The characters battling for control of the vastly altered Narnia are played by two new faces on the Hollywood movie scene—the young, charismatic British stage actor Ben Barnes as the film’s title character, and seasoned Italian movie star Sergio Castellitto, who embodies pure evil as King Miraz.
Barnes was no stranger to the C.S. Lewis literary series. “I was a massive Narnia fan as a kid,” Barnes exclaims with the exuberance of an eight-year-old boy delving into the novels for the first time. “I definitely remember the books being a big part of my childhood. When I found out I got the part, I looked through my bookshelves and found this copy of Prince Caspian with 1989 copyright, when I was eight.”
“We took a long time to find Ben and saw many actors for this role,” Johnson says. “We needed a young man who could be heroic, but who also had something in his personality that reflected what the character learns through the journey in this film.”
English casting veteran Gail Stevens had an assistant who had seen Barnes in the recent West End staging of the award-winning drama, “The History Boys.” When she contacted his agent, the actor taped an audition reading for Adamson.
That video introduction led to a personal audition where the director crowned him the star of his new movie. “When we finally met Ben in person, we found him charming and fun and comfortable. He won us over,” Adamson recalls. “You could see from his effort and enthusiasm how much he wanted the role. I admired his work ethic.”
Barnes’ whirlwind adventure began almost immediately. Costume fittings, horseback riding practice, dialect lessons, fencing and stunt rehearsals consumed his early days and weeks on location in New Zealand.
In addition to immersing himself in the role, he also had to find a place for himself in a tight-knit film family. All four Pevensies were anxious to meet Barnes and see how he would fit in when he first arrived in New Zealand
“He became an honorary Pevensie,” jokes Keynes. “And the fact that he was 25 when we made the movie made everyone else act a bit more mature.”
“Ben had a lot to live up to before we'd even met him,” says Popplewell. “Especially for William and me, because we knew that we were not in the next story. We were, in a sense, passing the films onto someone whom we really liked. He had that something that we very much connected with.”
Before he meets the Pevensies in Narnia, Caspian is rallying support among the Narnians for a campaign against his own people, the Telmarines. “They’re trying to kill him,” Barnes explains. “I blow the magic horn and summon the Pevensies back to Narnia. Peter, as the High King, rightfully assumes that he’s in charge. We both have different ideas about how we should go about defeating my evil uncle, which leads to this conflict between us.
“Even though the story takes place in a fantasy world, you have to play every moment as truth,” says Barnes. “I hope those moments translate into something that the audience can really become involved with. If so, they will get behind Caspian and see him through from the beginning to the end of his journey.”
“The adult characters are much more scary in this film,” says Moseley. “The White Witch was scary, but you've seen nothing until you've seen Miraz. I fought both of them one-on-one, and Miraz took my breath away. It was really interesting watching Sergio change into Miraz. He takes on a whole new persona!”
During the casting process for the evil Miraz, the filmmakers were immediately intrigued with Castellitto. “Sergio is one of the most accomplished and well-regarded European actors around today,” says producer Johnson about his screen villain. “As soon as we saw his audition tape, we said, ‘Let’s explore this further.’ ”
Castellitto’s lengthy acting resume includes some of Italy’s best known movies over the last quarter century. He is well-known for roles in Luc Besson’s “The Big Blue,” and Best Foreign Film Oscar® nominees from Italy such as “La Familia,” and “L’Uomo delle stele.”
“I have a lot of admiration for Andrew Adamson because he pays attention to the psychological aspect of the performance and character,” Castellitto says. “We spoke about the character as a human being. We spoke about the battle between youth and age. The good and evil is evident in that dichotomy between Miraz and Caspian.”
Once actor and director had established Miraz’s psychological profile, they next turned to his physicality. The physical look of the film’s human cast fell to a team of makeup magicians led by two-time Academy Award® nominee Paul Engelen (“Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan,” “Lord of the Apes,” “Casino Royale”) and hair designer Kevin Alexander (“Casino Royale”).
Engelen, a 40-year industry veteran with one of his craft’s best professional resumes, in collaboration with Adamson, created a Mediterranean look for the Telmarine characters. The longtime makeup artist felt immediately that Miraz should have some kind of beard. “The character of Miraz demanded that he be very forceful and intimidating for the part to succeed, and I very soon arrived at the triangular design we decided to use,” Engelen says. “I enlarged the chin area with an extension piece. With the addition of extended eyebrows, some darker color in and around the eyes, and the character’s trademark earring, we ended up with a good character look for Sergio.”
Add to this a wardrobe that costumer Mussenden describes as “a bit pirate, barbaric in character, but sophisticated in style and all inspired by images of 15th century Spanish soldiers,” plus Weta’s magnificent armor and weapons, and Miraz came to vivid and terrifying life.