There is probably no one better qualified than Mark Joseph to write a book about how The Chronicles of Narnia finally got made into a Hollywood movie. Joseph worked in development and marketing during the years The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was being created, so he has intimate knowledge of what went down.
However, instead of creating a “tell all,” the author uses public sources to tell the story. In fact, over half of the book is direct quotations from press articles, interviews, and reviews. This overload of excerpts is at first glance a bit disconcerting, although Joseph handles the transitions between quotations well enough. The great value of the book is that vast resources have been collected and organized, helping the reader gain perspective on how the Narnia movies came to be.
“Purists” have long fumed over “what they did to our books,” and I have identified with much of the concern. But, as The Lion, the Professor and the Movies tells us, things could have been much worse. During early negotiations with the studios, Douglas Gresham was sure the movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia were going to be set in modern southern California, and that the White Witch would be conjuring up cheeseburgers instead of Turkish delight. Early versions of the script also portrayed the Pevensie children as foul-mouthed and cynical. It is no wonder that lovers of the books who were involved in its development are so pleased by the outcome on the big screen.
The chapter titled “Original Intent” considers at length Lewis’s views of “Mere Christianity” and why he wrote The Chronicles. It includes an interesting commentary on the differences between “Fundamentalists” and “Evangelicals,” and how these groups embraced (or failed to embrace) Lewis’s ideas. Other chapters give insight on the filming of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and how Narnia was marketed. The concluding chapter looks to the future of the series and includes reactions to Liam Neeson’s controversial statements made just before the book was published in December of 2010.
The Lion, the Professor and the Movies: Narnia’s Journey to the Big Screen is a well-organized presentation of how C S Lewis’s Chronicles made it to film. I highly recommend this book to any fan.