A 'Softer Side' of Susan Pevensie
Actress Anna Popplewell shares the moment that defines her character in the movie, 'Prince Caspian.'
As the second oldest of the four Pevensie children, Susan is gentle and poised, much like the confident and well-spoken actress who plays her, Anna Popplewell. Even though "Prince Caspian" is the final Narnia movie she will be in (her character doesn't return to Narnia in the books), Popplewell's ties to C.S. Lewis won't end with the movie. After this film, she returns to Magdalen College, Oxford to continue her studies in English literature, the same college and academic study C.S. Lewis taught at for 29 years.
Describe your earliest Narnia memory.
I remember reading the books when I was little and really enjoying them, and I actually reread them during the first auditions, the casting process.
One of my funniest memories about being involved in the films is meeting William [Moseley, who plays Peter], because we actually had our first audition together. I was 13 and Will was 15, and now he’s 21 and I'm 19. I remember him being very charming and very self-assured and fun. Andrew [Adamson, the director] made us play a word game in the audition, and I beat him [William] senseless. I won by such a long way. But he was lovely.
Why do you think Susan retreats into herself after she returns to England from Narnia whereas Peter is fighting and having identity issues?
I don't think she necessarily retreats into herself completely. I think it's just that she's quite a studious person, and that comment [in the movie, about her being alone] is meant to show that...she's approachable because she's by herself a lot of the time. I think also if you've been an adult for years, if you've been a queen or king, then maybe you don't communicate on the same level with people your own age anymore. I think later in the series Susan is described as getting into lipsticks and nylons, but she's not there yet.
Yeah, it's further down the road.
This is all conjecture, because it's not in the books, but, I imagined that Susan went back to England, and she's not quite the same as everyone else because she's had these crazy experiences. She is a hardworking type, and she doesn't quite fit in. It's not really because she's nerdy or horrible or mean or anything like that. It's just she has this kind of maturity to her that's going to set her apart from people her age.
What are some of her good and bad qualities?
She has a lot of common sense, and I think sometimes it gets in the way. I think what you're seeing this time around is a much more sympathetic Susan. She's still the voice of reason. I think it's a very difficult position to be in the family because she has a lot of sensible ideas. She has a lot of ways of thinking about things. Yet Peter is the leader, and so she has to take orders and to listen to him even though sometimes she knows he's not doing the best thing. I think she's a lot softer this time around. I think she's a lot more open to all that Narnia has to offer, and maybe a lot more human.
I think everyone has their personal stands, and everyone has challenges in their life. One of the hard things in my life has been balancing my education with my acting career, because I've been acting since the age of seven, on and off, just doing little parts and things. I've always been very keen to stay in school. That's something that I believe in that I've had to kind of juggle, and it's been a personal challenge. But, I love being in the film. Being a part of the action is just incredible. I loved doing stunt stuff. I loved learning to ride. I had a really great time with that.
By the end of the movie, Susan has grown a lot. What would you say is the moment that defines her?
I think one of the most interesting points for Susan in this movie is that scene by the campfire where she's talking to Lucy. Everyone's there, but it's just the two of them talking, and I think it reveals that while Susan is, this time around, prepared to believe in Narnia and much more prepared to accept it, her worry is that they're going to be taken away again. They've already had that thing of going back to England. I think Andrew was very keen on showing how hard it is for kings and queens to go back to being kids. The last time around, you saw the Pevensies having to be kids, rising to be kings and queens, and that change is just as difficult the other way around. So, I think that [scene is] a sign of her coming to terms with the fact that it's okay to have this experience and to let go of it. And that's what happens at the end.
What lesson do you think portraying Susan has taught you personally, in terms of how she's inspired you?
I don't know if there's sort of one lesson that I've taken from playing this character. The whole thing's kind of tied up with the experience of shooting the movies, I suppose. I've learned such a huge amount from being a part of these films. When you're filming for seven months or six months at a time, you bond with people hugely. You always had 200 extras rehearsing, marching. You had a prosthetics tent. You had catering. You have stunts. So, every day you'd have something new, and there was just always someone to talk to about something interesting.
How would you describe your perfect Narnia?
I think the interesting thing about this Narnia is that it's not perfect. There's a very idealized setting in the first film, and they [the Pevensies] get back, and it's not the same as it was. So, I think this time around, it's not the perfect world, and trying to get back to the world where talking creatures and people get along is part of the challenge of the movie.