VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER
An In-depth Interview with Narnia's Eustace
By Hannah Goodwyn
- “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
These are the first words found in C.S. Lewis' epic children's book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and how true they are at describing a new character to The Chronicles of Narnia series. Cousin to the Pevensie children, Eustace is an independent, logically minded pain who doesn't appreciate being transported to the magical world of Narnia when he and his two cousins, Edmund and Lucy, are swallowed up by a painting. He is a wickedly annoying boy for the first half of the tale, but as fans of The Chronicles know, he experiences a significant character change while in Narnia.
Young British actor Will Poulter fills the dramatically and comedically demanding role of Eustace in this his first major motion picture. In an recent exclusive interview with CBN.com, Poulter recounts his first memories of the C.S. Lewis' faith-filled stories, his thoughts on Eustace's journey in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and his hopes for future Narnia films.
CBN.com: When were you first introduced to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series?
Poulter: I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was a kid. And I think it was read to me. Me and my sister both had a copy and loved the books. [I] absolutely loved them. I think most kids do. Then, I saw a BBC version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; and I saw various remakes of the film. But then seeing the actual, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I absolutely loved it. It became one of my favorite films. It was a real Christmas classic and it was one of the most popular films ever in British history. So I think if someone told me that I’d be part of the franchise, then I would have thought they were mad.
I’d never read Prince Caspian. I watched it and loved that film. Everybody was talking about its lack of success; its relative success in comparison to the other film. It’s a great film. It deserved to do a lot better than it did. It’s very difficult to make a film that will match up to the first. That’s obviously what we’re aiming to do in this one, but whether we will or not is another story. It’s difficult to do, but we’re hoping that this film will reach near that.
CBN.com: You never thought you could be a part of the series as Eustace?
Poulter: No, not at all. I never in a million years would have guessed I’d be part of this. It really is so surreal to me now. I pinch myself when I see posters and boxes with our faces on them. It really is crazy.
CBN.com: You portray Eustace as the obnoxious cousin to Lucy and Edmund that he’s supposed to be so very well, yet have been called the nicest kid by cast and crew.
Poulter: Oh, well, that’s kind. Well, I hope I’m not anything like Eustace; otherwise, I would have been thrown off the ship on the first day I think. But no, I don’t know really. I think being Eustace was quite difficult; I hope anyway. It was quite difficult emotionally and physically—because he needs attention, I felt that the character needed actually a lot of attention from me. It’s really weird. The emotional kind of physical investment that you have to give is different with each character. Eustace needs a lot because he was going to vent a lot in the situation that he was in Narnia.
He’s a lonely kid. There’s something quite sad about Eustace’s life. I saw that he lives on his own in this house with no other brothers and sisters. The Pevensie children stand out, and they’ve got this great relationship, and they love each other very much. And that’s evident throughout the films. They’re staying in his house and his reaction to that is to tease them, to bully them almost. There’s something quite sad about that. At the end of the film, as much as he does learn about himself, one of the most important things he learns is to be part of family, to feel a part of something, to love someone else as much as they love you. That was really cool as well.
CBN.com: Eustace is the logical to Edmund and Lucy’s belief. Tell me the story from his perspective and about his transformation.
Poulter: I think everyone who turns up in Narnia would be completely freaked out, but they’d love it. Eustace, who is a wimp, a coward, a selfish person, is one with the same surprise, the same shock, and the same kind of apprehensions that you would have, but they’re exaggerated because of his nature, that sort of hyperbolic in there. His reaction is less to go up and stare and enjoy, but instead strop and moan and make it a misery for everybody else. He gradually develops a liking to Narnia and more so than he’d care to admit actually.
The odd line where he sees things that he thinks are amazing. And it surprises the others. There’s a bit of map where he goes, “that’s quite beautiful”, looking at a map. All the others look at him like, did you just say that? And he goes, “I mean for a make-believe map for a make-believe world”. So he doesn’t want to admit it, but he does represent for the audience the reaction that you might have if you were his character. He represents the natural reaction that one might have, but in a kind of comical way, I suppose. He was fun to play for that reason.
CBN.com: When did you first become aware of the story's spiritual elements?
Poulter: When I was younger, I wasn’t as aware of them. But as I grew up, I became more aware certainly of the spiritual symbolism and the religious undertones to Narnia and actually how important it was in forming the stories. And I do love that about the films and that’s great.
For those who do look for those spiritual messages and those religious values within the film, they’re all there. And what’s great about Narnia is that it doesn’t in any way limit the audience that it appeals to and if anything it broadens it. That also means that for those who aren’t looking for those kind of undertones that it doesn’t slap them in the face. It’s there and for those that take I suppose in heart satisfaction from reading those messages that they’re able to find them. That’s vitally, vitally important.
They were saying in the [press] conference, I didn’t know, but C.S. Lewis used to be a famous atheist. So it’s interesting. It would be a complete disservice to him and a huge disrespect if we weren’t to include those, because I don’t think the stories work without them.
CBN.com: Two scenes stand out: the scene of Eustace’s transformation back into a boy and when he explains the experience saying something to the effect of “It was hard, but it was a good pain” as the children sail on a sea of lilies toward Aslan's country. These and so many other instances act as reminders of the story’s connections to Christianity.
Poulter: Absolutely. And that’s interesting. That wasn’t originally in the script, that little bit in the boat. I was saying, “I really love to say sorry.” You want to apologize. And the redemption that he’s eventually granted with… obviously, one can’t redeem themselves... In Aslan, he has a figure to do so, but he also has forgiveness from those around him and those closest to him. If you have people closest to you, forgiveness is the first thing that you want in order to satisfy the guilt.
CBN.com: What’s your take on the relationship between Eustace and the warrior mouse Reepicheep?
Poulter: Reepicheep really is the polar opposite of Eustace. That’s an incredible example for him in a way because he really is the modest, humble, diligent, hardworking, noble, courageous person that Eustace has to become and knows he has to become. Reepicheep really teaches that to him, and that’s fantastic. He sort of governs the path Eustace goes on and then takes him from this hateful character to a redeemed and reformed person. \ Reepicheep is usually grateful. If you have anyone in your life that opens your eyes to a new you and to a new life, and they then go, the pain of that is just immeasurable. That must have been tough for Eustace, certainly.
CBN.com: Executive Producer Douglas Gresham hinted hopefully at making The Silver Chair, which your character would star in, as it's the next book in the Narnia series. Are you excited about that possibility?
Poulter: Absolutely. Yes. If that did happen, that would be absolutely fantastic. I would love to continue to do The Silver Chair. But obviously, there are complications that lie in the way and depending on the performance of this film and how everyone else receives it. People are very sad to see Susan and Peter go. And they’ll feel an equal amount of sadness, almost as much, to see Skandar and Georgie go because Lucy and Edmund have been in the films the longest and they’re the youngest members of the family.
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Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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