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New Zealand director Andrew Adamson made his Stateside debut with the billion-grossing Shrek. Then, he followed up its sequel with Disney’s blockbuster adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (so he’s doing fine on money, thanks). The next, darker film in the Narnia series, Prince Caspian, hits theaters this Friday. Adamson spoke to Vulture about the making of the film, what he learned from animation, and why he could really use a vacation.
Why is this film so much darker than its predecessor?
It was kind of inherent to the material. Sometimes fans ask about the first movie, “Did Disney make you make the film so bright?” And I’m like, “No. It’s a movie about spring. You know, you’re coming out of winter into spring so it’s this rebirth…” To me, the interest was having a battle take place on a beautiful day. I’d actually gone to the battlefield and had them plant flowers with the intention that, as the battle rages, they’d be kicking up petals. Turns out the flowers died before we got there. [Laughs.]
The attention to detail on this one is impressive.
I tend to be quite anal. But we also all learned from making the first film. For instance, halfway through, I thought, Well, did the kids stop at the dry cleaners? They’ve just been tramping through the snow and the costumes aren’t dirty. So this time we were very conscientious that every day a little more dirt would go on the costumes, a few more tears, a bit of twig in the hair. It all adds up to a believability and a texture.
Why aren’t you doing the next film in the series?
I’m tired. Largely, I’ve been overlapping films since the first Shrek. I’ve been telling my wife I’ve been going to take a year off since then. But largely, I want to get back to that feeling of the day I first left high school and realized I didn’t have any homework, and I just had a clear head. See what comes forth.
Did you learn anything making Shrek that you used in this movie?
In animation, you get nothing for free, so you tend to think about the background a lot more. In this film, one of my favorite bits of animation is what happens with the mouse behind Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) in the scene where he’s talking about losing his tail. The mice are talking about chopping their tails off (in solidarity). And there’s one mouse who’s reluctant. He give a fearful look as if to say, “Do I really have to do this?”
There was a gorgeous, primordial lake with waterfalls in one scene. Was that real or CGI?
That’s real. It’s near the town of Haast in New Zealand. We’d been checking out another spot that we didn’t think would work, when our bus driver, who was a fly fisherman, told us there was a place just twenty minutes upstream that you could only get to by boat. That’s where we ended up shooting. The water’s about 40 feet deep, and you can see the trout swimming in the water. And it’s that blue color. It’s not enhanced. That was my favorite day of shooting. We had to fly in by helicopter or go in by jet boat. I was operating one of the motors in our raft with my right hand and the radio control with the kids’ boat to help them steer. And I was directing. It was like I was a student again, student filmmaking with just twenty of us making a film. —Harold Goldberg