Poulter traveled stateside to promote the film and ComingSoon.net caught up with both young actors to talk about the film, the original books and their relationships to their characters. Read the full interview below and check back soon for video interviews from the London junket.
Q: There’s a storyline in the film involving overcoming temptations. What sort of temptations do you each think personally would be the hardest to overcome?
Georgie Henley: I’ve always wanted to study drama at my school and I’ve always wanted to take it as a lesson. The biggest temptation for me would be to take up theater studies and then to get a really, really good job.
Q: Why would you study theater when you’re already doing this?
Georgie: Because I’m not very good! Film is very different from theater. There’s tricks of the trade that you have to learn and I’d really like to learn everything about it.
Will Poulter: I think maybe having a superpower and not being able to tell anyone about it. Having to hide it from the public. I don’t know why I think of that, but when I was a kid I watched loads of superhero stories and read comics. Cartoon and films as well. I used to sit there and wonder, “Why don’t you tell anybody? Why?!”
Q: What was the most inspiring aspect of moving into this third Narnia film?
Georgie: It all comes from the book. This is my favorite book in the series, which inspired me to work very hard on it and also to take what I loved about the book and try to recreate it in the film. I also really wanted to use the stuff I learned on the other two films and use it to give Lucy a good farewell and send her off in style, hopefully.
Q: Why is it your favorite book?
Georgie: I love the fact that it’s so episodic. I love how you get to see so much of Narnia and how it’s so many different places. I also love the ending and it’s so bittersweet as well. I think all the characters are so great. Eustace is really funny and Reepicheep is great as well.
Will: Obviously, having not done the first or second, I was a bit apprehensive about coming into this new thing. I knew there was already a tightly-knit group of friends who had already experienced the first two films together. I suppose the greatest inspiration for me was also the book itself. Everyone wanted to stay very true to the book. The directors, the cast and all that. The biggest challenge for me was to represent Eustace the way he is in the book. There’s a way he looks and, coming in, I had already messed that up because he has dark hair. I was very nervous about that. You hate hearing that someone came out a film going, “I preferred the book.” You feel bad that you may have let them down with your representation of something that they’ve grown up with. That’s certainly the case with Narnia and was the beginning of the biggest fear for me. But the book is the inspiration for all of that, so we just tried to stay as close to the book as we could.
Q: Did the cast do anything special to make you feel at home?
Will: Everyone was just so lovely. I got along so well with Georgie, Ben [Barnes] and Skander [Keynes]. We had so much fun on set and I was so nervous coming in. Especially the character I was playing as well. No one would really wants to spend any time around that person. They were so lovely and made it a lot easier… As soon as it was lights, camera action I was horrible and they were all horrible back, so it was all good. Beyond that, we were just the best of friends. We got along really, really well.
Q: How do you deal with all the CGI? There are a lot of emotional moments where you’re acting against characters that aren’t actually there.
Will: Georgie has had a lot more experience with that than I have had doing the first two films. Coming into this, I had relatively no experience whatsoever. I knew very little about CGI and how to work with it, but I was quite excited. My character interacts quite intricately with Reepicheep and ends up turning into a dragon as well. So CGI was featured quite heavily for me. So that was quite interesting. CGI had a whole other level for me, personally. But it was really fun. I got to fight with Reepicheep when he wasn’t actually there and still lost, so that doesn’t say too much for my sword skills. It was really, really fun. I really enjoyed the whole experience. And it’s exciting to be a part of a film which is coming out at a time where there’s quite a movement towards digital media and HD, 3D and now, of course, CGI featuring a lot more prevalently in films because people are more accepting. It was cool to do all that. Especially being so young.
Q: Eustace begins as a very unlikeable character but you’ve got to sort of get audiences to like you despite that fact. Was there a specific acting trick you used to play the character?
Will: That’s a really good questions and I know what you mean, but it’s difficult to say. You detest the character, but you still like to watch him. It’s the golden question for which I don’t have an answer, but I hope so. The thing about Eustace is that Michael [Apted] talked to me about him and I wasn’t sure how he wanted me to play it. Then we found that it naturally lent itself to a comical portrayal. I asked Michael, “Are you looking for Eustace to be a more comical character?” and he said yes. He was saying that you have to have that in order to be able to hate him but also want to watch him. So Eustace is perhaps even more comical a character than in the books. He’s still the same character, but we’ve perhaps augmented the comedy. Also, after he’s transformed into a dragon, he becomes a completely different person. Much of the transformation we don’t actually see because it occurs when he is a dragon. Really Reepicheep is sort of responsible for mentoring him and exposing the error of his ways. Getting him to better himself. But yes, I suppose it was the comedy that helped to do that.
Q: Lucy is worried that she’s not as pretty as her sister in the film. What’s the one thing in real life that you wish you could change about yourself?
Georgie: I’m quite annoying, actually, without meaning to be. I try my best not to be, but I think I am. It’s because I get really hyper and really excited about stuff. You should see me. We have a traveling carnival come to our town every year and it’s literally the highlight of every year for me. It’s a broken down fairground and I just love it. I shake. Everyone has their own physical insecurities, I suppose. I’m not so happy with my face. Also, I want to change my temptation because I thought of a really good one, which is this thing that I’m actually worried about with myself. Every time I go on top of a tall building, I want to jump off it! I get this feeling of wanting to know what it feels like to fly down. Maybe bungee jumping is something I should do? Literally, I’m not to be trusted around tall buildings. I had jet lag, so I came out of my room this morning and was on my balcony and was just thinking, “wow!”
Q: Georgie, you’re sort of going from a supporting role to just about taking the lead. How did you find yourself preparing for that?
Georgie: I’ve always thought in the Narnia films it’s great because there’s never one main character. It’s always sort of an ensemble cast. I still feel the same on this one but, because she’s the only girl, she does have more of a role to play. Because of the ensemble, she has more of a significance, if you will. That’s kind of returning to the first one because people forget that Lucy is actually the one who discovered Narnia. She is the one who kind of takes everyone into it. I think that touching on that was another technique that we used to get back to the setting of “Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” That magic was something we tried to touch on. To have a bit of girl power. I just tried really hard to practice so that they’d let me do my own stunts and stuff like that.
Q: Has starring in these movies affected your everyday life much?
Georgie: It does affect my life because I feel like my life has been multiplied. I feel like I have two lives. I come here and feel very glamorous. I’m in L.A.! How can you not feel glamorous? But then I go to school, and it’s just like everyday. It hasn’t really changed at all. I still have to tidy my room and things like that. I have my friends and family. So in that respect, life hasn’t really changed at all.
Q: You sort of have that in the film as well with the Narnia world and your everyday life.
Georgie: Certainly. But I don’t think I have a cousin who’s a real pain in the ass. (Laughs)
Q: Georgie, did changing directors make this film much different?
Georgie: It was certainly different, but not really better or worse. Michael and Andrew are both very different directors with their style and they’re also both very different people. It was a wonderful experience to work with a different director because I only really had Andrew to work with before. You can’t work with the same director your whole life. I think Michael did a really great job and I think this is really going to stand out from some of the other winter blockbusters that are coming out. I think it’s because Michael is just a really talented director. He’s like the president of the National Director’s Guild. It’s such an honor to be working with him.
Will: He was a real actor’s director, too. He really understood your characters. It was really weird, but all our ideas just clicked with his. He really understood it better than you did. When you needed help, he was right there and, like Georgie was saying, he’s such a prestigious figure in film and always has been. It’s such an honor to work with him, especially when you’re as young as we are. The chance to work with a director like that is something that some actors would kill for. Even as kids, we don’t take that for granted at all. We’re very, very grateful.
Q: What actors out there would each of you want your careers to emulate?
Georgie: Well, I think Johnny Depp has a really great career because he’s always chosen different genres and always gone for the more outside roles. He’s never taken the easy option. That’s something I really admire and would love to emulate. People also tend to pick on Kristen Stewart, but I think she’s done really great job going from acting alongside Jodie Foster in “Panic Room” to, now, being a fully-fledged — and I think very talented — actor. I think she does very well and deserves much better press than she gets. So I definitely look up to her career as well.
Will: I think, again, someone who has made that transition between childhood and adult acting. Leonardo DiCaprio I find very inspiring… He’s my idol. I absolutely love Leonardo DiCaprio. Christian Bale, obviously, being a British actor and going from “Empire of the Sun.” Now he’s Batman. What more could you want? I think Jodie Foster, as well. She directs, too and produces. “Taxi Driver,” too was just so controversial and brave at her age as well. But again, to echo what Georgie said, roles that are challenging are what you look for to sink your teeth into.
Q: The Narnia books were written as a Christian allegory and it’s something present but never overt in the films. Can you touch on your own thoughts about those thematic elements?
Georgie: It’s just what we’ve always set out to do. We’ve always wanted to appeal to a really wide audience because that’s what the books do. The books are such classics and appeal to so many people. So I don’t understand why people would want to sideline them to a specific Christian audience. We have themes in the films that, if you want to look for them, you can and you will find them. Of course you will. That’s the way that C.S. Lewis wrote the books. But I’m glad that you think they’re not forced on you. I don’t feel that at all. My faith is ambiguous and I still watch the film and I don’t get any kind of pressure to see something that I don’t want to see. I think that’s really important and that’s something that we always set out to do. It’s a struggle. Of course it’s a struggle. But I hope that we achieve it.
Will: Like Georgie said, it doesn’t smack you over the back of the head and it’s not enforced in any way. It’s not hidden, but for those that are looking for it and for those who do find some satisfaction in indulging in those them, they are able to access them. That’s what great about it. It does limit the audience in any way and, if anything, it just broadens who the films can appeal to… The themes sort of transcend the boundaries of religion rather than apply expressly to Christians. Themes of redemption, temptation and faith dont necessarily apply directly to religion. A lot of people find faith in their lives outside of god and still deal with notions of temptation and redemption that aren’t religious. So I don’t think it constricts Narnia’s appeal, which is great.
Q: There’s a number of islands visited in this film. Which one was your favorite?
Georgie: Every single set was so great. Every island was so creative and everything. I will say that I think that Magician’s Island was my favorite.
Will: Three amazing sets in one, wasn’t it?
Georgie: It really was. It was a huge, amazing garden. It was just fantastic to be there and to think that people could think it up and create it in their head. I spent a lot of time in the library filming that, which was just fantastic. It was a beautiful set and a really great place to be. It just looks fantastic. It was so magical. Like nothing you would see in this world. In our world. You feel so far removed from reality that it’s just wonderful.
Will: I’m the same. And you have the beach, which was incredible. People would sleep on the beach by campfires. You see the Dawn Treader mulled up further up on shore. Then there’s the Magician’s garden and the idea is that all these plants and trees have grown due to magic. They’re incredible shapes and there’s this manicured lawn. And an incredible mansion which inside was amazing. There’s also Billy Brown, who’s an Australian actor who plays the magician. He’s just brilliant and so funny.
Q: How much time did each of you spend in Australia filming?
Georgie: Just under six months.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the next film?
Will: I’m afraid I can’t. They don’t know what they’re going to do next. Whether it’s going to be the fourth in the series, following directly the series of books, or whether they’re going to do “The Magician’s Nephew,” which happens before “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” At the moment, we’re just very excited about this film coming and looking forward to promoting it.
Q: Will, was there any physical element involved in playing the dragon for you?
Will: Well, because the dragon doesn’t speak, it’s really just sort of sniffs and snorts here and there. There was a couple of times some part of me was incorporated, but it’s really just the effects team. They are actually incredible. Unfortunately, they made him look like me (laughs). Some of my worst features, like my eyebrows, they’ve given the dragon. Poor guy. He had a tough role in this.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader hits theaters on December 10th in both 2D and 3D.