Wednesday, August 05, 2009

As detailed two days ago, if the Chronicles of Narnia are going to be brought to the big screen (joining literary brethren the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia), it needs to be faithfully done. To do so would mean fully embracing the roots of the story, based on Welsh legend and mythology. As detailed yesterday, this can be further bolstered by taking filming on location to Wales itself, utilizing the amazing topography as well as ancient castles.
It stands to reason that the final big piece in an essentially Welsh story filmed in Wales would be to have as close to an all-Welsh cast as possible.

For starters, I think you actually go against the obvious and not bring on board the most recognizable Wales native in the acting business--Anthony Hopkins. Too recognizable (and probably too expensive).

However, there are plenty of noteworthy Welsh actors who aren't so big as to overwhelm the story while still accomplished enough to make for a quality film rather than a popcorn flick.

Ioan Gruffudd as Gwydion: one of the major heroes of the story, the war leader for the forces of good and next in line for the position of High King of Prydain. Gruffudd portrayed Reed Richards in the two Fantastic Four movies, was Lancelot in a recent King Arthur film, and has seen action in blockbusters such as Titanic and Black Hawk Down.

John Rhys-Davies as Dallben: every story of this type has to have the all-knowing wizard type, be it Ben Kenobi in Star Wars or Gandolf in LOTR. Dallben is a 300 year old enchanter who is arguably the most powerful figure in Prydain and stands as a major foe to the forces of evil. Rhys-Davies, having portrayed the dwarf Gimli in the Tolkien series, already has an impressive background in this genre. He also had a notable role in the Indiana Jones series as Sallah. At over 6'1, he can cut an imposing figure.
Michael Sheen as Coll: Sheen has burst on the scene recently with two significant roles, first as Tony Blair in The Queen, then as David Frost in Frost/Nixon. For fans of non-thinking entertainment, he also had major roles in the two Underworld films. Coll is a simple farmer with a hidden heroic past who serves as a more hands-on mentor to Taran. Only thing is, Coll is bald as a cue ball, so Sheen is going to have to break out the razor!
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Achren: one of the two main female roles in the series, Achren is a former queen of Prydain, now deposed and with a serious mean streak. Maybe no other character goes through as radical a change in their persona during the course of the saga as she seeks revenge against the traitor who overthrew her. The first book describes her as a raven-haired beauty and not too many 40-something actresses fit the bill quite like her.

Rhys Ifans as Fflewddur Fflam: the bard, one of Taran's two chief companions during his adventures, is long and lanky with wild golden hair, a good-hearted goofball of sorts. With slightly yellower hair and better hygeine than his character in Notting Hill, I can definitely see Ifans in this role.

Now, it's far easier looking for accomplished Welsh adult actors for these and other critical roles than it is for the lead positions of Taran and Eilonwy. With the five above and others I've pictured in some of the other slots, it's simple enough watching them in other big roles and know that they've got the chops to pull it off. But as this is a coming-of-age tale in some regards, the two lead characters are probably in the 15 year old range as I see it. Not being Welsh, I probably wouldn't consider Cayden Boyd (Taran) or Adair Tishler (Eilonwy), but they do have the general look that I'm searching for to fill those two critical roles.

Tomorrow: part 4, the final installment of the impossible dream.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I want movies to be made based on the books in the Chronicles of Prydain. But unlike the abomination of an animated flick that came out in 1985, I would also like to see them as faithful to the source material as possible. To achieve the level of authenticity that does the series justice, I think there are three factors. One, as mentioned, is to stick to story that's already there.
The other two factors I'll break up into two posts. But first, a little backstory. The author of the Prydain series, Lloyd Alexander, was inspired by two things when creating this universe. One was the legend of King Arthur, specifically some of the minor characters who he borrowed and then created new identities for. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, was the time that he spent in Wales during World War II. By all accounts, he fell in love with the mythology of the place, the language, and especially the beauty. While Prydain wasn't simply Wales with different names ascribed, there's no doubt that the country was his inspiration.
That said, the movie should be filmed entirely on location in Wales. The rich descriptions that Alexander provided for his readers, be it the underworld of the Fair Folk, the majestic river Avren, the foreboding Marshes of Morva, and the dazzling stronghold of Caer Dathyl, all have their basis of his beloved Wales. However, nowhere have I been able to find where Alexander makes direct correlations between actual locations on the Isle vs. places in the books.
But I do have my own visions in my head of what Prydain looks like, along with the inclination to research Wales and wade through hundreds of photographs and descriptions. Some of the notable places that jump out of me as good shooting locations to fit into the story include:
Swallow Falls, ideal for the spot where Ellidyr steals the Black Cauldron from the companions as it it lodged in rough waters late in the second book.

Castell Coch, perfect for Spiral Castle, a pivotal stronghold in The Book of Three.

Beaumaris Castle, a potential stand-in for Caer Dathyl, the home of Prydain's High King.

Fairy Glen, brings to mind the spot of crucial death and turn in the series.

The mountains at Snowden, which could double as any of a number of notable locations, but for some reason I see it fitting best in the final story.

Gwrych Castle, maybe Annuvin (with some serious CGI to strip the folliage off the mountain behind it) or perhaps Smoit's Cantrev Cadiffor.

These are just a few of the places that I have in mind if/when this dream comes to fruition. Tomorrow, which actors to put in these locations to make it all come to life.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Star Wars. Harry Potter. To a lesser extent, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tales on the big screen in which a young hero comes of age and defeats overwhelming evil with the help of a loyal band of companions. Simple premise and a time-honored tradition in story-telling that, oh, by the way, has resulted in ticket sales between those franchises of around $12.3 billion.

And as each of these film series became more and more of a cultural phenomena, it made me scratch my head in confusion that the Chronicles of Prydain was never given the same treatment. Five children's books with critical acclaim (including Newbery Honor and Newbery Medal winners), a story structure similar to proven winners...what gives?

Sure, Disney gave it a half-hearted go back in the mid-80's, doing an awful mash-up of the first two entries in the series, deleting out some key characters and making up a few new ones, changing the overall storyline and generally making it unrecognizable from the books. What they got for their laughable effort was a flick that barely recouped 40% of the cost to make it.

There's a way to make this work and stand out, but it would take an imaginative plan. And I'm just the fella to make those recommendations. More posts to come on this subject...

Labels: ,