In 1993, Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger starred in Shadowlands, the heartbreakingly personal story of C. S. Lewis's relationship with Joy Gresham. For many North Americans, it was a first glimpse into the life of this revered Christian writer, but the episode was not new to British audiences: it had been dramatized for BBC television a decade earlier, then made into a highly successful London stage play.
When North American film buffs and Lewis fans would praise the Oscar-nominated 1993 version, somebody would inevitably pipe up to say how much better "the original" was. But it was impossible to get hold of, so you'd just have to take their word.
What you could get hold of, though, was the playscript, a masterful piece of writing by William Nicholson: indeed, it gripped me even more than the film I loved so much, and I resolved that I would play that role one day. (Writing about movies is just my obsession: I support my habit with my day job as an actor and director at Vancouver's Pacific Theatre.)
This spring I finally got my chance not only to put Nicholson's amazing script onstage—where I played the role of C. S. Lewis—but also (finally) to view the original BBC production, which was released on DVD as we prepared for rehearsal. It's amazing to see how substantially different the three versions are (two films and a play), all written by the same man. To compare them is a fascinating study in the evolution of a script.
Just as thrilling is the opportunity to watch veteran British actor Joss Ackland create an interpretation of "Jack" Lewis that's profoundly different from better-known, widely-acclaimed Hopkins performance. We'll never get a chance to meet this man we feel we know so well through his writings—at ...1