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Narnia Actors Doubling for Different Roles?  

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Wanderer Between Worlds
(@wanderer)
NarniaWeb Nut

This was a stage adaptation mentioned by @icarus over on the New Era, New Wardrobe? thread in regards to mirrors and mirror universes, and it got me thinking:

Posted by: @icarus 

I think i've seen stage shows where the Professor doubles as Father Christmas, Mrs Macready doubles as the White Witch, etc. However that's pure artistic interpretation and not anything that is present in the text.

     I didn’t know that some stage plays did this!  If you have any more information about the stage play, icarus, I’d love to know more.  

     While it is an intriguing artistic interpretation (though like you said, it is nowhere in the text), I think that having the Professor double as Father Christmas and Mrs. Macready double as the White Witch creates multiple problems and is even detrimental to the heart of the story.  (The only real benefit I could see from doing this type of casting would be if they chose to show more of Susan’s doubt of Narnia later on.  Perhaps then they could have her refer to Narnia as a game they made up as children, making Mrs. Macready into a witch and pretending that the Professor was Father Christmas, this giving her more fuel for her doubt.  However, even this might be a stretch.)

     If one extrapolates, one can very quickly reach the conclusion that everything in Narnia has to have a real-world counterpart.  The only character/being that is stated as having a real-world counterpart is Aslan, at the end of VDT, and even then it is I think implied that he moves between the worlds himself and does not have a “mirror” version (Mr. Beaver says at the end of LWW that Aslan is going to attend to “another country“).  

     Having actors/actresses double for roles would also be too reminiscent of The Wizard of Ozwhere it is shown at the end (or at least heavily implied) that Dorothy was dreaming all along.  In my opinion, having this association undermines the world-building because the fact that Narnia actually exists is why we (and the others) believe Lucy, and it is why their experiences in Narnia transform their lives permanently.  

     Ultimately, having actors/actresses playing multiple roles can be interesting, but I think that it creates problems with Narnia.  Perhaps the BBC adaptations might’ve run into a similar problem with Barbara Kellerman playing both the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle (maybe even amplifying the theories that the Lady of the Green Kirtle and the White Witch were sisters, related, the same person, etc.)?

     All this said, I don’t think that Netflix should take this route.  Could you see Netflix considering this?

Note: All of my above speculation assumes that actors/actresses voices and appearances remained enough alike throughout them playing different characters to cause an issue in the first place.

"I am,” said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

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Posted : June 30, 2020 12:03 pm
Courtenay liked
Glenwit
(@glenwit)
NarniaWeb Regular

Hard no from me.  That would make people think it's trying to copy the Wizard of Oz movie.  

What I initially thought you meant was bringing people back from other adaptations for another role (like Warwick Davis, who portrayed Reepicheep in the BBC series and Nikabrik in the Walden Series).  Dunno why my brain made that leap, but Ben Barnes has expressed interest in being cast in the Netflix series.  Also, having Georgie Henley back in some cameo or recurring role would be amazing.  But I digress...

 The same actors playing multiple characters would be really obvious, especially when the series has a budget to have each character played by its own actors (whereas a stage adaptation might not).  The only place I might make an exception is if one of the characters is a voice role.  For example, John Rhys Davies played the dwarf Gimli in the Lord of the Rings Films.  He also provided the voice of Treebeard the Ent.  Something like that might be interesting, but no Jadis McCready or Professor Santa Kirke please.

 

 

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Posted : June 30, 2020 1:00 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Hi Wanderer,

I was just working on an answer to your post in the wardrobe thread and then found you've started a new thread here, so I'll post here instead!

Posted by: @wanderer

     Having actors/actresses double for roles would also be too reminiscent of The Wizard of Ozwhere it is shown at the end (or at least heavily implied) that Dorothy was dreaming all along.  In my opinion, having this association undermines the world-building because the fact that Narnia actually exists is why we (and the others) believe Lucy, and it is why their experiences in Narnia transform their lives permanently.

Interestingly, that was only the case in the film version of The Wizard of Oz — in the original book, there's no suggestion at all that the characters Dorothy meets in Oz are counterparts or reflections of those in her own world, let alone that she dreamed the whole thing. She really does get blown to another world and she does need real magic (not just her love of home) to transport her back again. I remember reading somewhere that the "dream" aspect of the film — implying Oz was just the imaginary product of Dorothy's subconscious fears and longings, not a real magical world — really upset a lot of fans of the original story. I definitely hope that Netflix WON'T take anything like that route.

As you say, it's vital that with the Narnia stories, we as the audience understand that Narnia is a real place that transforms the children's lives, not just a dream or a game they were playing. That in itself, I think, is what makes Susan's eventual rejection of Narnia so shocking — it's been made so clear throughout the previous six books that Narnia is NOT an imaginary world at all, but a real place where Susan herself has lived and been a Queen and had so many marvellous adventures and experiences. So when she later dismisses Narnia as "all those funny games we used to play when we were children", we can see at once how horribly far she's managed to fool herself in the name of (as she thinks) being "grown up", because we know so well that there's nothing make-believe about Narnia.

On another note, I saw a stage play of LWW last year (in London just before Christmas) that also had at least one actor playing two roles, but with an even stranger twist — the actor who played the Professor doubled as Aslan! It was a totally ineffective portrayal of Aslan, too, unfortunately, as he was basically a human being in a big fur coat with a sort of empty-eyed winged lion puppet hovering above him some of the time. It made no sense at all theatrically or plot-wise — and implying that Aslan is somehow the same person as an elderly, eccentric professor certainly didn't support Lewis's intended message of who Aslan is really meant to be in our world!! Shocked  

 

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : June 30, 2020 1:05 pm
Cleander
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I'm definitely interested in seeing reprisals by the old cast but deliberately putting the same actor in a similar role in both the Narnian and English worlds robs the story of its believability- it becomes the silly fantasy that some critics of Narnia say it is. Narnia is supposed to be REAL! 

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Posted : June 30, 2020 1:48 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
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I think the only time I would be okay with this is if you really couldn't tell it was the same person. Like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, playing both Burt and the elderly banker. (At least, I sure didn't realize they were the same actor when I saw the movie as a child. Giggle )

During the long years of waiting for The Silver Chair to be made, before Netflix arrived, I remember wondering if they might have the same actress who played the LotGK also portray the Head at Experiment House. I wouldn't have liked it at all if you could tell it was her, but if there were really good prosthetics and it felt like a true "gotcha" moment when the credits rolled, I don't think I would mind.

At the same time, though, if people ended up leaving the theater (or turning off the television) thinking that Narnia was a mirrorworld/dreamworld because of that double role, even if it's only revealed in the credits... that would be really annoying. Tongue

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Posted : July 6, 2020 4:16 pm
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

I'm not aware that I ever knew he was also the senior Mr Dawes! 

I agree with you that if they play a  second role, it should not relate to their original one in any way.  

In the books, Narnia is real, not a 'game we used to play as children'.

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Posted : July 6, 2020 7:04 pm
Ryadian
(@ryadian)
Member Moderator
Posted by: @courtenay

On another note, I saw a stage play of LWW last year (in London just before Christmas) that also had at least one actor playing two roles, but with an even stranger twist — the actor who played the Professor doubled as Aslan!  

I've heard that this is also pretty common, and I'm not sure whether having the Professor be Santa or Aslan confuses the point more. Giggle I saw a LWW ballet where the dancer/actor who played Tumnus also played Aslan. Then again, I'm pretty sure that had far more to do with a lack of male dancers than trying to make some kind of point.

I'm pretty forgiving of these kinds of doubling roles in plays and other stage performances to save on actors. But I also agree with the general consensus that this shouldn't be done intentionally to draw some kind of parallel. Conflating Mrs. Macready with the White Witch especially feels kind of harsh to Mrs. Macready. She's strict, sure, but I suspect the children would stop short of comparing her with the Witch. Giggle

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Posted : July 6, 2020 7:21 pm
Courtenay
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Posted by: @ryadian

I'm pretty forgiving of these kinds of doubling roles in plays and other stage performances to save on actors. But I also agree with the general consensus that this shouldn't be done intentionally to draw some kind of parallel. Conflating Mrs. Macready with the White Witch especially feels kind of harsh to Mrs. Macready. She's strict, sure, but I suspect the children would stop short of comparing her with the Witch. Giggle

Yes, I agree. They call her "the Macready" and she is a bit of a killjoy, but there's no indication that they think she would go so far as to turn them to stone or make it always winter and never Christmas!!

I'm pretty sure the stage version of LWW that I saw late last year also had the same actress playing Mrs Macready and the Witch, just as it had the same actor playing the Professor and Aslan. I'm not sure if they were intending to draw a parallel with either of them, but it sort of felt as if they were (especially with the Professor / Aslan connection), although I'm sure it was also meant to save on actors. But it does sort of imply the same sort of atmosphere as the film version of The Wizard of Oz, where horrible Miss Gulch becomes the Wicked Witch, the kind-hearted charlatan Professor Marvel becomes the Wizard, and so on — all these people from Dorothy's real life are transformed into equivalent characters in her fantasy / dream world. I think doing that with Narnia, even without being explicit about it, does somehow cheapen the story by making it look like Narnia too is a product of the Pevensie children's subconscious hopes and fears and other thoughts and feelings, rather than a real and separate world in its own right.

Actually, there was another aspect of that production that also came somewhat into the 2005 film of LWW, but this stage version emphasised it even more — drawing very clear parallels between the war the children are experiencing as WW2 evacuees, and the war of resistance that the Narnians are fighting against the White Witch. That is a fairly obvious connection and I'm not surprised to see modern interpretations of LWW making a big deal of it, but the fact is that Lewis himself doesn't do that at all. He mentions "the war" once in the second sentence of the first chapter of the book and makes absolutely zero references to it thereafter. And he was writing this book only five years after the actual war ended, so it's not as if it was a distant memory for him or for many of his readers!! But either it didn't occur to him to make any comparison between the recent real-life war and Narnia's struggle, or he deliberately avoided doing so. Whichever way, that also steers readers away from any sense that Narnia is a product of — or a projection of — the children's imagination. Again, it'll be interesting to see whether Netflix does anything at all in that direction.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : July 6, 2020 11:45 pm
icarus
(@icarus)
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Posted by: @courtenay

Actually, there was another aspect of that production that also came somewhat into the 2005 film of LWW, but this stage version emphasised it even more — drawing very clear parallels between the war the children are experiencing as WW2 evacuees, and the war of resistance that the Narnians are fighting against the White Witch. 

Although I agree with you that the 2005 Movie makes a very obvious attempt to draw this sort of parallel between the Narnian World and the Real World, I never felt like it had any thematic resonance, largely because as you say the Narnian's are fighting a war of resistance in an occupied country against a hostile regime, whereas even in the darkest days of WW2, Britain was merely surrounded but was never occupied (apart from the Channel Islands). Therefore its not as if the Pevensie's can really relate their "struggle" of being evacuated to the fairly opulent surroundings of an upper class country estate, to the struggles of the Beavers living under the brutally oppressive regime of a hostile foreign power. If CS Lewis had been intending to make WW2 a thematic quality of the book, with the White Witch being a commentary on Fascism, then he would have been better placed to set the story in occupied France (or the aforementioned Channel Islands), but he didn't.

On the subject of the original topic (using the same actors to "mirror image" characters from the real world with characters from the Narnian world), just to clarify that this is not something I was advocating for in the original post, but was just raising as a counter-point (in the other thread) as to why I felt sticking a mirror in the Wardrobe door would be a confusing visual metaphor, given that Narnia is definitely not a mirror-image fantasy world. As several people have mentioned, doubling-up the roles in this manner its an excusable, and perfectly understandable quality for stage productions, particularly school plays where adult teachers to fill the grown up roles are often in short supply.

Even if the upcoming Netflix show did decide to double-up roles in a "just for fun, Easter Egg" sort of way (see the "Cloud Atlas" movie where there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to which actors double in which roles), I can imagine it just would cause all the same sorts of future headaches for us NarniaWebbers that the BBC's decision to re-use Barbara Kelleman for LOTGK caused all those decades ago,

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Posted : July 7, 2020 1:18 pm
Courtenay
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Posted by: @icarus

Although I agree with you that the 2005 Movie makes a very obvious attempt to draw this sort of parallel between the Narnian World and the Real World, I never felt like it had any thematic resonance, largely because as you say the Narnian's are fighting a war of resistance in an occupied country against a hostile regime, whereas even in the darkest days of WW2, Britain was merely surrounded but was never occupied (apart from the Channel Islands). Therefore its not as if the Pevensie's can really relate their "struggle" of being evacuated to the fairly opulent surroundings of an upper class country estate, to the struggles of the Beavers living under the brutally oppressive regime of a hostile foreign power. If CS Lewis had been intending to make WW2 a thematic quality of the book, with the White Witch being a commentary on Fascism, then he would have been better placed to set the story in occupied France (or the aforementioned Channel Islands), but he didn't.

That's a good point. I've only seen the movie once and don't remember that aspect of it very well, but I agree it wasn't something that resonated throughout the entire film. Whereas the stage production I saw last year — to be fair, this was in Britain just as we're beginning to commemorate the 80th anniversary of each stage of WW2 — milked the "war" themes for all they were worth. We as the audience were all given period-style "evacuee" tickets that we had to wave for effect a couple of times during the play; the opening scene made a big deal of a large group of children, including the four Pevensies, being officially processed and directed to their train carriages and making a (symbolically staged) journey to their destination; and throughout much of their time in Narnia, there were several invented-for-the-play "Narnian Resistance" characters (a badger, a squirrel and a couple of others I can't quite remember) popping up periodically from trapdoors in the stage to give secret reports to each other (through tin-can phones!) about the four children's progress through Narnia. It was made clear that these "resistance" characters were the ones that commissioned the Beavers to find the children and direct them to Aslan. An inventive and fun take on the story, but it gave it quite a different overall "feel" from the original book — and I like your point that Britain, unlike many European countries, wasn't actually occupied by the Nazis, so the supposed parallel with Narnia's occupation doesn't really work. I hadn't quite thought of that, but it does underscore the fact that Lewis WASN'T trying to make the real-life war a thematic element of the story.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : July 7, 2020 2:50 pm
Pattertwigs Pal
(@pattertwigs-pal)
Member Moderator

Mod Note: This thread is starting to get off topic. Please only discuss WW II and how it is used in the adaptation as it relates to actors playing multiple roles. However, the role of WWII in adaptations is an interesting topic. Feel free to start a topic for it in GMD.

@ryadian You beat me too it. I'm pretty sure they didn't have enough male ballet dancers to have one for Tumnus and one for Aslan.

In stage productions I don't mind actors playing multiple roles. I don't even mind Barbara Kellerman playing a different role in LWW, PC, and SC.  Or Warwick Davis playing Reepicheep and Glimfeather. Or Big Mick (Mick Walter) playing Ginarrbrik and Trumpkin. I don't understand why Lord of the Rings had the same actor play Treebeard and Gimli. I wouldn't want the same actor playing multiple roles in the same movie (or book)

 


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Posted : July 7, 2020 7:44 pm
Wanderer Between Worlds
(@wanderer)
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Posted by: @courtenay

Interestingly, that was only the case in the film version of The Wizard of Oz — in the original book, there's no suggestion at all that the characters Dorothy meets in Oz are counterparts or reflections of those in her own world, let alone that she dreamed the whole thing...I remember reading somewhere that the "dream" aspect of the film — implying Oz was just the imaginary product of Dorothy's subconscious fears and longings, not a real magical world — really upset a lot of fans of the original story.

It’s been so long since I’ve read The Wizard of Oz—I’d forgotten the differences in the endings.  And given that there are many more Oz books (as with Narnia), it is clear that both worlds are real. 

On another note, I saw a stage play of LWW last year (in London just before Christmas) that also had at least one actor playing two roles, but with an even stranger twist — the actor who played the Professor doubled as Aslan! It was a totally ineffective portrayal of Aslan, too, unfortunately, as he was basically a human being in a big fur coat with a sort of empty-eyed winged lion puppet hovering above him some of the time. It made no sense at all theatrically or plot-wise — and implying that Aslan is somehow the same person as an elderly, eccentric professor certainly didn't support Lewis's intended message of who Aslan is really meant to be in our world!! Shocked

That’s really strange!  Aslan and the Professor?  That just creates a host of other issues, especially, as you pointed out, when you take VDT and LB into consideration.  I think I’m beginning to prefer the Professor and Father Christmas, or even the Professor doubling as Mr. Beaver.   Giggle   Also, Aslan had wings?  That is certainly an interesting interpretation.

Posted by: @rose

I think the only time I would be okay with this is if you really couldn't tell it was the same person. Like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, playing both Burt and the elderly banker. (At least, I sure didn't realize they were the same actor when I saw the movie as a child. Giggle )

During the long years of waiting for The Silver Chair to be made, before Netflix arrived, I remember wondering if they might have the same actress who played the LotGK also portray the Head at Experiment House. I wouldn't have liked it at all if you could tell it was her, but if there were really good prosthetics and it felt like a true "gotcha" moment when the credits rolled, I don't think I would mind.

As a child, I didn’t realize Dick van Dyke’s double role either until my mom pointed it out in the credits!  Even now, it’s quite hard for me to tell.  I agree that the “gotcha” moment would be fun, if done well.  My only concern would be that people would jump to conclusions and start spinning theories again, like with LotGK and the White Witch.  There are many theories of movies/tv shows/book series that revolve around the story not happening at all, being a dream, or taking place inside people’s heads.  I just wouldn’t want that to happen to Narnia.

Posted by: @pattertwigs-pal

 I don't even mind Barbara Kellerman playing a different role in LWW, PC, and SC.  Or Warwick Davis playing Reepicheep and Glimfeather. Or Big Mick (Mick Walter) playing Ginarrbrik and Trumpkin. I don't understand why Lord of the Rings had the same actor play Treebeard and Gimli. I wouldn't want the same actor playing multiple roles in the same movie (or book).

I agre with this, especially if the characters the actors are doubling up on can’t be seen as “related” or “the same person.”  No one is probably going be confused and think that Reepicheep and Glimfeather are the same character or siblings, but that might happen with other roles.

Posted by: @courtenay

Whereas the stage production I saw last year — to be fair, this was in Britain just as we're beginning to commemorate the 80th anniversary of each stage of WW2 — milked the "war" themes for all they were worth.

I find this fascinating and would be happy to discuss it on another thread! Smile  Would you want to make it, or could I?

 

 

"I am,” said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

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Posted : July 8, 2020 8:58 am
Eustace
(@eustace)
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Frankly, until people started pointing out that Barbara Kellerman played both the WW and the LOTGK a few years ago, I did not even know she had played both characters. I had watched the shows several times but never noticed and I never thought they were the same person or even related.

 

But, I guess this just shows how oblivious I really am. I used to listen to these audiobooks when I was a 9 that were all read by the same person who did different voices but, I thought the voices of different people were voiced by different people.

So, I think for me it wouldn't matter so much if the characters did sound significantly different or looked significantly different. 


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Posted : July 8, 2020 12:42 pm
Col Klink
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Posted by: @courtenay

the stage production I saw last year — to be fair, this was in Britain just as we're beginning to commemorate the 80th anniversary of each stage of WW2 — milked the "war" themes for all they were worth. We as the audience were all given period-style "evacuee" tickets that we had to wave for effect a couple of times during the play

I agree that LWW as a metaphor for WW2 is a really weird interpretation but this honestly sounds fun. 😉 and like an interesting way to help the audience imagine what it would be like to be a contemporary of the protagonists.

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Posted : July 8, 2020 12:51 pm
Courtenay
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Posted by: @col-klink

I agree that LWW as a metaphor for WW2 is a really weird interpretation but this honestly sounds fun. 😉 and like an interesting way to help the audience imagine what it would be like to be a contemporary of the protagonists.

It was fun — I thought they perhaps stretched it a bit too far, but it certainly added an interesting new element to the story.

 

Posted by: @wanderer
I find this fascinating and would be happy to discuss it on another thread! Smile  Would you want to make it, or could I?

I've just started one here, so go ahead! Wink  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : July 8, 2020 1:26 pm
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