Director Norman Stone discusses THE MOST RELUCTANT CONVERT: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis An elder C.S. Lewis looks back on his remarkable journey from hard-boiled atheist to the most renowned Christian writer of the past century. The Most Reluctant Convert features award-winning actor Max McLean as the older Lewis and Nicholas Ralph – breakout...Buzzsprout - Let's get your podcast launched!
Chuck (host) (00:00):
CS Lewis. The creator of the Chronicles of Noria was an atheist who converted to Christianity. How did that happen? Find out in today's episode,
Chuck (host) (00:27):
Thank you so much for joining me today. It is my pleasure to introduce Norman stone. He's the director of the new documentary called the most reluctant convert. The untold story of CS Lewis, Clive staples Lewis, more commonly known as CS Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century. He wrote more than 30 books, including the Chronicles of Narnia, which have sold more than 100 million copies. CS Lewis is also known as a former atheist who converted to Christianity, a film that Chronicles his transformation has recently been released called the most reluctant convert. The untold story of CS Lewis.
Chuck (host) (02:03):
Norman, welcome again from Scotland. Appreciate you joining me today.
Norman Stone (02:07):
I'm glad to be here.
Chuck (host) (02:09):
Well, I wanna talk about your amazing filmmaking before we get into this incredible film. I understand you began your career as the youngest producer director to be working at the BBC.
Norman Stone (02:19):
Well, that's what they say, but clearly they don't have many, three year olds directing, but they <laugh>. It was a long time ago. But yes, I, I was very fortunate. In those days you couldn't get a job without a union card. You couldn't get a union card without a job, right. That's 22, but they did want to have more union members in the BBC that all collapsed later. But I gone straight into the BBC as a director producer, which I was very grateful for. So rare opportunity. And I stayed I left the BBC in 1980, went freelance work for them a lot, still do mm-hmm <affirmative> but do feature films too as well.
Chuck (host) (03:00):
Well, let me ask this, where did your passion for film directing begin? When did you first realize this is what I wanna do?
Norman Stone (03:06):
Blame my grandfather.
Chuck (host) (03:07):
I blame your grandfather <laugh>.
Norman Stone (03:09):
He was a great storyteller. And when I was amusing three, again, he was true when I was three. I remember distinctly, probably my earliest memory sitting on his knee and he told me a story. He was a little bit Christian Guy and he, he, he invented all these other stories and I saw pictures and that was weird. It's the first time I remember it. And I can remember that story many, many years later because I can see the pictures. And I was once interviewed quite a few years ago, asked a question, I thought, where did I begin? And I realized it was my grander Gordon as we called him. And he died when I was six, but in that three year period, he stuffed me with stories. I couldn't wait more, more, more and then I discovered television did the same, but not quite as well. The pictures weren't as good, but there we're <laugh> so no, that's what started it. And I am as happy as a sand working with stories, pictures, and often music I've done.
Chuck (host) (04:15):
Norman, I think that's wonderful. And I didn't wanna kind of go back again. So he went BBC and that's where I think he did actually, your first film that involves CS Lewis called the shadow lands.
Norman Stone (04:25):
Yes. Tell about it was in 1984 heavens. So it was I left the BBC to go freelancing 1980. I'd just done a film. <Laugh> about a blind and deaf Cornish poet who really had earned the right to be heard. He could speak. And I made this film about his life fascinating, and it was hugely popular. And I thought, why is that? Of course it's because he's earned the right to be heard when he speaks, it costs it's worth listening to who else do I know who's worth listening to has earned the right to be heard. And it took me about two and a half seconds to think of CS Lewis. Nice. And that began an 18 month development period with me and going to Oxford and doing all these different things to find out. And the BBC then said, okay, we'll, we'll make it. It was very fortunate. They did and not much money, but an awful lot of heart. And I would still is my favorite film I've ever done. That's wonderful is one that I've just made comes close.
Chuck (host) (05:30):
Yeah. And I was gonna say the film that you're first referring to about the blind and deaf Christian poet for audience is called a different drummer.
Norman Stone (05:37):
That's the first one. Goodness, you have been your research. Absolutely.
Chuck (host) (05:39):
That's what, that's what I'm here for norm.
Norman Stone (05:41):
Chuck (host) (05:42):
Fascinating. People like you. I, I, I owe you that at least, but I do wanna dive in. Let's dive into the, the most reluctant now, how did that come about?
Norman Stone (05:52):
Well, it's all it always someone else's fault, isn't it? It's max McClain's fault. He was he's good. Max McClean is an actor. He's got a company called FBA. And he does a great job based in New York. They do an awful lot of theater work and he'd come across. He's very up on Lewis and he knows his words, his Tomber, his thinking very much. And he'd made a one man show that was apparently going great guns. And he phoned me. I've known max for years when I go to New York where dinner and so on. And he he's a good ch and he phoned me out of the blue board. Probably he was driving. I do hope it was a handsfree conversation, but he was driving down to rally or somewhere towards the south to do this show and he'd been thinking, and he said, Norman, do you think there's, I'd like this great show it's really working well, do you think it would ever appear on a screen?
Norman Stone (06:47):
I said, I dunno, max. It's you know, I D dunno the show. And he said, no, I I'll send you the script. And I said, well, it is the script. You're absolutely right. That's what I'll make it clear. And then he sent it. And after a moment or two, well, actually two days of regret thinking, max is a good chum. I hate it. When good chums send you their script and expect you to say yes, yes, yes. So I then read it with gritted teeth and it was wonderful. He'd stitch together. Lewis's words like a little tailor from the books making it absolutely electric. And I said, max, this is great. You can't do it the way you do it on stage, of course, but a long story short, he then got me to write the screenplay and I wanted to do it with a different style because we weren't spending masters of money, but it was great fun.
Norman Stone (07:37):
And it seems to have touched an nerve. It's now in 123 countries. It's second. At one point it was second most viewed cinema film in the whole of the states coming second to June, which isn't a bad second, be everyone else. And it just keeps on going, keeps on going. It's now on apple Google plus Amazon. It, it, it doesn't stop, which is unusual when you come from the BBC, that's my background. Things usually stop, but this one is just runaway truck at the moment. And we may be doing two more films as a result.
Chuck (host) (08:08):
See, I think it's wonderful. And I do wanna read some of the quotes. I went, I went to the website, CS, Louis, CS Lewis, movie.com. I'm just reading couple of these awesome quotes reviews from the movie. One of them it says, go knowing you'll have to use your brain. It's nice to watch a movie that was intellectually stimulating. Wonderful message. Another one. Excellent. Such a clear tutorial of the difference between theism and Christianity. And then another one says the best movie I've ever seen in a long time, even my nine and 11 year old grands loved it. Wow. It's incredible. So I believe it was released back in November, originally, and then
Norman Stone (08:44):
November the third that's right. November the third. And we <laugh> it's wonderful what max and his team have done, especially since then, don't usually make films. They're only theater. So they said, oh, we're put in a few cinemas. And I said, why, you know, it's, it is made for streamers or TV. I said, but why? Well, we think it would just help the, the launch on November the third and on November the fourth, it was the second most viewed cinema film in hall of America. So <laugh>, I took, took my hat off to him then, and since then, it just keeps on rolling. They're doing a great job pushing it forward, but to a point word of mouth is probably the best thing that's ever happened to this film because they were queuing round the block. I mean that we were gonna do that cinema burst on November the third mm-hmm <affirmative> just for the launch. It then ended up doing the rest of the week, then the week following then the week following two months later, they're still queuing for it. So it's worth a look. That's what I'd say. <Laugh> definitely to do with me other than it's a very nice film.
Chuck (host) (09:46):
It is a nice film. And you mentioned this earlier about adapting, a film that originally was done in theater to, to film. And I love how he did that. Cuz I have to admit for me, it was totally capturing the, just the opening scene. I thought what's going on. And then, you know, max, prolean talking to the camera, not to give it away too much, but that first person storytelling that he's so powerful at. And to capture that from how hard was that to turn transition from his theater performance to here, I need to captivate this on film. Well,
Norman Stone (10:13):
The performance level, I mean, I'll give you my scariest moment in the whole film. Sure. We're about shoot scene one where actually it wasn't seen what it happens out of chronology, but the first scene we were gonna do when he comes out of the Oxford natural history and science museum and I'm standing there, the cameraman's standing there, everyone's all set up. It's the first thing. And Maxine's over to me and says, you do know of Norman of course, that I've never acted on film before I thought it was a joke. We'd talked about everything. Never thought of talking about that. Of course. Yeah, no you hadn't my, I, I like to think that my my cameraman didn't faint but went to his camera and did it. And once we did, I shouted action and he came out, you know, when somebody's got it and it's not all theater actors that can make it work on camera mm-hmm <affirmative>.
Norman Stone (11:03):
And he did a brilliant job, was very much the heart of Lewis and looked like Lewis. And it just took off from there. But I loved, I mean, I, I don't mind breaking at the secret a little, I mean, if people go along, I think they will be captivated by the style, but I stole that from Dickens because I thought, how do you tell this story with so many different things and how do we actually make it work? And I dunno whether you, you must have read or seen Christmas Carol. Well, when the ghost of Christmas passed takes the old UN repentance in a Scrooge back to his school, I always felt that was so much more powerful that the old guy watches himself before he is been ruined. And we could take any of any direction. And here he is a really nasty piece of work now, and it moves me still does that.
Norman Stone (12:00):
You can get that emotional push and pull by just going back and letting the man himself in later years, look at where he came from. So the idea was to do as many dramas do of course have flashbacks through the person's life. But then, and he'd go through his memories and he's talking to us and very well and Lewis's words. And then he starts to appear in his memories, which was great fun. I loved all that. And then he's suddenly almost interrupting himself when he said that at that time. So in other words, it's a fun ride with a really, yeah. Fairly deep message. That's why you gotta use your brain as well. You can go and see it 10 times. Thank you. But it, it it's all there. But with an emotional heart and Lewis is just the man for that sort of treatment, you must admit,
Chuck (host) (12:54):
I know he is. And this being your, your second awesome film about CS Lewis, do you feel, I guess, a personal connection with CS Lewis?
Norman Stone (13:04):
Yes. In Sofar, as I got to know him quite well in the original Shadowlands we worked together on the script. The Chapo actually ended up writing gladiator bill Nicholson, William Holson now is hugely popular thing. He wrote it with me and David Thompson was a big producer over here. The three of us knew each other and we got together and had breakfast meetings over it. But from that point, you go into every area of a person's life. And I've done a couple of other dips into the Lewis life as well, since because I'm a Christian and because he was, but he articulated it so well. Max McLean always says on his stage shows that he really likes playing CS Lewis because for 90 minutes he can be really smart <laugh>. And I, I understand that because he is brilliant and he pays the price in his life of everything that happens. But my goodness I'd have liked to have met him. I, I got close, I guess, cuz I, I know much about him. I've slept in the kilns. I've done the whole, which is his house. It is a world which is he's self deferential. That's the thing humor against himself. He's not some stuffed proud man up there. Strutting his stuff is very human and very wise. That's all.
Chuck (host) (14:28):
Wow. What's incredible film. And I recommend all of our audience go out there and see it. And yeah, you might wanna see it more than once because there's so much to gain from it. But normally I do wanna ask you just for the future, what what's next for you what's coming up?
Norman Stone (14:43):
Well I think I'm allowed to say this first heard on your show <laugh> we are definitely going to be doing two more stylistic films in this way, going through the whole of Lewis' life. This is the beginning. If you like from his birth through to his finally becoming struggling with Christianity, becoming a convert the next, the middle years with talking and the writing group called the inklings and all the stuff there and lots of things going right and wrong and everything is fascinating stuff that's coming up. And then after that we would do the third one, which would be the end, which is getting close back to mind, original invention of shadow lands where his wife, Troy Davidman. If you haven't seen that, I suppose everyone knows about her, but she's amazing. And in fact, we are finding out a lot more about her now. And she gets cancer. She gets better a she gets cancer and dies and how he deals with that. That's, that's gonna be a, not a fake tear jerker, but you can't help by that time after three, the third film to get deeply into what this man is feeling. So it will be another two films. We've gotta wait until we can fit it all in, but that's the plan.
Chuck (host) (16:05):
Well, Norma, I can't thank you enough for just, you know, taking your passion as a Christian, as a film director to, to bring this stuff to home, to where people really need to feel and, and understand. And I just wanna thank you for taking time outta your business. Join us today. Really appreciate that norm. Thank
Norman Stone (16:18):
You. It's been a, and we'll hopefully talking again at some point.
Chuck (host) (16:22):
That sounds awesome. Norman, thank you.
Chuck (host) (16:28):
Well, I really enjoyed my conversation with Norman today and I'm loving his new film. If you like to learn more about it or to learn how to stream it, just go to CSLewismovie.com. I wanna thank Norman for joining me today. I wanna thank you for joining us as well. If you could do me a small favor and share this episode with a friend or like it, I'd certainly appreciate it. Thanks so much for joining me. We'll see you next time. God bless.