Sunday, July 13, 2008

Screwtape: The Movie...?!

In February of last year, Walden Media announced that it would be releasing a film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Douglas Gresham (Lewis’s “stepson”) will be producing the film. As exciting as this sounds, I have no idea how they are planning on making this adaptation. I don’t think Walden Media really knows either! In April 2008, the website, “The High Calling”, had an interview with Walden Media President, Michael Flaherty. This is—I think—the latest news on the subject.

High Calling: Can you give any news about when Screwtape or Dawn Treader will come out?

Michael Flaherty: The first time I spoke with you, I had just received the first draft of Dawn Treader. Literally as we were speaking it was there on my desk. I hadn’t even opened it up yet. I couldn’t wait to read it, though, because Eustace is one of my favorite characters.
Dawn Treader is moving very well. Michael Apted, who directed Amazing Grace, is directing it. He also directed Coal Miner’s Daughter and a bunch of others. He’s a great director. He’s the president of the Directors Guild.

Screwtape on the other hand is just a really tricky adaptation.

HC: I think a big part of being faithful to that work is keeping it dark in a way that's probably going to bother some people. I don't know how that works with movie profitability, but Screwtape always takes the approach of the demons. They have to be the heroes—even if they're tragic heroes—for it to be faithful to what Lewis did.

MF: We're trying to find that balance between the comedy and the stakes. We’re working hard on the script. One of the questions we're asking is how do you show the real transformation that happens inside a person.

HC: Screwtape keeps encouraging the patient to go through the motions in his daily life and work.

MF: You just nailed the entire paradox of this project. The book is so clever, because Screwtape is saying things like, "Have them write the check out to Unicef." Just have him writing, saying, "Oh boy, this is going to hurt." It goes back to that great Corinthians passage, you can do all of these things, but if you do them without love, it's worthless. We're trying to figure out how to illustrate that. What I love about Screwtape, what I love about the Gospel is all this external behavioural stuff that too often people confuse as central to our faith, is just an element of it. What really matters is the outpouring of love and the reflection of love.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what C.S. Lewis would think of his movies being made into films.

Madison Richards said...

Interesting, to be sure. More and more we are seeing "christian" books made into films - some well done, others not so much. If only Hollywood could embrace the fact that every movie - every story - is about transformation at its core. That's what keeps folks reading, and watching...

Jeremy W. Johnston said...

Hey anonymous,

I suppose C.S. Lewis---being the humble guy he was---would be quite surprised not only by the continued success of his books but also by his books being made into films. Lewis once told a friend that he believed his books would stop being read once he died. How wrong he was!

Jeremy W. Johnston said...

Hey Madison,

I couldn't agree more! On a related note, C.S. Lewis once wrote a friend (after watching Disney's Snow White in 1939), that he thought the film had both "inconceivably good and bad". Of Walt Disney, he wrote: "What might not have come of [Snow White] if this man had been educated---or even brought up in a decent society?". Hilarious but true! Our current North American culture just doesn't understand "story".

Anonymous said...

found this quote on a C.S. Lewis researcher's blog.

“I wonder what Lewis would think,” said Jackobite. “He who didn’t even like radios or tv, much less films. He called the cinema an ugly art form, “disagreeable to the eye—crowded, unrestful, inharmonious.” He thought the main reason people went to movie theaters was to get warm on a cold, damp night. [Letters 3, 105]


I just re-read prince caspian and am hearing the movie has taken some detours from Lewis' plot of the book. Anyone else noticed that?

Jeremy W. Johnston said...

I have been meaning to blog on the Prince Caspian film adaptation for quite some time... Stay tuned.