Interviewing Georgie Henley and James McAvoy is like listening in on a private conversation. The two just keep their personal dialogue going, and you hope to be able to steer the direction a bit with a question. Georgie didn’t take her eyes off James the whole time we talked.
Georgie plays little Lucy, who discovers the land of Narnia inside an old wardrobe. James McAvoy is Mr. Tumnus, the fawn Lucy meets at a strange lampost in the middle of a snowy forest. In the film the two make a great duo, and in real life they were just as great together, even though they’re 16 years apart.
Q: Couldn’t Mr. Tumnus wear a shirt for the coronation?
McAvoy: No, he’s too scruffy for that, my friend.
McAvoy: Well, you know, it’s the faun’s way, isn’t it? Classically speaking, fauns are followers of Dionysus and Bacchus and they make reference to that in the book. They were free, they were unrestricted, they were drunken. It was all about being open. That’s why, I think, it was a good choice to make Tumnus a faun, because he’s about openness, which is what he and Lucy have in common.
Q: How itchy was all that hair?
McAvoy: You know, I was covered in glue, and it was sometimes quite painful and the hair would fall off, and the whole day became about maintaining it. It was a bit of a challenge, but to get to play Mr. Tumnus it was completely worth it. And also, I wasn’t there every single day, so it wasn’t that much of a pain in the butt.
Henley: You were off mountain climbing.
Q: Georgie, most girls your age wouldn’t follow a man home if he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
McAvoy: He’s not a man though.
Q: Lucy’s not doing what adults are telling her to do.
Henley: She does it because she really trusts in Mr. Tumnus. They’re almost like long lost friends, and there’s no point in having long lost friends if you don’t go into tea with them.
McAvoy: The thing that is so special about them is they’re nearly the same person in a lot of ways, even though he’s 150 and she’s eight years old. When they meet each other it is fast friends immediately. It’s quite unviable to make friends that quickly, but we have to believe it can happen. But if you can’t believe two people can become friends that quickly, then don’t watch the rest of the film.
Henley: They connect.
McAvoy: Yes, they connect in a really fundamental way, because they’re very similar people.
Q: How did shooting in chronological order help you?
Henley: We got more mature, really. I was a bit of a spitfire on set, I was really hyper on set, wasn’t I?
McAvoy: You were a bit hyper on set. But I didn’t help, I was jumping around like I was seven.
Henley: You were! It did help me.
McAvoy: I think so. You guys got more experienced, more chilled out. And you got so much more comfortable by the end.
Henley: And you became more faun-ey. More goat-like.
McAvoy: My beard got longer.
Henley: The thing is, when you see a goat, they actually don’t curl under like Mr. Tumnus’, they actually don’t go like that. He’s already growing a beard [now], see?
McAvoy: I’m starting to. But that was my favorite thing, watching you grow. They actually grew inches during this film.
Q: Did you keep track on the wall?
Henley: Yeah. Skandar grew six and a half inches, I did four inches, William grew two inches, and Anna grew a half an inch.
Q: How did they keep up with your costumes?
Henley: They just…had to keep doing them again and again and again. It was so weird, do you remember when Will stood up and his fur coat ripped in the back? So wardrobe was, like, seriously stressing, because these were real fur coats.
Q: What was the coolest thing?
Henley: I don’t have one. Everything was really cool.
Q: What about the waterfall?
Henley: Yeah, they kept throwing water…it was on hydraulics, the ice was on hydraulics, and every time Anna stood on a hydraulic, the water managed to spray up her skirt! So she wasn’t sure whether they did it on accident or did it on purpose.
Q: Did anything like that happen to you?
Henley: I had some pretty cringy moments at times. Quite embarrassing. Like when I was sitting by a fire and the three of us are sitting and eating our cheese and jam sandwiches- which are gorgeous! Cheese and jam are really nice. Cheese and apple as well. Cheese and grapes are good. Anyway, she kept saying Georgie, Georgie, because my fur coat kept opening and you could see my bloomers!
Q: What was it like acting against nothing?
Henley: It’s actually all right, isn’t it?
McAvoy: You get used to it.
Henley: Because I had to pretend I was totally astounded by your legs, didn’t I? And I was totally astounded by your makeup, but when you look down it was just green tights and a mass of ping pong balls.
Q: What’s your favorite fantasy?
Henley: This is actually a Disney film. Sleeping Beauty. That is actually my favorite Disney princess movie. Ever, because, that evil woman Melificent, she scared the living…I used to go to bed and have nightmares about her. And hear her talking purple raven, and when she hypnotizes Sleeping Beauty she’s like “Come to me, come to me…”
McAvoy: I’ll tell you what my favorite movie is. Because I’m so desperate. The Goonies.
Q: Is there a Narnia ride?
Henley: At Walt Disney World there’s going to be an attraction, which we actually opened. We didn’t cut a ribbon or anything, it’s still being finished, but it’s called “Journey into Narnia,” and it’s got real movie props. It’s got weapons, and fur coats. I’ve seen it, and we read a chapter from the story book, and then we did this question and answer session with a primary school.
Q: You both have fertile imaginations. What about the project engaged your imaginations?
Henley: New Zealand inspired me to write two books on set.
Q: What about?
Henley: One is called “The Snow Stag,” and one is about an artic island, called “The Pillow of Secrets,” and I sold that to charity and I made about $350 for WWF- not the wrestling fund! The wildlife fund.
Q: Do you want to get them published?
Henley: I want to set them up to publish when I’m older, when I’m a teenager. So I’m going to keep them safe. And I’m writing a story at the moment called The Diary of a Bully, which describes a boy who is bullied, and it is a diary, and it’s a boy who is bullied, and it involves the police, and gets quite serious, and it’s an in-depth book. It’s quite disturbing.
Q: What was the hardest thing about being on set?
Henley: Being away from my friends and family.
McAvoy: Yeah, being away from my loved ones for so long. You know, New Zealand is twelve hours from LA, but it’s twenty four hours from London. I couldn’t go home for a few days, it was difficult. It’s hard to call. Emails are the best way.
Henley: Emails and phone calls. And letters. I wrote letters to school.
Q: Was it hard to leave after working together for so long?
Henley: Yeah, we were apart for about two or three weeks before Prague. And then after that we were apart for seven months. Me and James were apart for seven months.
Q: James, can you tell us about The Last King of Scotland?
McAvoy: I play Nicholas, the right hand man of Idi Amin; he’s young, idealistic, and he gets in way over his head before he knows it he realizes the country’s torn itself apart. And he tries to get out and realizes he can’t.
Q: What was it like working with Forrest Whitaker?
McAvoy: Really educational, really amazing, really scary, because he’s such a dedicated actor that you want to raise the bar and meet him, but it’s a difficult thing to do.