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Film to Depict Lewis-Tolkien Friendship

'The Lion Awakes,' due in 2013, will tell how the latter led the former to Christianity

"Christian without being preachy," is how Louis Markos describes his desire for The Lion Awakes, an upcoming film based on the screenplay he co-wrote about the friendship between C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and Lewis's conversion to Christianity.

Markos told Christianity Today that his hopes to help create a "Christian crossover" film motivated him and his partners to form their own production company, Three Agree Films, in order to maintain as much control over the making of the film, while also working with investors to raise the funds needed for a commercially viable movie. Citing the recent success of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, Walden Media's Narnia films, and The King's Speech (The Lion Awakes depicts Lewis's wartime radio broadcasts that formed the foundation for Mere Christianity), Markos is confident that interest in Lewis and Tolkien is sufficient to draw both Christian and non-Christian audiences to the film.

The academic turned screenwriter borrowed a phrase from Lewis when he said he hoped the film would be faithful to the faith of its subject while stripping the "Christian" genre label of some of its "stained glass and Sunday school associations." Markos said it was important to him to depict Lewis's actual conversion experience, noting that previous works such as Shadowlands have tended to focus on the end of Lewis's life. He also said the film deals with Lewis's interactions with famous atheist Bertrand Russell in order to emphasize Lewis's work in apologetics and the effect of that work on the church.

Markos said that the most difficult change for him to make in the screenplay was cutting the character of Owen Barfield, who was influential in Lewis's shift from atheism to theism. In later versions of the script, Tolkien's character subsumes Barfield's. In spite of such changes, Markos remains confident that Lewis scholars will recognize the core truth of the narrative and enjoy several "inside" references. Since much of the film takes place after Tolkien's The Hobbit has been published, lines of dialogue that prefigure what the audience knows is to come should be a source of delight for many familiar with Lewis's story.

Markos said he wants his project to remain true to Lewis's and Tolkien's friendship, as contemporary films that depict male friendship are increasingly rare.

Three Agree films is hoping for a 2013 release of The Lion Awakes to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of C. S. Lewis's death. Here's a "concept trailer" for the film:

Kenneth R. Morefield, a CT film critic, is an Associate Professor of English at Campbell University and founder of 1More Film Blog.

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