When 2005's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe—the first film in the Chronicles of Narnis series—was being filmed in Prague, the American ambassador to the Czech Republic visited the set. Producer Mark Johnson introduced the man to co-producer Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C. S. Lewis who had the task of ensuring filmmakers got everything right. He was essentially his stepfather's eyes and ears on the project.
When the diplomat asked Johnson about Gresham's role, Johnson quipped, "Oh, he's to blame." They all had a good laugh, but Gresham knew it was absolutely true: "That just about sums it up," he says today. When Narnia fans complain about how the films—Prince Caspian released in 2008, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader hits theaters on at midnight on December 9—have strayed from the books, Gresham is their first target.
We spoke with him recently about playing that role.
Some fans think you've allowed the filmmakers to stray too far from the books.
Well, I do my very best. I don't always win my battles, and I fight a lot of them. Some I win, some I lose, some I compromise. It's not an easy job. I'm not always diplomatic; sometimes I'm pretty blunt. Sometimes I get up people's noses and make a real nuisance of myself. But there are things I will insist on.
It's often to do with the theological or moral messages. I'm not saying that Hollywood people want to take them out, but often they just don't see it or understand the significance. Jack [Lewis] was very conscious of the fact that in the twentieth century, Western societies had decided in their infinite stupidity to dispense with the great nineteenth century values that were so important—personal responsibility, commitment, courage, ...1