AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Rob Holding, host of “The Home Run” on Radio Rhema in New Zealand recently talked on air to co-producer Douglas Gresham about his role with the upcoming Narnia film, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
He discovered that Gresham took a very hands-on approach and was intimately involved in the entire production process, and admits he is excited about the film’s potential.
“I saw a rough cut of the movie in Hollywood just the other day, and to be honest I am absolutely thrilled. It really is looking absolutely fantastic. To start with, it is visually beautiful and of course, the story is adhered to, so it is going to be terrific. It’s wonderful.”
Douglas Gresham as boy
Gresham knew C.S. Lewis (Jack) personally when he was a child; Douglas Gresham is one of two stepsons of C.S. Lewis from Lewis’ marriage to Gresham’s mother, Joy Davidman. One of Gresham’s fondest memories of him was Jack’s sense of humor and wit.
“When we look at C.S. Lewis for a moment, most of us get our impression of him not from the books, but from the ‘Shadowlands’ movie,” noted Holding.
“That’s interesting. You know, ‘Shadowlands’ the movie was emotionally, in terms of the emotional transitions that the protagonist went through, was extremely accurate. But in actual terms of the character portrayal of Jack, himself and the way he was dressed and so on is completely inaccurate. It is not historically accurate in any way at all.
“Jack, for example, was not as eloquent as Anthony Hopkins portrayed him in the movie. Jack was always dressed in scruffy clothes. Jack never drove a car. Jack didn’t wear a watch and so on. [The way the script was written] Jack was depicted as a man who surrounded himself with inferior minds to avoid being challenged, when in fact the absolute opposite was true. Jack surrounded himself with the greatest minds available in Oxford of the day, in both England and in the world, with people like Ron Tolkien and others. He loved being challenged.”
Jack and some of these “great minds” formed a society surrounding him, called the “Inklings.” “They spent their time shredding each others work, as they read it aloud to one another. But at the same time they maintained an enormously good friendship throughout their entire lives,” said Gresham. “The result was works like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’ They went through a fire of refinement by some of the greatest literary minds of the century.”
“The one thing that is always lost in recollections of Jack in movies and biographies about Jack is his enormous humor and vibrancy of his wit. You couldn’t be with Jack for more than five or ten minutes without roaring with laughter. One of the great hallmarks of the Inklings meetings was the gales of laughter that came as they discussed each other’s work,” said Gresham.
Holding pointed out the “Christian Analogies” which seem to be depicted throughout the entire “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” series. Gresham responded, “Much like the book, you will find in the movie as much Christian symbolism as you want to. I know lots and lots of people who have read the book and never dreamt there was any Christian symbolism in it. I have known Jews (who have made similar comparisons). This is not a Christian movie, any more than Jack decided to sit down and write a Christian book. In fact, Jack himself said, ‘We do not need more people writing Christian books, what we need is more Christians writing good books.'”
In the same way, Gresham said, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is not so quickly to be labeled as “a Christian movie.” “It is not supposed to be. It is simply a visual telling of ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,’ which is beautifully done.”
In the same way, Gresham said that the story of Narnia was not inspired by a specific “wardrobe.” “There was no specific wardrobe. It was just a literary device to get the children from one world to another,” he said.
In addition to writing books and working on movies, Gresham and his wife founded and operate a ministry in Ireland. “The Lord built this ministry of counseling and caring,” he said. “We find ourselves working with people with all kinds of problems and with people from all walks of life … We also make our home available to missionaries, ministers and pastors (from all over the world) who need to take a break or a holiday, and we make it available to them as well.”
With the counseling Gresham does, Holding asked, “What is the number one problem people have today?” Gresham responded, “We find that most people in today’s world fall into the lies of secularism and have dismissed God. The fact that people do not have God in their lives is the number one problem in the world today … Every third person we meet has no God in their lives. I don’t know what it is like in your country (of New Zealand), but in Ireland, the second highest cause of death is suicide, because people have no God and they have no hope. They have no knowledge of God or Jesus Christ.
“Quite frankly, I blame the churches for this. The churches have misdirected people, mis-taught people and have taught people a lot of rubbish. They have been so separatist for so many centuries that people are seeing the results in the world of sectarianism and are rejecting Christ along with the churches. They throw out the baby with the bath water … It’s largely caused by the churches and the misdirection given over the centuries.”
In addition to the movie, Gresham is currently working on a book called “Jack’s Life,” which is his telling of Jack’s biography, which will release in the fall from Broadman and Holman.
He also has hopes to do other movies in the future. “We certainly hope so. It all depends on how many of you go and see the movie, and how often you go and see it,” said Gresham. “Obviously, if this movie is a success, we will go on and make the next one.”