A new film depicting C.S. Lewis’ dramatic journey from atheism to Christianity is happening. The film, titled The Most Reluctant Convert, is set in the period before the 1950 publication of Lewis’s classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
The film is being adapted from the successful one-man stage play starring Max McLean. Like in the play, Lewis will be portrayed in three stages of life, wandering through his own memories as an older man, also played in the film by McLean. Nicholas Ralph portrays Lewis in his 20s and Tom Glenister appears as his friend and intellectual sparring partner JRR Tolkien.
The film is directed by Norman Stone, who’s a Lewis expert. Thirty-five years ago Stone won a BAFTA Award for directing Shadowlands, a drama about the life and love of Lewis. He also directed two documentaries on the Oxford scholar and one of the most influential writers of the 20th-century.
Stone says now is the perfect time to tell this part of Lewis’s story.
“Lewis looked truth in the eye, no matter what effect that would have,” he told The Guardian. “That comes across in his writing and it’s one of the key things that made him popular. At certain times, society says ‘think a little deeper’. When you get something like Covid-19, then we should be thinking a bit more about things, and I think that’s happening.”
McLean said Lewis went from “vigorous debunker of religion to the most respected Christian writer apologist of the 20th century” and that the questions he explored are complex—a challenge to portray effectively in a movie. The Most Reluctant Convert will lean heavily on authenticity. It was shot in and around Lewis’s Oxford stomping grounds; his college, Magdalen; and his home, The Kilns, where he wrote his Narnia books.
And the authenticity won’t stop there.
“The words that we use are Lewis’s,” McLean says. “We have the rights. That helps because we’re not as smart as he is. One of the great things about playing this role is it’s fun to be this smart for 90 minutes, to be able to say these words, and really embody them.”
The film’s producers say they’re hoping for The Most Reluctant Convert to release later this year.