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Growing up is hard enough as it is; imagine going through the transition twice. That’s kind of what Skandar Keynes experienced. Not only did he have to mature himself, but through his character Edmund Pevensie, too. It all started about seven years ago when Keynes first joined his onscreen siblings Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell and William Moseley on the set of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Keynes is Edmund, the younger brother and the Pevensie suffering from a case of middle child syndrome. In the first film he wasn’t the nicest of the bunch and that attitude made him vulnerable to the White Witch. With a little help from Aslan, Edmund learns his lesson and emerges as a young man worthy of the title King Edmund the Just of Narnia. Edmund wears that attitude proudly throughout the second film, Prince Caspian, and continues to do so in the franchise’s latest installment, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The stakes are far higher this time around because he makes his return to Narnia without his big brother and now assumes the role of High King.
So what’s it like for Keynes when he’s not decked out in knight-like attire and wielding magical swords? Life is actually quite normal. Keynes enjoys the action and adventure involved in making the Narnia films, but also values his privacy and his opportunity to study at a university. Read on to learn about Keynes’ experience in Narnia and beyond.
How old were you when you first started making these movies?
I was 12.
Do you think you've picked up any of Edmund's characteristics having grown up playing this character?
No, not really. I’m 19 now and it’s been nearly seven years, but it’s really not seven years. People very quickly jump and characterize me as being Edmund, but I’ve really only worked and been filming for a year and a half out of seven years and for the rest of the time having a normal life.
The second film was also a big change. Each time what effects our experience making these films are where we were and who we were with and in that respect, each film was drastically different. A lot of the crew were actually similar throughout the three films and even though you’ve got the different director and different cast, there were the crew that worked on all three films and appreciated them.
How was it working with Michael Apted and not Andrew Adamson?
Michael was great. He really helped me out when mapping out my character in the final film. I had a great time working with him. He really knew what he was doing and we can be friends.
Andrew was still around as a producer though, right?
Yeah. He wasn’t on set everyday. He’d give a lot of advice and call up the producers and Michael from a far and he’d watch the dailies and what was filmed at the end of everyday, but he wasn’t necessarily on the set physically.
What’s it like seeing this film finally hit theaters? Just a few years ago, the whole distributor/budget battle was taking place. Was there ever a point when you thought this really might be the end?
Yeah, there was definitely days of uncertainty and we weren’t sure what was happening, but fortunately it did happen and so many people stayed dedicated and we’re glad that we did it because we made a great film and it would have been a shame not to have done it.
There are seven books in the series. Is there any plan to go on to the fourth book, The Silver Chair?
My character isn’t in any more, but they may. If this film is a success then they’ll probably make some more, but they’re really going to see what happens and how it goes. And even when I was in them I was the last person to know any of the news, so I’m really not going to know about if they’re making the film, which I’m not even in.
Did you have to go through a lot of training because there was such a wide gap between the second and third films?
The main thing with training that we had to do was get our PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) licenses so that we can film the underwater stuff, but otherwise there was nothing we needed to be training for.
Your character gets into some pretty physically demanding situations. Was there anything you found particularly tough to get done? Maybe the underwater stunts?
No, the underwater stuff was really quite fun. Towards the end of the film, this battle with the sea serpent, that was quite physically draining. Day after day of being soaked head to toe then to run on these things and climb up different bits was very exhausting. I’d say that was definitely the biggest challenge.
No, we didn’t even know it was going to be in 3D when we were making it at all. We just shot in 2D just as a normal film. I was really glad after that they chose to do it because the new technology meant that they could do that and it really added quite a lot to the film and to the experience of watching a film.
So, you’ve seen the film. What do you think of the 3D? Does it really enhance the film?
Oh, absolutely. I was watching it the other night; I really had no issues at all with the 3D. I thought it really worked, I was really feeling it through the whole film and all of the special effects. Lots of films are now being made in 3D and I know there were these issues about people thinking that you shouldn’t make them in 3D after, they should be shot in 3D, but as I found today, James Cameron is making Titanic in 3D so I think that doing it works and it’s a little better.
So what's your plan post-Narnia? Do you want to continue acting?
I’m actually going to university now.
What are you studying?
I’m studying Arabic and Islamic history.
That’s a big leap from acting. What compelled you to go to school for that?
It’s what I’m really interested in and I’m really enjoying it and I really want to get my degree. I’m feeling happy right now and I’ll see what happens.
Do you find that these films have had a Harry Potter effect? The kids that grew up on that set are always in the spotlight and being looked at under a microscope now. Do you have any issues involving crazy fans or paparazzi?
No, it’s definitely not like how the Harry Potter kids have it. I am able to slip away from it and go about a normal life and I’m really grateful for that.
What about on set? I know you shot some portion of the film in some more populated areas.
Yeah, there was one set where it was in a public place and when people are just taking photos it’s alright, but you did feel a bit annoyed when they start taking pictures of you going to the bathroom and washing your hands and stuff. Otherwise we were generally alright.