Adamson to direct 'Prince Caspian'

Andrew Adamson has signed to direct “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” the sequel to the Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media holiday hit “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

The sequel was made official Wednesday by Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook and Walden Media CEO Cary Granat.

Sources said Adamson will be paid an eight-figure salary against gross participation, putting him in league with a handful of the highest-paid directors in Hollywood.

Adamson was paid a seven-figure sum to make his live-action debut on the first “Narnia,” a deal made before he did “Shrek 2.” Adamson, whose deal was made by UTA, didn’t get paid gross on the first installment, but got box office bonuses. He becomes a bonafide gross player with the sequel.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has so far tallied $637.8 million worldwide.

The sequel dealmaking is coming together quickly: Mark Johnson, who produced the original, is also in talks to return.

Adamson, who will also produce, will write the sequel script with Christopher Markus and Steve McFeeley, two of the original’s writers. The studio and Walden hope to begin production late this year for a Christmas 2007 release. As with new installments of the Harry Potter franchise, there is extra pressure in ramping up sequels before the young stars get too old for the parts.

Writing has begun and the first sketching has begun in production design, but Adamson said his priority is to make sure the sequel does the 1951 book justice.

“The next story involves the same children and their return to Narnia,” Adamson said. “It’s 400 years later in Narnia, but for our children a little over a year has passed. It is a very emotional story, because by the end the two oldest have to acknowledge that they are too old to come back. They are saying farewell to their childhood.”

While it remains to be seen whether or not the White Witch is brought back (she was convincingly killed in the original), the children find conflict as they help Prince Caspian, the heir to the throne, in his battle against his uncle Miraz, who has plotted to rule the kingdom himself. The children bring back the mythical creatures of Narnia, including the lion Aslan.

Adamson will remain involved creatively if the “Narnia” franchise goes beyond a second film. He said he was unsure whether he would direct a third installment.

“I imagine I’d like to work on more than just two different franchises in my lifetime,” Adamson said.

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