Growing Up in Narnia: An Interview with Douglas Gresham

Len Howser | "Family Friendly Morning Show," 95.5 FM the Fish in Cleveland | Monday, June 23, 2008

Growing Up in Narnia: An Interview with Douglas Gresham

June 23, 2008

Len Howser of “The Family Friendly Morning Show” on 95.5 the Fish in Cleveland, Ohio interviewed Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, about the movie release of “Prince Caspian” and “growing up in Narnia.”

Len Howser: Now I understand you are in Malta, right?

Douglas Gresham: That’s right, right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

Howser: And the temperature is very similar to Houston, 94, 95 degrees, but you say you like it like that.

Gresham: I spent 27 years in Australia out there in the desert country where I worked quite a lot it. It does tend to get hot. I got used to it and I love it.

Howser: With the advent of the second movie now, “Narnia: Prince Caspian.” My wife and I just saw it and my wife walked out, turned to me and said, “That was better then the first one.”

Gresham: I’m hearing a lot of people say that. Thank you.

Howser: The message we got out of it was never give up, never lose hope.

Gresham: That’s certainly part of it. But it’s also the fact that in everybody’s life—except for some very fortunate people—we all stray away. We all at some stage lose faith, we wander off into the world, the world butts into our life, and we have to find our way back to true faith and justice, and honor and glory, and courage and responsibility, and commitment. That’s the journey that each of the children and the whole world of Narnia have to take in “Prince Caspian,” and finally the end message to me, in the movie, is that no matter how far we stray away, and how long it takes, there is always just one way back, and we have to find it and use it.

Howser: Well put. Describe your life as the stepson of C.S. Lewis. Had he written “Narnia”?—at what time in your life did that come up?

Gresham: Well, I think he was working on the last few when I first met him and got to know him well. I was eight years old at the time. I had just come across from America (where I had grown up, to that point) to England. And this is the early 1950s. Of course to me—a little boy from America—I had read the Narnia Chronicles or those that had existed at that time or had them read to me. I had read some of the King Arthur’s stories, and I sort of expected this country England to be riding around on horses and armor, carrying swords. I was going to meet the man who was on speaking terms with Aslan, the Great Lion, and High King Peter of Narnia. I thought he was going to be wearing armor and carrying a sword for sure. Of course he was nothing like that at all. He was a super, balding professorial gentleman, exceptionally kind and compassionate man with a great sense of fun and a great sense of humor.

My childhood, by anybody’s standard, was a bit difficult because everyone kept dying on me every year or so.

Howser: Wow.

Gresham: But at the same time, in a way, a great privilege of education. I don’t think, if I had to choose, I would swap with anybody else’s.

Howser: Did you talk about Narnia with him?

Gresham: We talked quite a bit a lot about Narnia. But also, after my mother and he had married and he became my stepfather, Jack and I had this kind of running gag or running game going that we treated Narnia as if it were real and we were living right on the edge of it.

Up behind the house we lived in the Kilns in Headington Quarry, Oxford there is a wood and a lake and we always used to walk up there wondering whether we would see a fawn today or maybe a dryad. We treated it as though it was real. I grew up in Narnia in fact.

Howser: I was going to say that. You had an extraordinary life living in Narnia actually.

Gresham: That’s true. I can’t wait to get back. But I do every time we make a movie.

Howser: How do you think your stepfather would have viewed the movie renditions that are coming out now of his novels?

Gresham: I have to think he would be thrilled. Otherwise I would have been wasting my time making these movies the way we have. His one problem with cinema way back in his day was he saw this emerging technology—wonderful technology even then of course by our standards and he was so worried about the uses to which it was being put, and what it was being made into, and what was happening with it.

So, I think he’d be very overjoyed that we are, in a way, grabbing it back again from the hands of the enemy. Making the “Narnian Chronicles,” and I’d also think Jack would be delighted with the majesty, and the dignity of Aslan we have put on the screen, particularly in Prince Caspian, and also in some of the other scenes, which I’m not going to describe, because that would give too much away. But what I will talk about is Reepicheep who was one of Jack’s own favorite characters. Reepicheep in the movie is just going; he just charms everybody’s socks off. He is a fabulous mouse. He is voiced by Eddie Izzard the famous English actor who does a wonderful job of him. Of course, Reepicheep is just a superstar, he is fabulous.

Howser: Well then let’s turn around. Watching these movies and even co-producing them—getting out there in the filming and everything—it must be exciting to you, I mean you are a grown up child, right?

Gresham: Oh, absolutely. It’s, very few people, I guess, have the honor and privilege of having a dream since they were young, a teenager or something, and seeing it not only come true but come true in ways which far exceed his own imaginations and expectations. When I first went out to New Zealand to watch the beginnings of the filming of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” I actually took a look around on one stage and I had to walk away and be by myself for a while. I was so moved at the beauty that the film team were creating, and the majesty of the way things were coming together and the attention to detail…. It’s a very beautiful experience for me, wondrous experience.

Howser: What’s coming up for Narnia from here?

Gresham: We do have “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in pre-production.

Howser: We appreciate everything that you’ve done to contribute and giving your guidance and everything into the production of the film and keeping true to the original intent of C.S. Lewis, your stepfather….

Gresham: My pleasure indeed.


Len Howser is co-host with Brooke Taylor of “The Family Friendly Morning Show” on 95.5 the Fish in Cleveland, Ohio. Contact Len at mailtlenhowser@salemcleveland.com.

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