Casting the Inevitable ‘The Horse & His Boy’ Movie

450ba7537cde08a610f35b2355db5547 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

13a0548dff818f93 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

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

tumblr_m6qo29efDk1raxhfco1_1280OK, 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

Actress Lupita Nyong'o arrives for the the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala, October 21, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California  AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

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

tumblr_mc4m0ixWNv1qbmc4ho1_1280  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

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 10:  Actor Gary Oldman arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'RoboCop' at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 10, 2014 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

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

706-ztylf1What? 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

CFYF19IWIAIhm4c 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

sir ben kingsley Kind of a no-brainer.

King Edmund: Charlie Cox

charlie-cox-at-the-premiere-of-netflixs-marvels-daredevil 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

dormer1-475628“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

idris-elbaAlright, 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.

Leave a comment


  1. Everything about this post is so so right but honestly my heart has already started to hate it because it is so perfect. I have no hope in Hollywood if they don’t make this happen!

  2. Damn your good taste.

  3. You should read Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia. A couple of your criticisms are not due to bad writing, but very purposeful choices made by Lewis. The Silver Chair is spent wandering aimlessly because the book is meant to convey the mood and atmosphere of the medieval understanding of the moon, which was thought of then as aimless, melancholy, and always short of the mark. Also, I’d disagree that The Horse and His Boy has a simple plot. It’s meant to convey the medieval atmosphere of Mercury, which is unstable by nature, always joining together and dividing and joining together again. Trying to map the plot of this book visually would be anything but simple.

    All of these are great casting choices, though. Especially for Lucy and Lune. That guy’d be perfect for Shasta, too.

  4. M Watts

     /  January 27, 2016

    First off, actors/actresses capable of reprising roles should, to do otherwise is incredibly stupid looking, (as an example, Harry Potter had no choice, but they made a poor dumbledore replacement) second off, the most likely sequence of films because of age constraints on actors, silver chair->the last battle->the horse and his boy->magicians nephew, third the actress recommended for aravis doesn’t work(think middle eastern descent actresses such as Mackenzie Aladjem, both horses should be played by British actor and actress in keeping with the narnian/British accent, attempt to reprise the role of mr tumnus as he makes an appearance. Just no on Danny Glover, he only excels at very gritty roles, where he plays a flawed and failing character, not a good children’s movie character. No the Ben Kingsley, he stank as the brother of the king in prince of Persia with such a bland and useless method of acting I wanted to yell cut half a dozen times. Also a no to Oscar Isaac, the prince was a pretty boy with more vanity than common sense, plus you want an actor that is able to spin negative impact comments given his characters transformation into a jackass in the book, not one of isaacs traits. No to shawcatt, she’s too high priced for 10-15 minutes of screen time, and no to sangster, way too old for the role and their are plenty of child actors to pick, besides we want a teen look not a baby man look. The only actor I agree on is Jude, and he is unlikely to be willing

  5. the1adelas

     /  August 19, 2016

    Found this via a web search for something else, and I’m responding despite how old the post is.

    I totally dig this list except I don’t know why you’d need to change Aslan’s voice. Not that there’s anything wrong with Idris Elba, it’s just unnecessary to change from Liam Neeson, who is still around.

    If they still had them, it’d be cool to see the actors from the end of LWW back in those roles, too, but I see why you made the choices you did.

    Your post really made me smile, thanks 🙂

  6. Bethany

     /  November 11, 2016

    This is awesome. I have read all of The Chronicles of Narnia books several times since childhood. My absolute favorite book of all time is The Horse and His Boy. The book is definitely a departure from the others in the series. I would love to see it come to life on the big screen.

  7. Sarah

     /  March 14, 2017

    I’m reading The Horse and His Boy to my little girls. We are on about Chapter 13 when Shasta and Corin have just reunited and are on to battle for Anvard for King Lune. I think a movie could be fantastic, but pretty sure it will never be as fantastic as the one playing in my head as I read. Not going to offer my girls any Narnia film for a while.

  8. Michael

     /  March 18, 2017

    I believe that Horse and His Boy is the chronicle with the greatest message. In fact, I kind of wish that they were making it now instead of the Silver Chair. It has this great message that no matter what race, financial status, and class we come from, we can always move to a more positive state together & this is particularly important to remember nowadays. Aravis and Shasta are pretty much refugees seeking asylum – especially Aravis since she doesn’t even have a home until Shasta invites her.
    As for casting, it’s inevitable that they will cast someone in their twenties for Aravis and Shasta. For good reason. I do think that they need be older than 13. Probably around 17-20 years old.
    It avoids problem that I’m surprised you didn’t bring up – the blatant racism. Aravis is pretty much portrayed as an Indian/Middle Eastern child bride running away with her white savior. But since her betrothal is essential to the story, it’s better if she’s 17-19 years old so we don’t have to think of her as some 13 year old Saudi Arabian princess who has to marry a 60 year old prince. I have worked with writers in the Middle East and believe me, it will be an issue in today’s PC (politically correct not Prince Caspian haha) world.
    & as a filmmaker myself, in order to make all 7 Narnia adaptations, I have to point out that they must appeal to the general audience. Casting children is not the safest bet. The world is more curious about teenagers. And that way Shasta and Aravis can have more developed personalities. Teenagers are so much more stuck up in their ways than kids. (But I hope they stay away from unnecessary romance, until maybe the film’s final image when they get married)
    I find your casting choice intriguing! I do hope there will be a diverse range of actors. Aravis intrigues me the most since she’s so different from anyone else in the Narnia films. I’d really like to see her played by a girl with dark skin, even darker than Kilcher’s, because Calormen is a hot country where the sun has taken its toll on its people. Also, I love how you describe Aravis as a brave, headstrong little badass! She will be such a role model!


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