Will Poulter is the best thing about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third in the Chronicles of Narnia films, opening worldwide this week.

With his wild eyebrows, exaggerated expressions, and grating tone of voice, Poulter is brilliant in the role of a character described in the book's opening sentence like this: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

There was another boy called William Jack Poulter, and he pretty much deserves to play the role—and not just because his middle name is the same as Narnia author C. S. Lewis's nickname. Poulter had already proven himself adept at playing a brat, as Lee Carter in the 2008 cult classic Son of Rambow. (Meanwhile, Lewis scholar Devin Brown has written about the similarities between Eustace and his own creator.)

We recently chatted with Poulter, 17, about Dawn Treader and his memorable character, a boy who undergoes quite a transformation. Due to his selfishness, snobbery, and greed, Eustace literally turns into a dragon (in the book and the film), only to later regret the way he's been acting. When he tries to peel off his dragon skin, he finds that he can't do it alone. Only Aslan the Great Lion—a Christ figure—can tear off his dragon skin and restore him to being a normal, albeit quite changed, boy again. (In the book, the scene is depicted beautifully and movingly, divine redemption quite evident; in the film, unfortunately, the scene gets short shrift.)

When did you first read the Narnia books?

My mom read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to me when I was about seven, and I've read them all since then. These books are kind of like a rite of passage for young children, kind of ingrained in so many people's childhood, ...

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