Despite feeling quite under the weather (‘tis the season!) Skandar arrived with a smile on his face and a steaming tray of honey and lemon, all ready to let us pick his brains about his starring role as King Edmund the Just in the third installment of the Chronicles of Narnia.
Are you doing a lot of travelling to promote Voyage of the Dawn Treader?
Well we wanted to make a bit of a story out of the premiere in the USA. I mean normally there’s a big city premiere but they’re all very similar. Here in the UK we had the Royal Premiere which people find really interesting whereas in the States we’re organizing small town showings. First of all we’re going to Knoxville Tennessee and there we will pick the name of a town out of a hat and fly out to show the Narnia premiere there. So it could be anywhere, it could be in Alaska! After a day there we’re off to Washington DC where we’re going to christen a lion cub ‘Aslan’ before spending a couple of days in New York.
How has your life changed since The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe?
Well between the age of 12 and 19, I’m not sure how to begin answering that question! I’ve grown up and people like to say I’ve grown up through these films but I think I’ve grown up alongside them. It’s not as if Narnia has been my life. A lot of people draw comparisons between us and the Harry Potter kids but you’ve got to realize that they’ve been releasing a film every year for 8 years or so. Whereas for us we’ve had 7 years where we’ve made 3 films. It’s been a very different situation, we may go and film for 6 months and have an amazing experience but then we go back to our normal lives. The majority of those 7 years have been off camera.
Is it harder to make your mark as an actor when you’re performing in front of green screens?
I think the special effects in the film are fantastic and amazing to watch but at the same time the core of the story really relies on the characters and the journeys that they have. It is amazing to sit down and see just how visually stunning a big-budget special effects movie can be but it means nothing if you don’t believe in the characters. I think Voyage of the Dawn Treader exceeds itself because C.S. Lewis’ story is so strong and powerful that it’s a real pleasure to film.
Was seeing yourself in 3D a strange experience?
I normally see myself in 3D. (laughs) I really like the 3D, we didn’t actually film in 3D, it was added on at the end. What I loved about it was how it wasn’t at all gimmicky. At no point do you think the sea serpent is going to come out and tickle the audience! I think it allowed you to immerse yourself in the action and it proved to be a really nice touch. Hats off to James Cameron for pioneering that sort of technology and trend.
It was the end of an era but it wasn’t frightening. It was sad, these are amazing experiences and you wish those could last forever but that’s never going to happen. I was happy and ready to move on to university and do other things. When I saw the film the other night I was really proud of it, everyone did such a good job and it left me in a position where I was leaving on a high.
Edmund’s character is pushed into temptation and weakness far more frequently than his siblings, how did you find playing such a demanding role?
Edmund does have a deep and ingrained vulnerability which was established in the first film. It is what’s been haunting him, it’s what will always haunt him. I think the decision to bring Tilda back, although it’s not necessarily found in the books, was a really good idea in that she symbolizes his fears and temptations and his past mistakes. Lucy now has to deal with her temptations but that’s a relatively new experience for her character.
Any temptations in reality?
My thing is…I’m a big car man. I don’t have one unfortunately but I’ve been lucky enough to drive a couple of nice cars. I watch Top Gear every week! Andrew Adamson has an Audi R8 and he let me drive it which is actually perfectly legal as he has an insurance policy which lets anybody drive it. So much fun!
With relatives such as Charles Darwin your family tree is quite impressive and diverse, what’s it like being the first actor in your family?
First of all if anybody has been reading Wikipedia it’s almost entirely wrong! (Charles Darwin is true, HeyUGuys checked!) As far as acting goes, my sister acts but I suppose I’m the first to do it to any serious degree and I don’t think of myself in my family’s shadow. I’ve just been enjoying having my own path. I’m also the first of the Keynes to study Arabic and I chose it for a couple of reasons. On the one hand it’s personal because my mother’s Lebanese and I was never brought up speaking the language but I wanted to learn it. We have a family house in Lebanon I want to visit and I’d like to overcome that barrier language can create against really exploring a region. Secondly academically I find it a really interesting area of study, both historically and politically.
What was your favourite scene in the film?
My favourite scenes to watch on screen were most definitely my least favourite to actually film! For instance the sword fight with Ben because what happened was…I stabbed him a couple of times. It was a horrible feeling! One of the worst days of my life! The first time I stabbed him in the leg, the blades had a metal core but a rubber exterior so you’re not going to maim anybody but the speed we were going at means they can give you some nasty bruises. Then I hit him in the cheek and I was mortified because a centimetre the wrong way and I might have got him in the eye….Then I got him in the lip and I remember the moment it happened he screamed out and he was crouched over. I just thought ‘oh my God’ and looked around at everybody and they were all completely appalled and one of the stunt men was actually shaking his head at me!
Have you been keeping an eye on Voyage of the Dawn Treader’s reception?
It’s something I try not to get bogged down in. Honestly, I’m really waiting to see what the general public think. I’ve not read it but I’ve heard that apparently the Guardian man didn’t like it but it sounds like his views were unconnected to the reality and heart of the film. It’s a children’s film! Coming from north London I’d say it’s not necessarily a film for north London farts. I think if you get into the spirit of it as a family film. Something you can enjoy and be innocent with. I find it really silly when critics don’t like it because of ridiculously high brow nitpicking. It’s not like 5 year olds are going to turn to their parents and say, ‘Well Mummy, I thought the dynamic wasn’t right…’
What do you think makes a hero in real life?
I feel that a hero is somebody who will stand up for their values and what they believe in and that can take any form. People that have values and have thought them through rather than those who just do what they’re told.
Who was your hero as a child growing up?
Thierry Henry. I saw Arsenal vs. Manchester United and in the 90th minute when he headed that goal in, 1-1. One of the highlights of my life! That and Andrew’s R8!
My favourite of the books will always be The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe because it’s the first book and it’s beautifully written. I love that initial discovery of Narnia. I think that as a film crew we’ve succeeded most in the final film, so many of the elements we’ve been working on have finally come together. I think the effects are seamless. It’s visually stunning. I think it’s captivating in 3D and the pace and heart are spot on. I enjoyed this film the most.
Will Poulter will be taking over the Narnia story in The Silver Chair, how do you feel about handing over the torch to him?
I couldn’t think of a worthier torch carrier! He’s a great guy and I really enjoyed working with him. We became great friends and he lives in London and I meet up often with him and his family. It was an absolute pleasure and honour to have him on the film and I do hope they make The Silver Chair for his sake.
Skandar is currently studying Arabic and Middle Eastern History at Cambridge University where he’s informed us he plays on the Pembroke basketball team, apparently much to his friends’ amusement! Check out HeyUGuys interview with his co-star Georgie Henley here.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader is released in UK Cinemas today.