When the first Chronicles of Narnia film came out in 2005, there was no doubt that little Georgie Henley was the breakout star. As Lucy, the youngest and sweetest Pevensie sibling, she encapsulated everything C.S. Lewis had been trying to say with his 1950s Christian fantasy series. But what’s her story now?
Georgie Henley was just seven years old when she was picked to play Lucy in the first Narnia film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She loved acting, but at that point she had only ever appeared in school productions. Nevertheless, in 2005 Henley fought off competition from thousands of other girls to bag the coveted part of Lucy.
And Henley’s intelligent, mature performance as Lucy won her lots of fans. “Georgie Henley is the most endearing and expressive child actor of the millennium,” said Slate magazine, while other media outlets similarly heaped on the praise.
Such adoration would surely have turned the head of most pre-teens. But not Georgie Henley. In fact, even after she had received a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award, a Young Artist Award and a UK Kids’ Choice Award, the actress remained humble.
And after the success of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it’s no wonder that another exciting role from a classic book was given to Henley. She was picked to play the younger version of the titular character in the BBC’s 2006 production of Jane Eyre, and once again she received rave reviews.
But Henley wasn’t done with Narnia just yet. And so when Prince Caspian, the 2008 sequel to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was released, Henley took on the role of a slightly older Lucy Pevensie.
By this point, she was 12 years old and had managed to stay in school despite the occasional challenges fame brought. “Sometimes, you do get taken the mick out of because of Narnia,” she told The Diva Review. “But you know, I don’t mind because I’m proud of what I did.”
And Henley certainly had a lot of reasons to be proud. In 2010, after completing her GCSE exams and turning 16 years old, she played Lucy for the final time in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Unfortunately though, the fourth Narnia movie entered development hell due to contract negotiations with the C.S. Lewis estate.
And while Voyage of the Dawn Treader met with mixed reviews, Henley’s performance didn’t. “Georgie Henley has the kind of English-rose radiance one imagines Kate Winslet must have had at her age, and she expresses Lucy’s longings and insecurities with immense skill,” wrote The Telegraph.
But even though her adventures in Narnia were more or less over, Henley still had plenty to occupy her. Indeed, she was often called upon to appear at Narnia-related activities – such as the christening of a lion called Aslan. And, of course, she had her schooling, too.
But in between hitting the books at Bradford Grammar, Henley still found time to get involved in the fashion world. In 2011, for example, she even took the runway for an Alberta Ferretti fashion show in Florence, Italy.
Meanwhile, Henley would graduate from high school in 2013 with excellent grades – an A star and two As. This was enough to get her into Cambridge, one of Britain’s most prestigious universities. But Henley was determined to keep hold of her Hollywood dreams as well. “I am really excited about going to university but I still want to keep on acting,” she told the Yorkshire Post that year.
And that’s exactly what she ended up doing. In 2014 she appeared in the film Perfect Sisters, a true-crime drama about two girls who plot to kill their mother. It was a far cry from Narnia, and Henley’s first major departure from her child star beginnings.
In addition to her university studies and her movie work, moreover, Henley was also appearing in and directing plays at Cambridge. Among these were Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Clockwork Orange and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad.
In 2015, though, came another grown-up movie role: that of Mary in the Salem Witch Trials-inspired drama The Sisterhood of Night. The Wrap perfectly summed up Henley’s performance in the show, writing, “Sexy but open-faced, curious but scheming, intimidating but inviting.”
There was no denying that Henley was evolving from excellent child actress to excellent adult actress – and she had barely put a step wrong. And while her movie projects were few and far between, she always seemed to pick them wisely.
Plus, Henley also started to direct movies as well as plays. In 2015, for example, while she was aged just 19 and still working hard at Cambridge, she directed the short drama Tide.
Can you believe she’d done all that before she was even old enough to drink in most states? But she had. Henley turned 21 in 2016, and she posted a picture of her birthday party on Twitter alongside the caption, “Thank you so much for all of your gorgeous birthday wishes – you made my day extra-sparkly!”
Then, in June 2016 Henley also graduated from Cambridge with a BA in English, and she was over the moon. “Cried off all my mascara down my face, hair is Chewbacca chic, but this was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she wrote on Twitter.
And yet, even after all that, Henley still wasn’t done with the Narnia franchise. In August 2016, for example, she had a mini reunion on Twitter with her on-screen brother Skandar Keynes; she’s also expressed interest in appearing in more Narnia films. And so while she’s achieved so much already, it looks like Henley’s career is still only just beginning.