Anna Popplewell is well known for her role as Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia, and stars in the new Halo feature Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. We caught up with her to talk about her recent projects.
Starburst: Tell us a little bit about the movie.
Anna Popplewell: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn started life as five episodes that aired on YouTube and they’ve been edited together to make a feature. It’s about a squad of cadets who are training to fight insurrectionists and halfway through our story, the heroes realise they’re fighting an unknown enemy.
And what character do you play?
I play a cadet called Chyler Silva who’s a very competent and determined cadet at the academy. She’s very sure of her life’s trajectory and her reasons for fighting and when the unknown threat of aliens turns up she’s completely thrown and she has to re-evaluate her belief system.
What did you do to prepare for the role?
It was two-fold for me. I didn’t know a lot about Halo except it was a very successful videogame, so I read a couple of the books; Contact Harvest and Reach and played the game. I tried to immerse myself into the Halo Universe so I could get a sense of the mythology and the scope of the world.
The other part was when the cast arrived in Vancouver where we were shooting there was a week of military boot camp that was pretty gruelling and I think the entire cast was really up for it and we threw ourselves into it. It was exhausting and challenging in a way that none of us were quite expecting.
What drew you to Halo?
When I was auditioning they were being extremely secretive about the material. So they released a treatment and a scene that gave the sense of a well realised and thought out sci-fi world. So I was really intrigued, and of course when people are secretive about that sort of thing it makes you think there’s something important to hide so I was drawn in. When I found out what it was, I was staggered by how much depth there was to it. The more I read about it, the more I became fascinated by the stories. We had people from Microsoft on set making sure that the accuracy was everything they wanted it to be. The whole world is just so intricate and contains both incredible detail and epic, sweeping stories. It was a thrill to be part of such a massive universe and it’s a really lovely team that worked on it. They’ve done a really amazing job.
Anything interesting happen on set?
We started by filming this incredible M12 LRV Warthog chase on a series of night shoots which was both brilliant and uncomfortable and I think those days of shooting stand out for me because we have this to scale, fully working Warthog. That was amazing to me, and it really shows the level of attention to detail they’ve put into it. It filled me with confidence in the production values and it was amazing fun to shoot, going at high speeds in a specially created vehicle.
What other fictional worlds inspire you?
The ones I grew up on, like Alice in Wonderland. The works of Lewis Carrol in general, really.
You’ve done Narnia and Halo now. What attracts you to that sort of thing?
I love sci-fi and fantasy but I don’t think that’s the reason I took on the projects I’ve been involved in. With those projects their genres give them a wonderful quality of escapism and an incredible capacity to imagine worlds that are other than our own. At the same time both of them are good stories to tell because they ground themselves in human character and emotion. I’ve never had to not play a human, I don’t know what that would feel like. I think they are very valuable stories to tell. A new environment with very human stories.
Do you have a dream project in mind?
They are so many people I’d like to work with and so many worlds I’d like to play in so I always find it a bit difficult to narrow it down to just one.
Can you tell us a little bit about forthcoming historical fantasy, Reign?
We’re going to shoot it from July in Toronto. We’ve shot the pilot and I had a great time doing it. It’s about Mary Queen of Scots and her time in France. It is very, very beautiful with lots of plots twisting and turning and a great selection of characters and I think it’s going to be very gripping and entertaining. It’s got some great fantastical twists, it’s not totally historically accurate, the emphasis is a more creative retelling of that period.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book for company, what would that book be?
The Secret History, Donna Tart.
Simpsons or Futurama?
Mario or Sonic?
Narnia or Middle Earth?
Truth or Beauty?
HALO 4: FORWARD UNTO DAWN is out on Blu-ray and DVD now.