‘A Christmas Carol’ comes to life again in new FX version
Screen history is marked by various takes on “A Christmas Carol,” but the latest goes particularly dark, figuratively and literally.
On Thursday, Dec. 19, FX debuts a version co-produced by England’s BBC – which intends to revisit most if not all of Charles Dickens’ classic novels – and with executive producers including filmmaker Ridley Scott and actor Tom Hardy. Adapted by fellow executive producer Steven Knight (whose FX series “Taboo” starred Hardy) and directed by Nick Murphy (“The Hot Zone”), the edgy retelling casts Guy Pearce (“L.A. Confidential”) as legendary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, whose outlook is altered big-time one Christmas Eve when he’s visited by three ghosts.
“What I wanted to do,” explains “Peaky Blinders” creator Knight, “was to make Ebenezer Scrooge someone who, if it weren’t for what he is and how he behaves, would be an attractive person. And Guy Pearce is someone who would be a perfectly personable human being. I didn’t want to make (Scrooge) look like his soul, because his soul is pretty wretched … but on the outside, he’s OK. And I wanted to have an audience say, ‘Why is this person like this?’ I hope that in the three hours, we explore the reasons behind what Ebenezer Scrooge is.”
Pearce says he was pleased to depict Scrooge as “somebody who has some swagger and actually is a powerful businessman. He isn’t just turning his back on the world because he hates it; he takes on the world in a way that a bully might. It, of course, got me thinking about playing this character in a different way than what I might have expected, to give him a confidence as a businessman in a ruthless kind of way that he functions.”
Andy Serkis, known for motion-capture performances in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong,” is on full view in “A Christmas Carol” as the Ghost of Christmas Past; Charlotte Riley and Jason Flemyng play the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Future respectively. Cast members also include Joe Alwyn as Bob Cratchit, Stephen Graham as Jacob Marley and Lenny Rush as “Tiny” Tim Cratchit.
“Although some of the characters are supernatural, they are very much grounded and have their own psychological sort of journey as well,” Serkis reasons, “so that when they’re together, it isn’t just Scrooge talking to a ghost. The journey that the Ghost of Christmas Past goes on is one of trying to make Scrooge face himself and open his soul up. He’s spent thousands of years dealing with other people’s spirits and is, quite frankly, bored of the job. But this character is such a nut to crack, he finds it kind of an enjoyable pursuit.”