The Lion: The Professor And The Movies: Narnia’s Journey To The Big Screen
Author: Mark Joseph
Publisher: Bully! Pulpit Books, Los Angeles, CA. 2010.
PB, pp. 177. $15.00. ISBN-13: 978-9-9827761-1-7
Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes when a decision is made to take a popular book series into movie land? Author Mark Joseph details exactly that in his book, The Lion: The Professor and the Movies about C. S. Lewis’ young adult novels. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a classic book, the first in a series that continued with “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader,” plus more. It was inevitable that someone would try a movie.
The book estate of C. S. Lewis is managed by his step-son, Douglas Gresham, who fought to keep the religious emphasis of the novels intact, while dealing with casting, special effects, directors, music and stars. This books deals with TLWW and a brief mention is made at the end about the ensuing films, Prince Caspian and the movie now in theaters, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
This book begins in 2001 with plans to bring TLWW to the screen, involving the Disney Corporation and Walden Media. Joseph unfolds the travels with comments from interviews and articles about the process. Who wanted to brighten their image (Disney), the final director (Andrew Adamson), the voice of Aslan, the lion who was the religious center (Liam Neeson) and the filming site (New Zealand). You feel as though you are sitting in meeting rooms with the powers-that-be in film land. Tilda Swinton, not known by American audiences, got the role of the Witch. It was thought Mel Gibson would voice Aslan, but Neeson got it instead. Should there be a real lion or not? Should women have a stronger character role in the films? Just how much of the film should be special effects?
One chapter goes away from Hollywood and delves into “Original Intent,” or, if C. S. Lewis were alive, how would he want the movie made? We also read about the friendship between J. R. R. Tolkien (“The Lord of the Rings”) and Lewis. In an interview with C. S. Lewis and Sherwood E. Wirt, we find Lewis saying that a person "should be strongly moved if he is to be a writer. Writing is like a ‘lust’ or like scratching when you itch.’”
Throughout the book is a thread of what C. S. Lewis believed, faith-wise. Scholars seem to differ, but the main agreement is that the Narnia books are religious/inspirational themed, that focus was lost in the second film, Prince Caspian, but is to be brought forward in the third film, Dawn Treader. Whether there will be future films in this series is yet to be seen. As in all Hollywood ventures, the box-office has the final decision.
Reviewed by Marie Asner