There have been, by my count, two serious attempts at filming the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia. The most recent started with an OK-ish attempt at The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (immeasurably improved by James McAvoy’s turn as Mr. Tumnus) before settling into a Chronicle of Diminishing Returns. The death knell was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which somehow made a high seas voyage for the edge of the world seem boring—a notable feat in and of itself. The other is the BBC’s effort in the mid-80s, which was better than it had any right to be. What the show lacked in a sizable budget and straight teeth, it made up for in rigorous fidelity to the source material and an appealing mid-century Britishness (“Hullo! What’s all this?”) that would have made C.S. Lewis teary-eyed with delight. Alas, the series didn’t make it any further than The Silver Chair, whose glint was tarnished by some regrettable casting decisions in the child actor department.
The point is, neither of them made it as far as The Horse and His Boy, which I think is the crowning achievement of Lewis’ series. True, it lacks Dawn Treader‘s boundless imagination and Wardrobe’s sense of wonder, but I think it’s the Chronicles’ best literary achievement. For one, the narrative is notably sparser and more contained. No world jumping or or magical paintings—it all takes place in the world of Narnia and the surrounding nations.
Second, it features some of Lewis’ strongest, most dynamic characterizations. At times, it feels like Peter, Susan and Lucy all sound like one character talking to himself, but Shasta, Aravis, Bree and Hwin are all sharply realized, compelling protagonists. Also, while Lewis has been (rightly) criticized for some of his meek female characterizations, Aravis is one of his best creations: a brave, headstrong little badass who saves the group’s bacon throughout the book.
But maybe the book is most notable for its firm, simple structure. A few of The Chronicles of Narnia suffer from a sort of shapeless plot. In Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out what to do next. In The Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill wander aimlessly around the countryside looking for signs.
The Horse and His Boy on the other hand begins as an escape caper that eventually morphs into a rescue mission. It’s streamlined, straightforward and thrilling—and notably light on the fantastical elements of the other books in the series. Talking horses aside, The Horse and His Boy feels more like a sword and sandals adventure than a fantasy.
But we didn’t come here to discuss the book’s merits (although we could! All day!). We came here because Hollywood keeps stalling before pulling the trigger on my favorite Narnia book, and I have to assume it’s because of the casting problem. Well, never you fear, Hollywood. I’ve got that one handled for you.
Shasta (Prince Cor): Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Like anyone, I am tempted to take this entire blurb to discuss the fact that Thomas Brodie-Sangster is twenty-five (25!) years old. What on earth. Can whatever is going on in his DNA be weaponized? Like, a gun you could shoot that just turns attackers into babies? OK, I know I said I wouldn’t spent much time on this, but still. In any case, despite being saddled with a very boring subplot in both Game of Thrones and Love Actually, he is a likable actor who can definitely portray the 13-year-old angst of Shasta, our hero.
Bree: Jude Law
Speaking of aging Brits, I have no idea if this picture of Jude Law was taken earlier today or 15 years ago and I don’t particularly care. Jude Law’s brogue has sort of a horsey sound to it (just go with me) and we could definitely lock down the lady demographic with this casting coup (hey, we’d also get the fellas! It’s 2015!).
Aravis: Q’orianka Kilcher
OK, I had to think about this one for awhile because, believe it or not, Hollywood does not have a ton of roles for young women of color. Sorry to blow the lid off that dark secret, but that’s how it is. But I finally remembered that Q’orianka Kilcher, who was so good in The New World, could easily pass for a teenager and has that sort of regal bearing about her that befits a young Tarkheena.
Hwin: Lupita Nyong’o
If I had it my way, we’d just be casting Lupita in everything at this point. This movie would be called The Woman and Her Lupita, starring Lupita as Lupita and Lupita as the woman. In the books, Hwin spends an awful lot of time cowering, which doesn’t seem like something Lupita herself does much of but THAT’S EXACTLY WHY WE NEED HER IN THIS ROLE. To give it a little bit of nuance and depth.
Lasaraleen: Alia Shawkat
Not a huge role (remember Lasaraleen? The girl who hides Aravis in Calormen?) so it’s just the sort of thing Alia could punch up with a little of her characteristic bravado. Why on earth doesn’t this girl get more roles.
King Lune: Gary Oldman
I love Gary Oldman so much. I love him as Commissioner Gordon, but I mostly love him as Sirius Black, which is who I think of when I think of Lune, King of Archenland. I think Gary Oldman could probably pull off just about any acting job you asked of him, which begs the question of why he hasn’t been asked to pull off a merry king of Narnia’s neighboring land? It’s not too late.
Rabadash: Oscar Isaac
What? You’re going to cast a movie without getting Hollywood’s risingest rising star in the mix? You don’t know anything about how movies work. Admittedly, Isaac’s considerable charm might be a little wasted on Narnia’s least intimidating villain, but again, you give the weakest parts to the strongest actors and let them work their magic. It’s called Filmmaking. Look it up.
The Hermit of the Southern March: Danny Glover
I don’t know who decided it was time to stop casting Danny Glover in movies. Is he too good for movies? Do people just assume he’s got too much talent for their projects? That’s the only thing I can imagine, and this is just the thing to get him back in the game, where he belongs.
The Tisroc: Sir Ben Kingsley
King Edmund: Charlie Cox
After Daredevil, Charlie Cox probably has a pretty long line to his front door of all the Hollywood bigshots and such-and-such’s trying to cast him in their thing, but The Horse and His Boy is definitely Cox’s best move. For one thing, since he couldn’t quite ditch his British lilt on TV, we might as well put it to full effect here. For another, he has that sort of disarmingly sweet warrior mentality that Lewis draws Edmund as having, and we want to make sure that is at the forefront of his characterization, since most people still think of Edmund as the Pevensie turncoat.
Queen Lucy: Natalie Dormer
“Tyler,” I can hear you saying. “Are you just casting Natalie Dormer because she is so pretty and charming and smart and fun and” I forget where I was going with this but, in all honestly, WHAT BETTER WAY to show just how far Lucy has come from being a little bucktoothed ingenue?
Aslan: Idris Elba
Alright, ladies, chill. Why don’t you take a minute to collect yourselves. Fellas, don’t you start too. Remember, he’s just doing the voice work, we won’t actually see his face in the movie. Although, if they decided to forego the whole lion thing and just have Elba play the part, I don’t think anyone would complain.