One of the most highly anticipated films of the fall is Fox Walden's adaptation of The Dark is Rising, the popular young adult fantasy adventure first published in 1973. The second installment in a five-book series by author Susan Cooper, the book follows a young hero named Will Stanton, who wakes up on his 11th birthday to find that he has traveled many years back in time. This is his introduction to an ancient, ongoing war between the forces of The Light and The Dark -- a war in which he's been fated by birth to be a central figure. The story is drenched in Old English/Arthurian influences -- there are Grail cups, talismans and magical swords galore -- and there's more than enough action to make for a rousing, special-effects heavy big-screen adventure, which seems to be what we're in store for.
One of the more memorable characters introduced in the book is Maggie Barnes, a seemingly sweet young farmgirl who the heroes quickly discover is actually something quite different. Playing Maggie in the movie version is Amelia Warner, an up and coming 25-year old British actress who you may remember as Una Flux in the 2005 Charlize Theron movie Aeon Flux. The early word on The Dark is Rising is that Amelia's performance is going to be one of the major selling points, although exactly how much her character has been altered from page to screen is being kept top secret. The picture you see above, which was released to Cinematical two days ago, is one of the very first of her character. I recently called up Amelia in Los Angeles to talk to her about the project, who she thinks will enjoy it, and where she goes from here in her career.
Have you seen a cut of the movie yet? And what's your sense of the overall vibe, in terms of how it's been put together? Sort of a Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter?
AW: I haven't seen it. We only finished about two weeks ago, and yeah, I guess you could kind of make comparisons to stuff like Lord of the Rings and stuff like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, because it has those fantasy elements to it, and it's an adventure and there's quite a lot of action. It's kind of following a boy who discovers that he has what's almost like a quest that he has to complete. It's about him and him being tested along the way. All of those kinds of films or books, there's always that kind of struggle between good and bad and the light and the dark. Good and evil. This film is definitely ... that's what it's about. It's been going on for ages and ages and across time. There's been this struggle between good and bad. When the film starts, the dark is rising and Will Stanton, who is the chosen boy, can help the light fight them.
I read the books a long, long time ago, and I remember your character, Maggie Barnes being something of a minor character -- are they taking the female role and beefing it up?
AW: I don't know, I haven't read the books! I started to read the book and to be honest, the script is so different -- there's been a lot of changes -- that I almost found it confusing. I'm going to read it after I finish. I haven't done it yet, but I'm planning on doing it.
Well, in the book she's something other than a traditional romantic interest -- what can you tell me about how she's portrayed?
AW: I'm not really allowed to say very much about her -- she's kind of like a mystery. You don't really know what side she falls on, and in the story, she appears to be a new girl at the school. The character of Will sees her in the village and kind of develops a crush on her, and she's just kind of lingering around. But she's there to look after Will and to make sure that nothing bad happens to him, and she's going to protect him.
Did they option you for more, after this one?
AW: They've optioned everybody, I think. But I don't know what that really means, because Maggie doesn't appear in any of the other books.
There's been some talk about why Fox chose David Cunningham, who is known for being an outspoken evangelical Christian, to helm this movie -- did you get that vibe from him on set?
AW: No! I didn't know that David was kind of known for that. I didn't know that he was at all until, like, two days before we wrapped. I'm really unobservant. But I mean, you know ... people say that Walden is really Christian as well. It's difficult because the story, in essence, I guess it is about those kind of things. It's about light and dark. So you could look at that and say 'that's really Christian,' but I mean, I think the themes of most stories could be seen that way. So I don't think that he ... I didn't get the feeling and there was absolutely no talk of Christianity or those kinds of things being pushed forward, I don't think. I mean, you could definitely read the script and go 'Oh wow, that has a real Christian undertone', but I think you could say that about a lot of things that are kid's stories. They're always about good and bad, and about being on the good side.
Would you call it a difficult shoot?
AW: No, I was in and out to be honest with you. I was back and forth from London, so I didn't have many consecutive days. I'd have a couple of days and then I'd go home, and then I'd have like a week and go home. So I wasn't really there for prolonged chunks of time, so it was an easy shoot for me. I think it was a hard shoot for some of the Americans because they were for four months probably. It was a long shoot. And they were far from home. For me, I was lucky. I certainly can't complain.
I think the author of the series, Susan Cooper, is still around and kicking -- did she come around during filming?
AW: No, I never met her.
Who do you see as being the audience, based on everything you know about the project? Who would you pitch it to?
AW: I think if I were twelve or thirteen or fourteen, I would love this movie. It's going to look beautiful. I think it's going to look really incredible. The sets that were built were really, really beautiful, and you've got a great hero in Will Stanton. It's kind of smart and it's slightly darker than your average kid's film. There are amazing effects and it's really magical, but there's no silly dragons or goblins running around. It's all quite believable. I think I would feel like this could happen. That's why I would like it.
Having completed this big-budget epic film, what kind of roles are you getting offered?
AW: I don't know, I haven't really noticed a change, in being offered different things.
The James Bond people aren't calling?
AW: [Laughs] No, not yet.
The stereotype is that you'd be paired up with some Brit lit roles, Jane Austen stuff.
AW: Oh no, I wouldn't be offered that. Americans get offered that. I don't know, I couldn't kind of sit here and say, like 'I want to play this character,' because I don't know until I read the script. When you read a script and you're like 'oh, I want to play that person' or 'I want to be in that film.' So I wouldn't know. It so depends on each script, because you can say ... I always thought I wouldn't have wanted to do something that was kind of like as big and commercial as The Dark is Rising, but I really liked the script. I thought it was really clever. It's just job to job. I can't really plan further than that.
Can you do an American accent?
AW: Yes, I can.
Let me hear it.
AW: [Laughs] No! I'm not doing my American accent.
Since The Dark is wrapped, what do you have lined up next?
AW: I'm not completely sure. There's something that I think is going to happen in September, but I'm not 100 percent sure so I wouldn't want to say. But if that happens, I will be very happy.
Give me a hint.
AW: I really can't. It's not like 'I'm not allowed,' it's more like me being personally superstitious. I think if I talk about things they're not going to happen. So until I'm absolutely sure ...
I read some old interview where you talked about wanting to stay below the radar in your career and not rise to fame or anything. Does that still hold up?
AW: Yeah, I think so. That thing that I'm kind of hoping will happen next is a smaller piece, a lot less money, but I really, really, really like it. I think it's just about ... I would like to try to find a balance. There are amazing projects with fantastic characters, but you have to have done something that people have seen, otherwise you're not gonna get cast, so it's about finding a balance where you can kind of do things that are maybe a bit more high-profile, that people have heard of, and then I can go and make the smaller things that mean more to me.
What else are you into, besides acting?
AW: I really like writing music. That's kind of like my little hobby. I like that because sometimes you don't really have any control when you're an actor, over what you're doing next, and everything is kind of decided by other people. You're always waiting to hear from people. Whereas, with a piece of music you can just sit at a piano and you don't have to wait for anyone, so it's quite nice. I like doing that. But in film, I don't think I'd try directing. Maybe one day, but I'd certainly want to go to film school or something, before I tried to do something like that. That would be quite scary.
Have you warmed to any acting technique yet or do you go by instinct?
AW: I try to go by instinct, really. That seems to be the best for me. I try to be in an atmosphere where I feel free to just be really instinctual. That tends to be the best way, I think.
I don't know what's out in British theaters right at this moment, but have you seen anything good lately?
AW: What did I see ... this one is kind of old, but I liked Pan's Labyrinth. I just so fell in love with that film. It came out like at Christmas, but I'm still talking about it. I went to see this film Once the other night. You know, the guys from The Frames. It's like an Irish musical. It's really, really lovely. I really enjoyed that. I kind of came out smiling and feeling really happy. So that was good. What else have I seen recently? I can't remember, but I go to the cinema a lot. I love going. There was something I saw much later than everybody else. I saw this amazing documentary called Rampage, which is about these guys in Florida. It was insane. Amazing.