Of Mice and Lions
Sixteen-year-old Anna Popplewell is, in many ways, the perfect choice to play Susan, the older Pevensie sister in Disney's upcoming film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Like the Susan of C. S. Lewis's beloved Chronicles of Narnia, Anna actually is an older sister, she's studious, she's pragmatic and logical—and thus an unlikely candidate to fall for such a far-fetched fairy tale. But like Susan, once she meets Aslan face-to-face, all of that pragmatism and skepticism falls aside, and she embraces the magic.
But for Anna, there was one little problem: Mice. In the story, when the great lion Aslan is killed, he is bound by ropes to a huge slab called the Stone Table. Before his resurrection, tiny mice come to his rescue, gnawing away at the ropes to set him free. When it came time to shoot that scene for the movie, Anna freaked out: She's terrified of mice.
In this interview, which Anna granted to us via telephone from her London home, we learn how she ultimately dealt with the little critters, what she thinks of the Narnia books, how she perceives Susan's character, what she makes of Aslan, and other thoughts on the movie, which arrives in theaters December 9. This will be the first of many exclusive stories about the film at Christianity Today Movies, so keep watching for more coverage in the months ahead.
The movie isn't done yet, but are you happy with the way things are turning out?
Anna Popplewell: Yeah. I saw a couple of scenes when we were shooting, some roughly cut scenes, and then recently I just finished doing post-production. And it all looks really good. It's obviously really nice to see the animation too [added later via computer graphics]. But I'm really looking forward to seeing the whole thing together come Christmas.
Is the role of Susan a part you really wanted?
Anna: Oh, yeah, I really wanted to get it. I had read the books when I was about 7 years old, and really loved them. I just thought they were great stories, really fun page-turning adventures. And then I read the movie script and really loved the script as well.
I also really like Susan and what the script did with Susan. Not that it's very different from C. S. Lewis's Susan, but the way in which C. S. Lewis wrote the books means that the characters are open to a certain amount of interpretation, because he writes with this wonderful style and tone that encourages you to use your imagination and create characters for yourself slightly. And I really liked that Susan was brought to life a bit more in the script than she was originally in the book.
How would you describe Susan's character?
Anna: I think at the beginning of the story, Susan is definitely very practical, very logical. I think she's forced into a kind of maternal role by being away from home as a result of the evacuation [due to the WWII bombing of London]. And I think she almost feels that she has to grow up before she's actually ready to, and maybe that's what fuels that sense of logic and her pragmatism. But I think that as the story progresses and she experiences Narnia and goes on that journey, she warms up and she's able to allow herself to be a child again. I think she really learns something from Narnia.
Are you in any way like Susan?
Anna: Yeah, I think I am, strangely enough. I'm quite a logical person so I definitely identified with her on that front. And I always imagined Susan to be the type who studies pretty hard and works hard at school—and I've always tried to focus on my studies. And she's a big sister, and I've got two younger siblings. So, we have that in common as well.